A shocking incident occurred here west of Boston last week. We had our first snow storm since Mother Nature threw us for a curve with the October snow storm. Snow storms on a Saturday morning within our community mean traffic crashes, lots of them.
As I was standing on our state highway assisting at a vehicle rollover, I am surprised how we as police officers become possible hazards during these times of reduced visibility. I wore my bright high visible safety rain jacket and I have noticed recently that the firefighters are now wearing a high visibility safety vest over their turnout jackets at motor vehicle crashes and roadway incidents.
We have heard of many tragedies over the years of public safety personnel being struck by vehicles while assisting at crashes, directing traffic or staffing a road detour.
Some of these are planned operations and there is time to prepare and deploy the… necessary safety equipment.
A problem within our profession is that we come to believe that the crash clean up will be quick, the belief that people can see our cruiser flashing lights or I am away from the traffic area.
I asked my officers to put on their safety gear. They put on their bright high visibility safety rated jackets or pulled on their traffic vest. I don’t want my peers getting hurt and as a supervisor I have to help ensure our safety.
I am asking you to keep a high visibility safety vest or apparel in your cruiser duty bag or in the cruiser for easy access. Please, it takes less than 60 seconds when you arrive on scene to a vehicle crash or to a roadway emergency to put this safety item on before you get down to business.
The Federal Highway Administration: Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices lists under section 6D.03 on Worker Safety Considerations a summary:
All workers, including emergency responders, within the right-of-way who are exposed either to traffic (commuters) or work vehicles and construction equipment within the work zone of a highway should be wearing high visibility safety apparel that meets the class 2 or 3 requirements of the ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 standards of American national Standard for High-Visibility Safety Apparel and Headwear.
The worker or public safety worker should be wearing the bright lime green high visibility apparel. The orange color of the past is discouraged as construction safety education is encouraging the lime green color for humans and the orange for safety barrels and traffic cones. When the construction operator observes the lime green apparel, they will realize this is a person and use immediate caution.
Please don’t be a statistic in a future tragedy. Put your safety vest or apparel on at night, bad weather or when visibility is low and questionable. The public today is very distracted when driving on our roadways.
If you don’t have these items, ask your supervisor for it. It is a priceless benefit if you need to purchase your own. It will be money well spent.
More police officers are killed annually by motor vehicle collisions including vehicle strikes than by lethal weapons. Keep alert and have an escape plan when you are conducting business in the roadway in the event a motor vehicle is out of control.
I am asking you to do this for your own well being and safety. Our job is public safety, safety includes you and me.
REMEMBER: We are the honorable profession!
Stay safe and be well!
Sgt. Mark St. Hilaire
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