Patching potholes is a dangerous job for ODOT workers

Posted at 6:46 AM, Jan 29, 2018

After a weekend warm up and colder temps on the way, road crews across northeast Ohio are trying to tackle some serious rim-rattling potholes. That job can and has put workers in dicey situations as cars zoom by.

"Patching holes… It's always a dangerous job out here," said ODOT Highway Technician Frank Tamburello.

Our camera caught up with Tamburello and his crew making some big repairs from the plentiful potholes on I-90 east.

"And we're just a few feet away from traffic,” Tamburello told us while standing at the work site.

"Safety is our number one priority," said Nequinne Chielo, who is an Ohio Department of Transportation manager who's worked on the highways. She knows what's at stake. "Someone could get hurt in an instant… People have been hurt."

She's right. In ODOT District 12 that covers our area, we found in 2015 there were 25 accidents involving ODOT crews while doing roadside work. Nine employees were injured in those accidents. In 2016, there were 16 accidents with four employees injured. And in 2017, there were 21 accidents and five ODOT employees injured.

"We've got families that we want to go home to as well, too, so always pay attention, always be mindful of work zones," said Tamburello. While at the scene, our camera caught plenty of cars zipping by the work zone and coming close to the crews.

"Show us your appreciation by moving over," said Chielo.

Not only that, it's the law. The Move Over Law in our state doesn't just apply to police cars. The state recently expanded requirements for drivers to move over when they can or at the very least slow down going past stopped cars with flashing or rotating lights.

Last year, state lawmakers introduced legislation to increase the penalties for drivers who don't obey the Move Over Law. This after recent accidents killed Trooper Kenneth Velez from Lorain County and Cleveland Officer David Fahey. 

With all that in mind, ODOT has a deal for you.

"Let us do our job,” said Chielo. “Give us the room and the space to do that and we promise in return to do our best (fixing the roads)."

Tamburello added: "That's our goal. Make everyone safe and happy."

The Federal Highway Administration reports that the most recent nationwide stats show an average of 591 people die each year in crashes that happen in construction and maintenance work zones.