Road and highway construction zones are dangerous. Approximately 20,000 highway and street construction workers are injured on the job annually. Most of the cases involve a worker being hit by a moving vehicle, typically a dump truck. Changing roadway conditions and slow-moving traffic can catch inattentive or reckless drivers by surprise, which can lead to injuries and even death.
Here are 7 tips to ensure the safety of the general public and construction employees:
- Have a safety plan: A comprehensive worker safety plan should be developed by an “OSHA-competent” professional who is also familiar with the U.S. Department of Transportation's "Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.” The plan should outline all possible risks and include ways to mitigate them and action plans for when an incident or injury occurs.
- Training: Site-specific rules should be developed for each project. Ensure all workers have been thoroughly trained to abide by them. Workers must know how to work safely near moving traffic. Equipment and heavy machinery must only be operated by trained and authorized workers. Flaggers must be properly trained in a recognized program before they can direct motorists.
- Visibility: All workers should wear high-visibility/reflective apparel. All active and moving equipment and machinery should turn on their hazard lights. At night, use work zone lighting to illuminate the work zone and to signal drivers that they are nearing a construction area. Signs should be in good condition and maintain their reflective properties.
- PPE: Workers should wear hard hats, safety glasses, hard-toed shoes, gloves and ear protection in the work zone. Respiratory protection and harnesses should be available if necessary.
- Barriers: Placement of temporary traffic barriers should consider the “lateral clearance of workers from adjacent traffic, speed of traffic, duration and type of operations, time of day, and volume of traffic,” per OSHA.
- Speed reduction: Per OSHA, “Regulatory speed zoning, funneling, lane reduction or the use of uniformed law enforcement officers, or flaggers, should be considered.” Flashing police lights, in particular, have a unique way of capturing the public’s attention. When seen from a distance, flashing police lights signal to pedestrians and drivers that something important requires their attention. They are alerted to pay attention and to slow down.
- Work zone safety: The work zone should be designed so vehicles never need to back up. Workers should not assume they can be seen by machinery and equipment operators or motorists. Never approach moving equipment. Wait for the operator to stop and for your presence to be acknowledged. Be alert and mindful of areas where walking is prohibited and where construction vehicles enter and exit the work site. Use spotters and ensure they understand communication signals. Apply parking brakes on equipment and use a seat belt in all moving vehicles.
We know your priority is to keep your roadway workers and the public as safe as possible. By following the tips listed above you will be able to create a safer environment for both workers and drivers. Most importantly you will help save lives.