Road work is dangerous. Not only are you working with and around heavy machinery, but it's also often hot, full of fumes, and surrounded by moving vehicles. It can be tempting to slack and take shortcuts when it comes to work zone safety, but this can lead to a disaster -- not only for the project itself but for everyone around it. Here are 10 work zone safety tips to help ensure that you, other workers, and commuters stay safe:
It doesn't take much for motorists to get frustrated, and frustrated motorists make rash decisions and mistakes. Avoid this by establishing a clear plan for directing the pattern of traffic -- put up signage, cones, and flares, and have someone in high-vis gear who can manage the flow. Telling passing motorists when and where to go is the best way to keep them from deciding this for themselves and causing an accident.
Controlling the flow of traffic is important, but not the only thing to consider. It's equally important to set up a clear barrier between drivers and road workers. Work zones can be unpredictable for motorists, and you don't want them to become distracted.
It's important to give motorists advance warning when they're about to enter a work zone, but you also don't want to make the zone too large. The length of the work zone should be proportional to the size of the job itself. If it's too large, motorists may fall into a false sense of security and decide to speed up again after driving through a long stretch of road without any visible work activity.
Asphalt and paving jobs are complex, with a lot of stages and moving parts. Help streamline things by setting up clear work areas within the zone. Use flags and cones so workers know where they can safely go on foot, and where they need to pay extra attention to their surroundings.
Whenever possible, avoid having your back to traffic without a spotter. If you can see what's coming towards you, you have a better chance of avoiding it. If your work requires you to face away from traffic, there should be someone else there who can watch traffic for you.
Elementary school kids learning about traffic safety are told that if they can see the bus driver, the bus driver can see them. This advice is good for more than just getting on and off of a school bus, though. Heavy equipment often leaves operators with a very limited range of sight and large blind spots. If workers need to move around the worksite on foot, they need to make sure that they maintain a line of sight with equipment operators. If they can't see a driver, the driver probably can't see them either.
It's not always comfortable or convenient, but there's a reason why the American National Standards Institute has standards for safety gear: It saves lives. Workers should have reflective gear (especially at night), hard hats, steel-toed boots, and hearing protection. Make sure that safety equipment is in good repair, meets ANSI standards, and stays on during the whole workday.
Asphalt work is hot work. It's already hot to work with, and it efficiently absorbs solar radiation and lets it off as heat. Most asphalt jobs are also performed without adequate shade, during the summer, and require a lot of physical labor. All of this raises the risk of heat-related illness, like heatstroke. Job sites should provide water and electrolyte-fortified sports drinks, and workers should take frequent breaks to rehydrate.
Proper safety measures should be pretty much automatic. It's like muscle memory -- workers should have safety measures ingrained in them and know exactly how to respond to any accidents that occur. The best way to do this is to have a daily safety meeting. Make sure that everyone knows what hazards they may face, how to avoid them, and how to respond to injuries, accidents, heatstroke, and other issues that may come up.
A lot of safety measures involve people staying vigilant all day. This can be tough to do when they're also trying to get the job done. It helps to designate a safety officer whose only role is to supervise things and inspect job site conditions. This person should be responsible, attentive, and able to pick out unsafe situations before they become a problem.
Working with hot asphalt on a stretch of a busy road is hazardous, but you can make it safer. By knowing what poses a risk to workers and motorists, designating a responsible safety officer, and being proactive when it comes to risk mitigation, you can prevent delays, injuries, and fatalities on the job site.
POSTED: November 15, 2022