An orange sign reads “work zone ahead” to warn drivers and increase roadside worker safety.

Understanding Work Zone Audits

Every highway construction project is different and so is every work zone. Some work zones require elaborate traffic reconfigurations, while others may only need advance signage and barriers, like cones. One thing all work zones have in common is the potential safety risks for roadside workers and drivers.

Regular evaluations, like inspections and audits, can help keep people safe. You may be familiar with work zone inspections, but what about work zone audits? Inspections ensure that your work zone adheres to federal and state guidelines. Audits, on the other hand, focus entirely on the safety risks posed by the work zone.

What does a work zone road safety audit (WZRSA) entail? We’ll go through the steps of an audit and explain why getting an audit may be beneficial to your road project. 

Steps To A Work Zone Road Safety Audit

A WZRSA may be performed at any point during a road maintenance project, whether it’s in the design phase or the middle of construction. Usually, WZRSAs are only conducted once per project, as they are more extensive than routine inspections.

A WZRSA is completed through the following steps:

1. Choose the project.

Before a WZRSA can begin, an agency must request an audit for a road construction project.

2. Put together a team.

An independent team will perform the WZRSA to identify the project’s safety risks. This team consists of professionals such as law enforcement officers, emergency responders, and Department of Transportation staff.

3. Host a pre-audit meeting.

During this meeting, the team will learn about the project and review the transportation management plan.   

4. Visit the work zone.

To complete a WZRSA, the chosen team will conduct field research. Depending on the phase of the project, the team may visit the area where the project will take place or monitor the active work zone. Team members will use prompt lists to discover issues with the work zone. Prompt lists are groups of questions regarding the safety of each part of the work zone. Examples of prompt lists can be found here.

5. Analyze and report on findings.

Next, the team analyzes the safety risks found and comes up with recommendations for the work zone. These suggestions aim to increase driver and roadside worker safety.

6. Presents findings and suggestions.

After identifying appropriate safety recommendations, the team presents them to the agency that requested the audit. The suggested improvements may require reconfiguring the work zone or utilizing temporary traffic control devices.

7. Agency responds to the WZRSA.

The agency working with the WZRSA team must respond to these recommendations with a formal report. This report states which of the suggested safety measures they will implement.

8. The solutions are implemented and evaluated.

The agency implements safety measures and evaluates their effectiveness. Conducting a WZRSA may affect a project’s timeline, depending on its complexity and the extent of the safety recommendations.

Improving Work Zone Safety 

A WZRSA analyzes how all parts of the work zone affect safety. One of the benefits of a WZRSA is that it can prevent injuries from happening within the work zone. In the United States, there were 94,000 work zone crashes in 2017 alone. Suggestions from a WZRSA can reduce the number of collisions, as well as lower the severity of collisions, in and around a work zone. 

While performing WZRSAs increases safety, it also reduces larger costs related to accidents and reconfiguring the work zone. When WZRSAs are made in the planning or design stages, changes can be made before the work zone is set up. Catching safety issues early can save time and money.

If a work zone is active, the WZRSA may require it to be redesigned. Other safety measures may be added to the work zone. Recommended suggestions could include using temporary traffic control measures like automated flagger assistance devices (AFADs). An AFAD operates with a remote, so human flaggers can direct traffic from a safe distance away. 

Did your safety audit suggest the use of AFADs?

At IntelliStrobe, we can help you improve roadside worker safety. Contact us to learn more about the benefits of our portable red/yellow AFADs. 

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