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Road Crew Traffic Safety in a Distracted World


In today’s world, distracted and impaired drivers are something that everyone is exposed to on a daily basis, especially people working in the construction industry.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, transportation incidents and workers struck by vehicles or mobile equipment account for the highest number of fatal workplace injuries. Factors such as cell phone use, GPS, billboards and impatience all contribute to a growing need to improve and evolve work zone traffic safety.

The goals of an effective work zone are to control and move traffic in an approved direction. These zones are typically identified by signs, cones, barrels and barriers. A jobsite orientation with a focus on traffic safety and review of hazards specific to that work area is a great way to raise awareness of the safe routes to follow. Jobsite safety orientations are a common practice; however, work zone traffic safety and the importance of the traffic control zone is often overlooked.

Federal, state or local laws determine the configuration of the temporary traffic control zone for motorists and pedestrians, referred to as the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The construction project manager will determine the internal traffic control plan within the construction/demolition worksite.



Directives such as evacuation route, do not enter, reduced speed ahead, road closed and no outlet assist drivers entering work zones and construction sites in recognizing the route.


These devices instruct drivers to follow a path away from where work is being conducted through standard traffic control devices, signals and message boards. Standard traffic control devices are used inside the work zone and consist of cones, barrels, barricades and delineator posts.


To limit motorist intrusions into the construction work zone, various styles of concrete, water, sand, collapsible barriers, crash cushions and truck mounted attenuators are used.


In areas of traffic movement, flaggers and others providing temporary traffic control should wear high visibility clothing with a background of fluorescent orange-red or yellow-green and retro-reflective material or orange, yellow, white, silver or yellow-green personal protective equipment. This equipment will make the worker visible for at least 1,000 feet, so he/she can be seen from any direction or background. Garments must be performance class 2 or 3.

Signs warning drivers in advance that there’s a flagger ahead should also be used. Flaggers should use STOP/SLOW paddles, paddles with lights or flags. Note that flags should only be used in emergencies. The STOP sign should be octagonal with a red background and white letters and border. The SLOW sign is the same shape with an orange background and black letters and a border.


Five-foot candles or greater should be used to illuminate flagger stations, workers on foot and equipment operators. If lighting is not sufficient, flares or chemical lighting should be used. Any glare affecting workers and motorists should be controlled or eliminated.


Flaggers should be trained/certified and use the signaling methods required by the authority in charge. Workers on foot, equipment operators and drivers in internal work zones must know the routes that construction vehicles will use. Equipment operators and those signaling need to know the hand signals used on the worksite.

Operators and workers on foot need to know the visibility limits and the “blind spots” for each vehicle on-site. Workers on foot should wear high visibility safety garments designated as class 1, 2 or 3. Workers should be made aware of the ways in which shift work and night work may impact performance.


Seat belts and rollover protection should be used on equipment and vehicles as stated by the manufacturer.

There is an ever-increasing amount of distracted driving on roadways today. While it’s crucial to develop an effective traffic control plan, it’s also important to train workers on the specific hazards that can contribute to a roadway accident. Unsafe behaviors of an outside driver cannot be controlled, but identifying factors that contribute to those behaviors is a great way to help reduce the severity of an incident.

Being attentive when working during rush hour and other high traffic scenarios, reviewing weather-related obstructions (e.g. fog) and discussing signs of a distracted driver are all ways to take a proactive approach to work zone safety.

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