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Making Work Zones Safer for Everyone

For construction firms that operate in the nation’s roadways, workers face many obstacles when on the job. Risks posed by heavy equipment, noise, darkness, heat, cold and inattentive drivers all need to be considered to help ensure workers get home safely. Unfortunately, working on the street or highway can be as dangerous as it sounds.

According to U.S. Department of Transportation statistics,  more than 37,000 injuries occurred in work zones and more than 500 fatalities occurred in the most recent year reported. This equates to one work zone injury every 14 minutes, 96 per day or about four people injured every hour.

While working in and around work zones creates a unique set of risks, there are steps that can be taken to help make it safer for workers and motorists alike. Here are four important ways to help improve the well being of everyone in the work zone:

Make a Plan – A written Traffic Control Plan based on the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) or state requirements, whichever is more stringent, is critical because it is the foundation for safety within the work zone. The TCP will vary depending on the complexity of the project, the volume of traffic (vehicular and pedestrian) and the roadway make-up where the construction will be performed. The TCP must depict the sequence of construction operation(s), the construction to be performed and the movements of traffic during each construction phase.

Slow Traffic – The signage a driver and/or pedestrian experiences before entering a work zone in the advanced warning area can influence their movement through the work zone. The extent and location of signage alerts work zone users of potential hazards ahead and can help reduce the potential for an accident. The MUTCD contains information related to the advanced warning area. In addition, more stringent standards may be set forth in contract documents at the local or state level. Considerations include, but are not limited to, speed, roadway conditions and expected driver behaviors.

Create a Barrier – While the type and extent of barriers used within a work zone typically are dictated within contract documents, the type of barrier ultimately used can mean the difference between protecting work zone workers or not. Though some work zone regulations allow the use of cones and barrels, they ultimately provide little protection against vehicles from entering work zones, exposing workers to serious injury.

Be Visible – Make sure workers are visible with the appropriate high visibility apparel. This includes bright colors during the day and retro reflective gear when working in the dark.

Now is a good time to review work zone protocols to make sure they focus on safety. Taking these steps can go a long way in helping to keep employees safe as work ramps up in the months ahead.