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Six Road Construction Work Zone Safety Tips for the Inexperienced

If you work in road construction, you’re probably already well-aware of the risks of the job. Unfortunately, the roadway is one of the most dangerous work environments for maintenance and construction professionals. According to the Federal Highway Administration (FHA), over 27,000 people lost their lives in crashes occurring in construction and maintenance work zones between 1982 and 2017.

But there is good news to report, too. Overall worker and traffic deaths are on the decline, hopefully paving the way for fewer roadway fatalities in the future. In order to prevent these tragedies, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), local governments, and independent organizations have created standards and guidelines to help keep roadway workers safer.

Implementing guidelines set forth by these organizations, as well as following these work zone safety tips, can help you stay safe while performing essential roadway maintenance and construction.

New to Road Construction? Follow These Tips

If you’re new to working in road construction or maintenance, be sure to follow these basic safety tips. In time, these concepts will become like second nature to you, but it’s important that you have them down before heading out into any road work environment. It’s always good for seasoned work zone employees to have a safety refresh as well.

  1. Do Not Skimp on Your Hi Vis Apparel – It is critical that all roadway workers wear the proper high vis clothing. These garments feature highly fluorescent fabrics and retroreflective striping to increase visibility in all light conditions. The idea is to ensure that roadway workers are highly visible from every angle so that motorists and operators of heavy machinery are able to clearly identify them.
  • Wear high visibility apparel that’s certified to the ANSI/ISEA 107 standard. This means that the manufacturer has followed a set of rigorous guidelines and undergone testing to ensure that their apparel meets certain criteria of quality and safety.
  • Know which type and performance class you need. The ANSI/ISEA has created a specific class of high visibility clothing for various types of workers. Off-road (Type O) workers don’t need as much visibility as roadway (Type R) workers, for example. Knowing the recommended class for your specific worksite can help keep you safe.
  • Have high visibility apparel for all seasons. Not having the right apparel for the weather can cause gaps in usage. For example, when it’s hot out, it can be tempting to skip the hi vis gear if all you have on hand is a heavy jacket. Make sure you have high visibility options for every season to ensure that you’re not only safe but also comfortable on the job.


  1. Create and Mark Work Zones – It’s important that work zone employees stay within a confined area on busy roadways. These areas should always be properly marked and delineated so that motorists and fellow workers may easily identify them. Take special care to set up high visibility barriers—such as cones and barrels—to keep work zones safe for activities such as storing materials, directing traffic, and parking road maintenance vehicles.


  1. Pay Close Attention to Your Surroundings – Making a mental note of any potential hazards or risks in your surrounding areas will help keep you alert and aware of dangers. At the same time, roadway workers must be engaged and aware of their surroundings at all times because things change rapidly in this working environment. Paying close attention to traffic patterns and weather can help prevent a variety of serious incidents.


  1. Be Careful Around Equipment – Indeed, the most common fatal injuries at road construction sites are caused by exactly what you’d imagine—vehicles striking pedestrians. But being struck by a piece of equipment is also a serious risk, as this type of accident accounts for nearly 10 percent of road construction fatalities. Because we are especially concerned about keeping our eyes on traffic, we sometimes overlook the other risks of the job site. High-visibility clothing and staying aware at all times can curb the likelihood of these incidents.


  1. Master Hand Signals and Devices – Among the more fundamental pieces of safety equipment at roadway worksites are hand signals and traffic signs. Even if you’re not a flagger and don’t intend to ever direct traffic, you should know the proper hand-signaling procedures, including how to use sign paddles and flags, as well as how to signal to traffic without any explicit signage or paddles.



  1. Take Care of Your Health – Though it’s unrealistic 100 percent of the time, it’s critical that you do not go to work when you’re tired, hungry, or thirsty to the point where you can’t focus on your surroundings. Unfortunately, exhaustion can seriously impair your ability to make sound decisions and stay alert when you need to be, so it’s considered a serious workplace hazard. Do your best to get the recommended daily amount of sleep each day and keep yourself on a consistent eating and drinking schedule. Remember to bring snacks and water to work with you each day.


Stay Aware, Stay Smart

Despite the number of road construction fatalities each year, the safety precautions we take can make a massive difference. In addition to wearing the right high visibility apparel and learning the basic safety procedures, roadway workers must possess the ability to stay alert, focused, and responsive at all times. Follow these tips and guidelines to ensure that you’re as safe as possible while working on our roadways.



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