Keeping Workers and Drivers Safe This April and All Year Long
April 26-30, 2021 is National Work Zone Awareness Week. According to Evergreen Safety Council, more drivers and passengers are affected by work zone injuries and fatalities than workers.
When it comes to highway safety, diligence is key. That’s why ADM has prepared this article with helpful tips for practicing safety, 365 days a year, including vigilant protocols, to help protect everyone on our highways.
Conducting Safety Training Programs
At the very foundation of highway safety practices is the development of and adherence to construction-worker safety training. Proper safety programs should include (but not limited to):
- Known hazards for the worksite and plans to alleviate them
- Traffic control plans
- Equipment training
- Schedules for equipment and materials inspections
- Emergency and first aid plans
Training programs should be implemented for all new workers, with regularly scheduled updates for the entire crew. Just as critical, are daily safety meetings that can address changing conditions and hazards. These can be short, just long enough to keep key factors top of mind, every day.
Using Collison Avoidance Guidelines
Because collisions are a major cause of injuries and fatalities, these important guidelines should be consistently followed:
- Traffic controls that prepare drivers for changes like reduced lanes and slower speeds and provide drivers ample space for transitioning out of work zones and into the regular flow of traffic. As part of traffic controls, flaggers should never turn their backs to oncoming traffic when directing vehicles.
- Worker and worksite visibility through the use of OSHA-required clothing including hats, vests, and armbands with reflective materials, and lights in the evening and in poor weather conditions.
- Use of proper safety equipment like steel-toed shoes, gloves, respirators, and earmuffs or earplugs on sites with extreme noise levels.
- Set-up of a proper perimeter with ample work space on all sides, use of barricades inside the worksite to indicate where it’s safe for crews to walk, and placement of cones and other barricades to alert drivers to where worksites begin and end. Utility lines should be marked to prevent electrocutions and other injuries.
Ensuring a Competent Person On Site
A competent person is defined by OSHA as someone who can spot existing and potential hazards in and around the work area and who is authorized to make changes to the worksite to remove identified dangers.
All worksites should have a competent person there at all times. Competent persons can spot things like blind spots and other potential hazards. They can take responsibility for moving (or having moved) potential obstructions or debris in the heavy equipment zone, readjusting a barrier that’s been accidentally nudged out of place, or filling in or marking hidden holes in the ground.
Competent persons can also help spot employee negligence when operating heavy equipment or are around moving vehicles within the construction zone. Just as important, workers also need to take responsibility to ensure they are personally and vigilantly following important worksite guidelines for their safety.
Because of the importance of having a competent person on the job site at all times, identify more than one competent person and implement a schedule to ensure at least one competent person is on the site at all times or can take over if the assigned person has to temporarily or unexpectedly leave the site.
Practicing Worker Vigilance
In addition to a competent person on the worksite, workers should also stay extra vigilant while moving around the worksite to spot potential hazards.
Workers should also take responsibility to follow all safety protocols and implement extra precautions as necessary when operating heavy machinery, being in close proximity to moving vehicles and equipment, and observing blind spots.
Safely Operating Heavy Machinery
- Apply parking brakes whenever vehicles are not in use
- Put a block in front or behind of the tires when left on an incline or decline
- Use a spotter when moving, unloading and loading equipment
- Check that mirrors and other visual aids like tail lights are attached and operational
- Beware of blind spots that are capable of fatally injuring your fellow crew members
- Use a seatbelt at all times
Practicing Safety in Close Proximity to Vehicles and Heavy Machinery
- Be watchful for heavy equipment that is moving, exiting and entering
- Steer clear of areas where walking is prohibited
- Don’t get caught in between pieces of equipment or under anything like booms or arms
- Pay attention to drivers
Avoiding Blind Spots
- Always make eye contact with heavy-equipment operators and ensure they see you if you’re planning to walk around them
- Never assume that a vehicle sees you
- Signal the operator and wait until the equipment is off before walking towards or near them
- Know the communication signals and what each signal means so you know when to stop, wait or avoid the area
Recognizing Other Hazards
Beyond collisions, worker slips and falls account for 20 percent of road construction injuries, according to the US Department of Transportation. Workers should be aware of their surroundings at all times, avoiding muddy, wet, or icy surfaces and holes in the ground.
When working in extreme weather conditions, workers should recognize the symptoms of heat or cold stress, stay hydrated, and take other precautions such as limiting the amount of time worked or having proper break areas to which to retreat.
Overexertion, resulting from repetitive motion and improper form, is another hazard that accounts for approximately 17% of non-fatal construction injuries. Understanding proper form, taking appropriate breaks, and use of construction exoskeletons can all help to relieve strain and use correct form.
Practicing Driver-Safety Tips
Highway safety is everyone’s responsibility and as drivers, one and all, here are important rules of the road to follow every time you drive.
- Pay attention to signs indicating construction zones and follow the appropriate signage directions, including limiting speeds and being watchful for sudden stops or movement near the worksite
- Keep headlights on, especially during low visibility periods and night driving, so you can follow modified lanes and stay clear of construction workers and barricades
- Leave ample space between you and the vehicle in front of you to allow adequate breaking for any slow-downs or sudden stops
Let’s all do our part to keep everyone safe on our highways all year round.