Flaggers have one of the most dangerous jobs in the country. Even if a flagger has the best training and is paying attention to what is going on around them at all times, they still put their lives in danger every day to direct traffic in work zones and make conditions safer for workers and drivers. Here are three of the most common risks to flaggers on the job.
Hazard 1: Undertrained or uncertified Flaggers
Requirements to be a flagger vary from state to state. Some states, like Alabama and Michigan, do not require construction flaggers to be trained or certified. Conversely, some states, like Georgia and Texas, require both training and certification. Other states, like North Dakota, require training but not a certification.
Training and certification are critical steps to becoming an effective flagger because they teach flaggers to understand the importance of proper flagger operations and standard skillsets. By taking a certification exam, future traffic control flaggers prove that they know how to perform their duties on the job like various flagging signals and procedures, and how to use flagger safety equipment. When flaggers do not have training or are not certified, they are less likely to be equipped with the essential skills they need to perform their job safely and effectively.
Here’s the problem. Flaggers are often the newest worker on the team or are placed in a work zone by a temp agency. In states that do not require specific flagger training or equivalent traffic leader, the rules state that they must be trained “appropriate to their job duties.” This vague language makes training requirements unclear, and often the result is undertrained flaggers.
Why are undertrained flaggers dangerous? Because flaggers are critical to work zone safety. Their position on the front-lines requires them to have a specific skill set. Flaggers need to have the ability to communicate specific instructions, be quick physically and mentally in an emergency, provide clear directions to drivers using their signaling devices, apply safe traffic practices, and warn others in a work zone of dangerous situations. That’s a lot of responsibility for one person, especially when the safety of others, both driver and worker, hangs in the balance.
Hazard 2: Distracted Drivers
With increases in technology and phone capabilities, drivers are more distracted than ever. In fact, according to the Missouri Department of Transportation (MoDOT), distracted driving was the number one cause of work zone crashes last year. Remember, distracted driving doesn’t always mean texting. It could be listening to the radio, talking with a passenger, or reaching over to pick up a water bottle, anything that could take the driver’s attention away from the road. Distractions are especially dangerous on roads where drivers travel at fast speeds.
Did you know, that if a motorist going 60 miles per hour needs almost 400 feet to stop? Flaggers are positioned ahead of work zones (with a minimum visibility of 1000 ft.), to give approaching vehicles enough time to stop. But, when drivers aren’t paying attention to their surroundings, they can miss signage, and other indicators, meant to alert them to the change in road conditions ahead. In this situation, construction flaggers face grave dangers as they are either flee or are stuck, which in turn causes a dangerous situation in the work zone and for approaching traffic.
Implementing Automated Flagger Assistance Devices (AFADs) in your work zone take traffic control flaggers out of unsafe conditions and place them outside of the work zone, giving them the ability to focus more on threats to the work zone and the safety of workers and drivers.