8 Work Zone Tips to Protect Your Highway Construction Workers

By Michael Benedict on November 24, 2015

Fatal crashes in highway work zones have declined 36 percent since 2005, yet still more than 100 workers are killed and more than 20,000 injured each year doing highway work. And recent legislation calling for an increase in new highway construction and resurfacing projects means that more workers will be in the field in the coming weeks, months, and years — all while the number of vehicles on our highways reaches record highs.

Here are some tips for keeping your workers safe — including several ways that technology can help — even in the most dangerous highway work zones.

Make site plans
You probably realize that a clearly marked, well-thought-out traffic control plan helps alert motorists to the construction ahead and moves them safely through or alongside work zones. But just as critical is an internal traffic control plan. More workers are killed each year on job sites by construction vehicles than by passing motorists, particularly by backing construction vehicles, which often have large blind spots. Create both internal and external traffic-control plans based on the unique conditions of every worksite.

Make sure channeling devices are appropriately placed
Orange cones, drums, barricades, pavement markings, and portable signage are all widely used to divert traffic away from work zones, but these are not “one-size-fits-all” solutions. The same channeling devices at the same heights and frequency of placement used at rural worksites won’t work as well in urban areas. Make sure you’re using the right options for each job — and setting up devices at appropriate intervals depending on traffic speed and roadway visibility. OSHA’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is a helpful guide.

Explore using intrusion devices
An intrusion device is simply a modified cone or other rubberized structure that, when toppled by a car, will sound a loud alarm to alert workers that a vehicle has entered the worksite. Intrusion devices work well for low-visibility worksites, where the landscape doesn’t allow workers to see cars coming, or for work done at night.

Make sure the area is well lit
Since much roadwork occurs at night, an abundance of temporary lighting should be installed in order to provide better visibility for workers and oncoming traffic. Note that glare must be controlled to avoid interfering with visibility.

Outfit workers with the right protective clothing
Just as important as clearly demarcating worksites is to make sure that workers are visible to motorists. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) is required for your work-zone staff, so make sure they have the right equipment and that it is in good working order. There are four performance classes of ANSI/ISEA 107-2010 compliant worker apparel based on a variety of conditions. Examples of visibility-enhancing apparel include items in high-contrast colors (like orange) with retro-reflective striping. Using mobile forms like the Personal Protective Equipment checklist makes it easy to regularly document, inspect, and maintain the quality and effectiveness of all the gear your workers are supposed to wear on the job.

Educate your workers
Take the time to explain general safety procedures as well as any procedures specific to a given worksite to the crew. Emphasize and re-emphasize the importance of wearing safety gear, installing allotted barricades or cones, and performing regular site checks using checklists reflecting federal and state regulations to make sure all precautions are being taken.

Replace flagmen with AFADs
Regardless of how much PPE they are wearing, human flaggers are in danger every time they step out to direct traffic, especially at night. The innovative, remote-controlled technology behind Automated Flagger Assistance Devices or AFADs allows flaggers to be replaced by solar-powered cone-like kiosks that are both easier for drivers to see at further distances and operable from up to 1,000 feet away.

Monitor the Entire Project
Spot problems immediately with Canvas’s Work Zone Traffic Management mobile app. You can analyze your work zone, inspect protective devices, audit your temporary traffic management plans, and more.

Want to dive further into how mobile technology can improve safety, compliance, and maintenance on the worksite? Download our eBook, 3 Ways Mobile Technology Can Help in Roadway Construction & Repair.