Paving crews working in St. John's were operating at a heightened concern for their safety after learning about the death of a road worker on the Trans-Canada Highway in western Newfoundland on Tuesday.

Foreman James Coffey said workers were talking about it as soon as they arrived on site.

nl-220-coffey-james-20130724

James Coffey said drivers need to be more concerned about obeying traffic laws, especially in construction zones. (CBC)

"That was the first topic [Wednesday] morning, that somebody else was killed out on the highway and it can happen so easily," he said.

"In our line of work, it can happen very easily because people are coming up and not paying attention, and we see this all the time. And there's only so much we can do about it — we can put up our signs and hope for the best."

According to Coffey, who has been in the business for 33 years, it becomes difficult for crews to focus on work when they hear about people dying on the job.

"We're all really concerned for the workers because the traffic doesn't obey our signs anymore, and it is a safety concern," he said.

"My message to drivers is if you see construction signs up, and see paving crews or carpenters, is to at least get off your cellphones, stop texting, and try to obey the rules of the road… That makes everybody safe."

Increasing driver awareness key

Lloyd Hobbs, the manager of traffic safety at Safety Services Newfoundland and Labrador, said drivers should be aware that summer is the busiest time of year for construction.

"This is the time of year when we see so much activity going on with construction on our roadways, and, as drivers, we should make sure that that's one of the top things in our mind," he said.

"When we see a sign that says there's any form of construction ahead, the first thing we should do is become more alert."

Hobbs said road workers are at an obvious risk on the job.

"All of us, I guess, have the expectation when we leave our houses in the morning that we're going to come home safely at night," he said.

"Unfortunately, in this country, approximately 2,500 are killed on our roadways each year — that's six or seven people per day on average — and that's a very frightening statistic. People who are working on the roadways, obviously, are at a greater danger."

Hobbs said drivers need to increase their level of awareness as soon as they enter a stretch of road with construction signs on it to ensure they're doing everything they can to help keep workers safe.