As highway infrastructures age, many agencies are focusing on rebuilding existing roadways instead of building new ones. Therefore, it is common for workers in highway improvement project work zones to be exposed to heavy traffic that creates hazardous working conditions. Moreover, workers are often close to vehicles traveling at high speeds exposing them to a higher risk of being struck. Ultimately, the combination of more work zones, heavier traffic, and greater reliance on night work results in increased risk for road workers.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics – transportation incidents and workers struck by vehicles (or mobile equipment) account for the greatest number of fatal work injuries.

 Based on data found on WorkZoneSafety.org:

  • On average, more than two persons per day were killed in work zones in 2019
  • Based on the CRSS estimates, a traffic crash occurred in a work zone every 5 minutes during 2019

In recognition of National Work Zone Awareness Week (April 11th – 15th), Work Safety Review has highlighted 6 tips for creating a safer work zone environment.

  1. Use Work Zones Properly to Minimize Risks – Work Zones create a way to move traffic in an approved and safe direction and are typically identified by signs, cones, barrels, and barriers.
    In these high-risk areas where safety is a concern, the following methods can be implemented to minimize and control risks for workers:

    • High-Visibility Apparel
    • Worker Training
    • Activity Area Planning
    • Speed Control
    • Positive Separation
    • Lighting
    • Worker Safety Planning
    • Special Devices
  1. Work Zone Protections: Work Zone Protections come in various forms such as concrete, water, sand, collapsible barriers, and crash cushions. Truck-mounted impact absorbers may also be used to limit unauthorized vehicle entry in construction work zones.
  1. Utilize Work Zone Flaggers: Work Zone Flaggers typically direct traffic when there is only one lane to use. They must be adequately trained/certified, wear highly visible clothing and garments should be performance class 2 or 3. Clothing should be fluorescent and made from retroreflective material making workers visible for at least 1,000 feet. Flaggers should use paddles that indicate to drivers to STOP or SLOW down and use paddles with lights when appropriate, or flags in emergencies. Signs should be present before the work zone to notify pedestrians/drivers of flaggers and that a construction work zone is coming up soon.
  1. Proper Lighting: All flagger stations should be well lit. On-foot workers and equipment operators should have at least 5 foot-candles or greater of illumination to help ensure workers are visible. If sufficient lighting isn’t available, flares or safe chemical lighting should be used, and glare should be controlled or eliminated whenever possible. 
  1. Driving: When making a lane change to enter or exit the work zone, workers should use the “lean and look” method to eliminate any blind spots around the truck’s front. Work Zone Workers should wear seat belts, and rollover protection should be used on equipment and vehicles per the manufacturers’ recommendations. 
  1. Pedestrians/Drivers – Tips to help prevent work zone crashes:
    • Drivers should always maintain a proper following distance and use the six-second rule
    • Drivers should also avoid all distractions and keep the focus on the road ahead. They should avoid talking on a cell phone, texting, or reaching for something in the cab

There are many risks in construction work zones to both work zone workers and drivers, these tips will help keep everyone safe during necessary infrastructure projects. Check out the rest of the Work Safety Review Resources for information on important tools that can be used to improve workplace safety such as safety management software, safety plans, and best practices to follow that will help ensure everyone’s safety in construction Work Zones. For more information on how to keep your construction workers safe contact us at Work Safety Review.