Tips for Work Zone Safety

Originally published on 04/18/2018

Every day, highway, heavy and utility construction workers are exposed to traffic hazards as part of their daily work routine. Some of the hazards include moving construction vehicles, noise from motors and vehicles, limited visibility, night work and limited lighting, close proximity to traffic, inclement weather and slips, trips and falls.

Although work zone hazards vary, and there are no “one size fits all” procedures, here are a few tips that can be followed to help workers protect themselves in works zones.

When working in traffic, be sure to wear the required personal protective equipment such as:

  • Reflective, high-visibility vests or clothing
  • Hard hats
  • Eye protection
  • Protective footwear
  • Hearing protection

To help the motorist while protecting construction workers:

  • Have a traffic control plan and periodically review it to see if it needs to be changed. Set the work zone to avoid unclear lane markings and lane confusion.
  • Use flaggers who have been trained to use standard traffic control devices and signals. Be sure the flaggers are readily visible to traffic.
  • Observe traffic conditions to determine the volume condition of the work zone.
  • Avoid standing or parking in places that block road signage.
  • Remove construction debris that can become a hazard for motorists as well as construction workers.
  • Remove worn, old, non-reflective traffic control devices from service.
  • Strategically use vehicles and equipment as barriers between traffic and workers when other positive protections are not available.
  • Use appropriate and sufficient lighting for night work areas.

Other tips to help keep the work zone safe include:

  • Avoid complacency on the job.
  • Get plenty of rest, so you will be alert while working.
  • Be sure all underground and overhead utilities are located and marked.
  • Minimize the amount of time employees need to be exposed to traffic. Get in, get done and get out.
  • Limit the amount of personnel and equipment in the work zone to only those that are necessary for the job at hand.
  • Do not assume that equipment operators can see you. Make eye contact with the operator before crossing in front of or behind them.
  • Create out of bounds areas that are off limits to employees due to the traffic hazard.
  • Ensure that back up alarms on vehicles are functioning properly.
  • Do not run through moving traffic or machines.
  • Provide an emergency egress/escape route in case of emergency, and make sure employees know what it is.
  • Stay hydrated. Construction workers are susceptible to overexertion and heat-related illnesses. Drink plenty of water or liquids high in electrolytes like sports drinks or coconut water.

Follow these tips, and do all you can to ensure your safety and the safety of your co-workers.

Download a recording form here.

Emergency Vehicles in Work Areas

Originally published Aug. 12, 2015

Workers learn to direct traffic in work zones by participating in flagger training programs and consulting the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices, which extensively cover signs, signals and the proper techniques for starting and stopping traffic. But there is rarely a discussion on what to do if an emergency vehicle needs to pass through your work zone.

Emergencies occur when we least expect them, and emergency vehicles seem to appear out of nowhere – moving quickly with lights flashing and sirens blaring. The sense of urgency associated with emergency vehicles can undermine flagger or traffic control manager confidence, and can possibly cause them to react rather than think before responding. These unplanned actions can cause accidents or unnecessary delays for emergency responders.

Before work begins, learn the locations of hospitals, fire and police stations in the vicinity of your work zone. If your work zone is on a road with direct access to first responders, emergency vehicles will inevitably drive through it. Here are some steps you can take when emergency vehicles travel through your work zone:

  • If you have enough time when you first see or hear an approaching emergency vehicle, stop traffic in all directions, and create a clear and visible path.
  • The flagger should signal the “all clear” to the emergency vehicle, allowing it to navigate through the zone with full right of way.
  • When you have no advance warning of an approaching emergency vehicle, the safest response is to stop the emergency vehicle first and then stop all other traffic to create a clear travel path.
  • You may also need to stop or clear construction equipment before you allow the emergency vehicle to pass.
  • Make advance arrangements with local police if the work you are doing, such as blasting or excavating, makes the roadway impassable.

Download a recording form here.

Internal Traffic Controls

Originally published on Aug. 2, 2016

Internal traffic control plans detail how construction traffic should be set up inside the construction area so that vehicles and equipment are separated – as much as possible – from workers on foot. Pedestrian workers are those employees who perform most of their duties outside vehicles and equipment, and they are particularly vulnerable to being struck by equipment.

According to the Work Zone Hazards Workbook published by OSHA in 2008, “the majority of fatalities that occur in road construction work zones in the United States involve a worker being struck by a piece of construction equipment or other vehicle. A worker in this industry is just as likely to be struck by a piece of construction equipment inside the work zone as by passing traffic.”

Workers are at risk when:

  • They are preoccupied by their work and are not paying attention to what is going on around them.
  • They become comfortable in a dangerous environment.
  • They don’t have convenient access to and from their work space for restrooms, food and water, shade or breaks or other local work areas.

The purpose of an internal traffic control plan is the safety of all employees. An effective plan will inform all parties operating within the work site about the location of others, focus on worker safety within the work site, and establish “No On-foot Worker Zones” designed to minimize interaction between workers and vehicles.

Internal traffic control plans should:

  • Designate routes and operating procedures for large trucks delivering materials.
  • Create a traffic pattern to minimize backing.
  • Use temporary traffic control devices to mark traffic paths.
  • Facilitate communication among key work zone parties in advance of their arrival on the construction site.
  • Limit access points to the work zone.
  • Coordinate truck and equipment movements.
  • Provide information on traffic paths and safe/unsafe work areas for employees.
  • Heighten the awareness of pedestrian workers to vehicle traffic in the work zone.
  • Maintain smooth traffic flow.
  • Restrict the use of cell phones while near heavy equipment.

Develop and follow a good internal traffic control plan to ensure the safety of everyone on the construction site.

Download the recording form here.