In 2020, 102,000 crashes in work zones contributed to an estimated 31,000 injuries. Additionally, that same year, 117 highway construction workers died while at work, representing 2.5% of all workplace fatalities for the year. No one should go to work wondering if they will come home again. Taking measures to improve worker safety on highway construction sites saves lives and can help to bring the number of fatalities to zero. Here we will discuss highway construction safety and 5 tips to help your crew work safely.
What Is Highway Construction Safety?
Highway construction safety focuses on creating a safer working environment for those in work zones and drivers who travel near them. Maintaining safe work zones reduces the chances of crashes and job site incidents that result in injuries or deaths.
Safety in highway construction zones is such an important topic that in the middle of April each year, safety professionals from around the country and various state Departments of Transportation gather for the annual National Work Zone Awareness Week. The event highlights the importance of safety in work zones for drivers and workers as construction season starts across the country.
5 Highway Construction Safety Tips to Help Your Crew Work Safely
Prepare everyone in the work crew to integrate safety strategies via daily safety meetings. A safer work zone starts with workers who have a mindset for safety. They must also have the equipment, such as personal protective equipment and traffic control devices, available to put forth best safety practices. Combining the right tools and a safety mindset can yield a work zone that minimizes the risks of injuries and fatalities.
1. Minimize Fatigue
Preventing fatigue and distractions on the job site helps workers to maintain situational awareness, which can keep them out of harm’s way. On-the-job fatigue typically sets in after three or four days of consecutive 10-hour shifts.
Rearrange worker schedules to reduce overtime, night shifts, and the number of consecutive 10-hour shifts to the greatest extent possible. Allowing workers to take a half-hour nap during their shifts may also reduce their fatigue and make the job site safer.
2. Be Aware of Blind Spots Around Construction Equipment and Vehicles
Among work zone fatalities from 2017 through 2019, 9.2% happened around construction equipment and work site objects. Workers either perished from getting caught or struck by construction equipment or objects. Making workers and operators more aware of blind areas around equipment may prevent some of these deaths.
Like cars, construction vehicles and equipment have blind spots. These areas are places around the vehicle that the operator cannot see. Therefore, workers need to be aware of the blind areas around specific vehicles and do as much as possible to avoid walking, standing, or working in these areas.
To aid highway construction workers, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) offers a resource that lets workers look up the blind area around a specific type of construction vehicle.
This tool helps operators and those working in the area to know which areas people need to avoid to reduce injuries from equipment.
3. Maintain Worker Visibility
When equipment operators and drivers can clearly see workers at all times of the day and night, they can avoid collisions. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) regulates the highway construction safety equipment used on federal work projects. Under standard 6D.04, workers must have high visibility clothing that meets ANSI 107-2004 in either class two or three.
The Federal Highway Administration recommends workers wear fluorescent yellow-green high-visibility equipment to help them stand out from the standard bright orange used by construction barrels and signs. High visibility clothing also helps drivers and equipment operators to better see workers during low-light situations at sunset and sunrise.
4. Use Traffic Control Devices Appropriately
Traffic control devices save lives by slowing down traffic and moving it away from the work zone. Using the equipment appropriately is an essential part of maintaining a safe work zone.
For example, a smart work zone uses a series of equipment that collect data and offer feedback to enhance roadway safety around the work zone. A smart zone may start with a radar or queue trailer on the side of the road. This trailer collects traffic information about volume and speeds. It relays the data to a message board further back on the road. This board can alert drivers of slowdowns ahead caused by the work zone. Video trailers capture real-time images of traffic and conditions in the work zone.
Other equipment types that enhance work zone safety include variable speed limit signs, message boards, arrow signs, and automatic flaggers.
5. Make Safety Part of the Job Site Culture
Safety must be paramount in every aspect of working on a highway construction project. Daily safety meetings that tailor safety advice per the needs of the work site put employees into a mindset of staying safe throughout their shifts. These safety meetings also provide supervisors the opportunity to address concerns and check that all workers wear their PPE.
A work site that emphasizes safety from the start of the shift to the end can reduce incidents by making workers more aware of their surroundings and safety requirements.
How Carolina Traffic Devices Can Help
Deaths on and along American roads have reached epidemic proportions with fatalities on the rise since 2019 after a long decline. The U.S. Department of Transportation addresses this issue through its goal to reach zero fatalities through the National Roadway Safety Strategy.
At Carolina Traffic Devices, our work zone technology contributes to the trend and plays a major role in helping work zones to attain a goal of working Toward Zero Deaths.
Find out how we can help you to decrease work zone incidents. Contact us at Carolina Traffic Devices for more information.