The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) reports that every year, approximately 100 workers are killed and another 20,000 workers are injured in highway and street construction accidents. Data from the Census on Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) reveals that 55% of these fatalities occur within the work zone itself.
Flaggers and workers on foot face the greatest risk of being struck by vehicles or construction equipment since they are often less visible to motorists or equipment operators. Those workers who operate construction equipment are more often injured by collision, overturning equipment, or being caught in running equipment.
Most highway work zone workers frequently operate in conditions involving low light, reduced visibility, poor weather, or vehicle congested areas.
How Workers Can Protect Themselves from Injury
The following are some best practice safety tips that workers can adopt to protect themselves from work zone injury or fatality:
• Wear high visibility garments, such as fluorescent or reflective clothing, arm bands, hats, and vests.
• Be aware of all potential hazards, especially blind spots relative to moving construction equipment.
• Always look before you move from your position.
• Fully understand the channel lanes where walking is prohibited or is proscribed, where vehicles and equipment enter or exit, and the direction of all traffic in and out of the work zone.
• Use spotters while loading and unloading equipment.
• If acting as a spotter, know where you are expected to stand and confirm what hand signals are to be relayed to the driver.
• Before each work shift begins, familiarize yourself with the communication signals to be used between equipment operators and workers on the ground.
• Be aware of the swing area for equipment using buckets.
• Never stand under any suspended equipment like buckets, booms, and arms.
• Ensure that all parking brakes are applied to any equipment, especially if you temporarily exit the vehicle. Additionally, all vehicles parked on inclines should have adequate-sized chocks placed under the tires.
• Do not operate any vehicle, especially rollers, on an incline without wearing a seat belt.
• Never approach any machinery without signaling the operator to shut down the equipment and receiving an acknowledgement of your presence from the operator.
• Avoid riding on any equipment; drivers only – no riders.
• Equipment operators should never move equipment without making positive visual eye contact with all workers on the ground in their vicinity.
• Flaggers should understand the traffic flow, work zone set-up, and the proper placement of traffic channelizing devices.
• Flaggers should maintain ample distance from other workers so their role is distinguished by passing motorists.
• Flaggers should ensure they have good sight communication or two-way radios to communicate with their counterpart at the other end of the work zone.
Always think safety and be aware of your surroundings. Above all else – never assume the equipment operators or motorists outside the work zone have spotted you and will slow down or stop.
( based on an article from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health )