You know how hazardous construction sites can be for crews. That’s why you require workers and supervisors to adhere to strict safety guidelines in work zones.
But what about safety issues involving motorists who enter your work sites, usually unintentionally? Every year, about two-thirds of construction businesses experience at least one vehicle intrusion into a workzone, according to a recent survey by Associated General Contractors (AGC) of America. When this happens, the vehicle’s driver and passengers risk injury or death — and the vehicle endangers the safety and lives of workers. The AGC survey found that 28% of workzone crashes resulted in injured workers and 8% resulted in a fatality.
Make a Plan
When it comes to protecting workers in construction zones, the tone at the top matters. Make sure workers and clients know that you value and prioritize safety — even if it means jobs run longer or a bit over original estimates. Another big part of promoting a safety-first culture is educating workers about potential workzone hazards. Don’t forget to include part-timers in training sessions.
To address roadway hazards specifically, create a written safety plan. Your plan should consider worksite variables — including different traffic conditions, types of roads, the weather, and project scopes and durations — and spell out procedures for protecting workers.
8 Steps: Several best practices can also help keep everyone safe on construction jobsites near roadways.
Consider including these in your safety plan:
1. Operate off-peak. If possible, work near busy roads should be performed during off-peak hours on weekdays and on weekends. Consider detours, temporary roads or bridges to navigate traffic away from workers.
2. Inspect workzones daily. Yes, daily. Note any maintenance issues, drop offs, uneven pavement or other risky conditions and address them immediately. Also check signage every day and assess whether signs are as effective as they could be.
3. Show your colors. Require everyone in the workzone to wear high-visibility vests and hard hats at all times — even if they’re only on site for few minutes. When working at night, crews should wear reflective clothing and hard hats with lights.
4. Put up barriers. Concrete barriers reduce risks for both workers and motorists. Attenuator trucks can also absorb the impact of a crash. But while you should be proactive about providing protection, don’t overdo it. Placing barriers everywhere can increase the danger that workers installing them will get hurt.
5. Monitor motorist speed. Reducing the speed limit in workzones lowers fatality rates, no doubt about it. But setting speed limits too low may lead some drivers to refuse to slow down at all. If one driver slows to the posted limit and another doesn’t, the vehicles could collide. Or the speeding driver may instinctively turn the wheel upon braking and crash into your workzone.
6. Observe federal guidelines. Adhere to the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices standards. This includes providing clear guidance to motorists entering a workzone. Be sure to give drivers sufficient warning by placing signs farther from the worksite when there are hills, curves or other visibility issues.
7. Provide “back-up” support. When trucks and other equipment back up, it creates hazards for workers in the vicinity. Even though these vehicles blast back-up alarms, some workers may ignore them. Consider placing “spotters” in areas where people are working or walking. And develop an internal traffic control pattern so that workers know where trucks are coming in and leaving.
8. Rely on new technology. Use motion-sensing intrusion detection alarms to notify workers when a vehicle has crossed into a workzone. You might also employ variable message boards or warning signs based on sensor data to notify motorists of any delays. This way, drivers can choose to take different routes to their destination. Portable rumble strips can help alert distracted drivers that they’re entering a workzone.
Putting People First
Given the availability of safety-related technology, there’s no excuse for letting work crews take unnecessary risks. Even if safety costs shave your profit margin, you know how important it is to put people first.