An Afternoon of Safety at the Summer ALSITE Meeting

Posted by on Jul 9, 2013

Several of us at Sain Associates always look forward to the Summer Alabama Section Institute of Transportation Engineers (ALSITE) meeting. It is held at the beach, after all! This year, Becky White, Sain Associates’ Vice President/Organization Development, had the honor of leading a session titled “Incorporating Safety Throughout the Project Development Process.”

It’s always a great thing when transportation engineers from across Alabama come together to learn, grow and discuss issues and ideas. At this meeting, an entire half day was devoted to safety. It was a great opportunity to re-energize everyone’s commitment to such an important aspect of our jobs.

As transportation engineers, the safety of the public is one of the primary obligations in our code of ethics. We all know this, but it’s almost so fundamental that it may be taken for granted, and we may lose our passion for it.

In our daily work, it’s also easy to focus on specific objectives or problems we’re trying to solve while losing sight of the overall principles of safety. For example, the objective may be to increase capacity on a roadway, but if you become totally focused on capacity it’s easy to lose sight of safety.

That is not to suggest that we are being unsafe in our engineering work.  Rather it’s a question of good or best practices and how we can be even better and more intentional in our work.

These are the types of issues Becky wanted to get people thinking about in our session of the meeting. She took a slightly different approach and aimed to be interactive and engaging with the audience. We had a break-out group workshop that involved teams and stations around the room. Each station was a stage of project development, and teams talked about how to incorporate safety at each one.

There were several students in attendance, and one of the most exciting things I saw was how engaged they were. They jumped right in to share thoughts and ideas with practicing professionals who may have had 25 years of experience in the field.  When it was time for each team to report back at the end of the workshop, the students were often the spokesmen for the group.

There was also a panel discussion, and the only negative was that we didn’t have enough time to keep going as long as everyone would have liked.  Jim Meads from Sain Associates and Becky White facilitated, and it was a fantastic group of panelists that included some of the most esteemed professionals in the state: Tim Barnett, ALDOT; James Foster, Mobile County; Stacey Glass, ALDOT; Linda Guin, FHWA; Steven Jones, UA; and Curtis Vincent, ALDOT.

They had such interesting things to say, and several attendees said that it was valuable to hear the different perspectives from a variety of professionals.

Having an entire half-day devoted to safety came at a great time since the traffic engineering profession is currently learning how to fully utilize the new Highway Safety Manual (HSM) that was released two years ago. The HSM has the potential to revolutionize how we measure and predict safety performance in transportation projects.

Hopefully we all left the session with a renewed interest in being committed to safety in all stages of our projects.

Sain Associates, Inc., is headquartered in Birmingham, Alabama, with offices in Cullman, Alabama, Pulaski, Tennessee and Mandeville, Louisiana. Sain is a site engineering, traffic/transportation engineering and planning and land surveying firm with experience in more than thirty states.

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