Replacing a bridge requires being lifted up and down in heavy equipment. Strong concentration is a must. Worker Chris Hoppe says, "Keep an eye on what you're doin' because what we do with the steel and everything is very dangerous, so we've gotta keep our thoughts on that." "The only time it gets dangerous is when somebody's not focused, you gotta be focused at all times," says worker Rodney Smith.
All around the site at I-10 and I-110, traffic whizzes by. Drivers don't always follow the 60-mile per hour speed limit. Workers say they keep an eye on the traffic while at the same time paying attention to what they're doing. Smith says, "we gotta watch out for the people who are drivin' by and we gotta watch out what we do. You won't get no second chance, make a mistake, you get one chance and that one chance might cause a fatal injury, somebody's life, your life."
Homebuilding isn't quite as life threatening. Workers say laying a slab isn't as tricky as putting up the rest of the house. "It's after you have all the walls up and you're gettin' on top of the ceiling. You have more chance of fallin', whether than somethin' fallin' on you. You can fall down, that's the most dangerous part," says Daniel Maskew. Maskew says that's when they think of safety the most. "We're safe as we can be but sometimes accidents happen, if wood breaks or somethin' like that. We think about it though." Construction workers say when they stop thinking about safety is when they put their lives at risk.
Despite the danger of contruction jobs, there is encouraging news. Last year, for the first time since 1992, the U.S. Labor Department says the number of deaths of highway construction workers fell nine precent, to nearly 14-hundred.