Staying Safe: Flagger Mortality Risks

An advanced warning sign on a city street tells drivers a flagger is ahead.

Road construction is a tough job. Highway flaggers and maintenance workers face everything from harsh weather conditions to the daily dangers of traffic and machinery. 

The CDC reports that 1,844 workers were killed at road construction sites between 2003 and 2017. Being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment is the leading cause of these fatal injuries. 

What are the top risks for highway flaggers?

Read more about road construction risks and what flaggers can do to stay safe.  

#1. Passing Drivers

Traffic poses a serious safety risk for road maintenance workers. According to the Associated General Contractors of America, 67% of highway contractors reported motor vehicle crashes into their work zones in 2019. These crashes are often caused by speeding or distracted drivers. 

Road construction flaggers directly engage with traffic that passes by. Risky driving behavior puts flaggers and other workers at risk. Flaggers should keep watch for inattentive drivers and use their planned escape route if necessary. 

Flaggers are the first line of defense for workers farther down the work zone. If a driver does not respond to flagging, the flagger can sound alarms or communicate with workers to warn them of an intrusion. 

Other safety procedures, like transition areas and advanced signage, can give drivers more time to react to flaggers and the new traffic flow. 

#2. Work Site Equipment 

While passing traffic poses a risk, road maintenance workers are just as likely to be struck by construction equipment within the work zone. In a review from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, seven out of eight workers who were fatally injured from 2003 to 2010 were injured while working onsite. 

Work zones are loud and busy. Many activities take place at the same time during a road construction project. This means that equipment and workers may be moving around. Unfortunately, fatal injuries are often caused by backing vehicles or equipment within the work zone. 

Road workers have been struck by backing equipment, such as:  

  • Dump trucks
  • Pickup trucks
  • Graders
  • Road rollers

Many vehicles and equipment have back-up alarms to warn workers. Amidst the bustle of a work zone, these alarms may not be heard. Flaggers and other road maintenance workers should be aware of their surroundings at all times. 

Road workers also run the risk of being struck by other objects within the work zone. Flying or falling metal, pipes, tubing, and trees may lead to serious injuries. Workers should be comfortable operating equipment and outfitted with the proper safety gear. 

AFADs Make Work Zones Safer

Do you want to improve flagger safety? Automated flagger assistance devices (AFADs) are mechanical flaggers, controlled remotely from a distance. Using an automated flagger is better for drivers and flaggers alike.  

Benefits for Drivers

AFADs are larger than a human flagger. With flashing lights and a gate arm, AFADs are more visible to drivers from far away. The Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT) found that most drivers understood AFADs. 

AFADs may catch drivers’ attention earlier than traditional flagging. MoDOT observed that drivers approached AFADs more slowly. Drivers also stopped farther from an AFAD than a human flagger. Nearing a highway work zone at a slow speed gives drivers more time to react to what’s around them. 

Benefits for Flaggers

Highway flaggers can work safely apart from traffic with AFADs. Since automated flaggers are controlled via remote, personnel can direct traffic inside a nearby vehicle or behind a barrier. This lets flaggers focus completely on controlling traffic. 

Are you ready to improve work zone traffic safety? 

Contact IntelliStrobe to learn about our industry-leading AFADs, which include a gate arm and intrusion alarm. With AFADs, you can reduce fatal injuries for workers in your work zone.