Avoiding Human Injury During Work Zone Intrusions

Barrels and stop signs are installed along the road for work zone traffic safety. Construction trucks sit in the background.

Work zone fatalities happen more often than they should. Highway maintenance workers are often at risk of injury on the job. An average of 120 road worker fatalities occur within work zones each year. Many of these fatalities are caused by motorists who enter the work zone.

These motorists are often distracted by cell phones, sleepy, or intoxicated. Some motorists may accidentally follow construction vehicles into the work zone. When vehicles come through traffic control devices or ignore road block-offs, they put themselves, their passengers, and highway maintenance workers at risk. This blog offers tips to improve work zone traffic safety.

Before Beginning Work: Traffic Control Plan

For a project to be safe, you need to have a traffic control plan in place. This plan will take into consideration the location of the site and the type of work needed to be done. A traffic control plan allows you to create detours that decrease the flow of traffic through the construction area, as well as configure the appropriate buffer space between the work zone and any open lanes.

Strategies can then be put in place for the appropriate types of signage and traffic control devices. Other devices, like alarms, can be installed to warn road workers that a vehicle has entered the work zone. These devices may give workers some time to move away from the space.

Another reason to create a traffic control plan is so you can plan for emergency responders. How will emergency responders get into the work zone? Which route should they take? By collaborating with first responders in your area, you can have a route set in place in case of an emergency.

Be Vigilant: Communicate With Others

The sound of work equipment and the sight of passing cars can quickly fade into the background if you work along the road every day. It’s important to stay aware of your surroundings and pay attention to any commotion, even if it seems ordinary. By staying vigilant, you may be able to spot a vehicle entering the work zone.

While individuals are working alongside traffic, spotters can help keep them safe. A spotter is someone whose sole job is to watch for oncoming vehicles or equipment. This allows road workers to focus on the task at hand. Spotters, flaggers, and other crew members should be equipped with horns or whistles to alert others of an intrusion. These types of devices can also be mounted to equipment.

When a vehicle enters the work zone, you’ll want to have an emergency signal or a system of communication that everyone on-site is familiar with. That way, workers can alert those farther along the work zone, giving them more time to move away from the impending danger.

Be Prepared: Let People Know You’re There

It’s important to let motorists know that there is construction ahead, so they can be on alert for workers and changes in the usual traffic pattern. The placement of advanced warning signs will be dependent on the location of the work zone. No matter where your work zone is, it’s imperative that signage gives motorists plenty of time to react. Having warning signs up within a quarter-mile radius of the work zone is important.

What you wear can also help you be seen. All highway maintenance workers should wear bright, reflective clothing that is visible from a distance. This is especially important if they will be working next to passing traffic or at night.

Flaggers can warn motorists that they are entering a work zone. A flagger’s signs should be eye-catching and intuitive, so there isn’t any confusion as to what the signals mean. You may consider using automated flagger assistance devices (AFADs) to control traffic instead of having someone on the ground. A flagger can control an AFAD from the safety of a vehicle nearby.

Do you want to minimize work zone intrusions?

An automated flagger assistance device (AFAD) helps clearly direct traffic. Contact IntelliStrobe for more information on how AFADs can improve work zone safety.