While Bird Dog Traffic Control prides itself in keeping others safe on the road, it puts themself at risk for work zone and traffic accidents by doing so. Because of this, highway work zone safety is top priority to keep highway traffic control specialists safe at work.

To put it into perspective, in 2020 there was an average of 857 total highway work zone fatalities, 244 of those being commercial motor vehicle involved crash fatalities, and 156 of those being pedestrian fatalities in work zones. At a much larger scale, there was an average of 44K work zone injuries in 2020 alone, and over 102K total crashes (U.S. Department of Transportation, 2020).

To drastically minimize these numbers, work zone safety rules and regulations must be followed and advocated for. Continue reading to see a complete, comprehensive guide to keep yourself and others safe at work.

8 Step Guide to Highway Work Zone Safety and Traffic Control

1. Have a Work Zone Safety Plan

Every highway work zone and traffic control project should have a transportation management plan, focusing on the management of traffic control both around and in the work zone. This helps keep workers safe from external traffic, as well as internal traffic when moving heavy equipment and construction vehicles/materials.

To keep this plan transparent, make sure there are safety meetings conducted at the start of each work day, so that every worker is on the same page with the transportation management plan. In addition to this, it is great to create a work zone health and safety checklist for your crew. Be sure that it is used and updated as needed when you start work in a new work zone.

2. Site-Specific Safety Program

Every work site is different and has different hazards/safety concerns to watch out for. Creating a unique safety program to each work zone will go a long way in terms of accident avoidance.

The site-specific safety program could include but is not limited to, identifying all hazards and plans to avoid/monitor them, routine equipment checks, accident first aid and emergency care plans, and safety training schedules.

3. Control Traffic with Proper Signage, Barriers, and Lighting

Using proper highway work zone signs can alert drivers and pedestrians of work zones in order for them to prepare with caution as they approach the site. Work zone warnings, speed limit reductions, stop, or do not enter signs all prove extremely helpful when they are clear insight to people and vehicles passing by. Barriers are another highly effective tool, creating a barrier between the external movement of cars and pedestrians, and the work zone. This helps properly direct traffic without the sole use of flaggers.

At night, proper lighting is especially important to avoid highway work zone accidents. When workers are on foot in highway traffic work zones, OSHA requires a minimum 5-foot candle of lighting. Flashing LED lights on signs, flares, and ground reflectors also support traffic control safety (Stromme, 2019). A top priority for lighting should be lighting around flaggers, as they are especially at risk for being struck by vehicles at night.

4. Prioritize Pedestrian Safety

If a pedestrian walkway is present in the workzone, ensure that proper signage is placed to promote their safety in the work zone. If the level of traffic is heavy, it is useful for a flagger to be assigned to ensure the passing of these pedestrians through the work zone.

5. Wear Proper Protection

Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) MUST be worn at all times when you are in a work zone. PPE can include equipment such as hard hats, bright and visible clothing, eye or ear protection, and steel-toed boots. All PPE needs to meet or exceed the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) standards in order to meet safe work zone requirements.

6. Don’t skimp on Training

Using flaggers is one of the best ways to monitor traffic control and prevent accidents. Properly training these flaggers help quicken traffic flow while also ensuring that everyone is safely monitored on the road. By having flaggers control traffic though, they are put at risk by being so close to traffic. To prevent flagger accidents, prioritize proper clothing and signage that warns drivers of flaggers ahead.

Assigning a competent person to manage this training and regulations is also extremely smart. A “competent person” refers to a person that is capable of “identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings, or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them”.

To effectively train the crew, you can often refer to the MUTCD, which stands for Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. This manual is a document issued by the Federal Highway Administration of the United States Department of Transportation to specify the standards by which traffic signs, road surface markings, and signals are designed, installed, and used.

7. Be Aware of Surroundings

Being mindful while you are in a work zone is extremely important. Never fail to remember that there are vehicles and equipment that are carrying and moving heavy materials. Ensuring that you stay out of harm’s way will significantly reduce the likelihood of an accident.

A great tip is also to face traffic and have a spotter when backs are turned. Spotters should always monitor the movement of both equipment and people to ensure that their paths never collide unintentionally.

Being aware of surroundings also involved acknowledging blind spots, both as an operator and a bystander. Remember that operators might not always see you, so do not assume they can. As an operator, ensure that you are using all the proper visual aid devices to lessen blind spots at work.

8. Stay Hydrated

Last but not least, prioritize yourself by staying well hydrated. On the job, it is very easy to get overheated or overexert your energy. Asphalt absorbs 95% of the sun’s rays and asphalt temperatures can easily be 30° F or higher than the surrounding air temperature.

Adding electrolytes can be great, whether that is through sports drinks, beverages like coconut water, or simply adding electrolyte powders to your water. It is also great to take breaks out of the sun and wear proper sun protection.

Following this complete guide will prove significantly impactful for highway work zone safety, and should help minimize accidents on the job, both for workers and passerbyers. Be sure to keep up with the Bird Dog Traffic Control Blog to learn more about highway work zone safety in the future.