Like it or not, road construction is a frequent and frustrating experience for many drivers. But what about the workers who put their lives at risk every day? Between the years of 2003 and 2017, an average of 123 workers lost their lives at road construction sites each year. In addition to the normal risks associated with a construction site, road construction zones also have to contend with high-speed vehicles in close proximity, heavy machinery and environmental hazards. Making the workplace safe suddenly becomes a lot more complicated.
Thankfully, there are steps you can take to minimize the risk of your workers becoming a part of that number. With proper safety precautions, work behaviors, appropriate PPE and more, you can better protect them from the dangers of the work zone. We've compiled a list of tips for road construction site safety, to help your workers stay safe in road construction work zones.
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Most drivers are well aware of the level of care that goes into promoting safe driving practices near road work locations. Between the bright signs and the warnings declaring the consequences of striking a worker, you might think that this is the most prominent hazard facing construction laborers. After all, these cars are driving at high speeds and can do some serious damage. While collision from traffic is still a significant and dangerous threat, another pressing concern at roadwork sites is struck-by accidents with other construction vehicles and mobile equipment. Between the two dangers, over half of all fatal injuries at road construction sites between 2011 and 2016 involved pedestrian- vehicular incidents.
Of these incidents, almost a quarter involved trucks, followed by multi-purpose highway vehicles like pick-up trucks and SUVs and passenger vehicles. Dump trucks were the cause of nearly half of the fatalities from all truck types.
While general construction laborers saw the highest number of fatalities, crossing guards experience the highest risk, with 40.9 deaths per 100,000 full-time equivalent workers (FTEs). The rate for the construction industry as a whole is only 0.9. This crossing guard or flagger position involves those who stand close to high-speed vehicles where visibility and conditions can significantly affect a driver's ability to see the worker and increase the worker's risk of injury. Another position with high risk is paving and surfacing equipment operators.
Conditions that can increase the risk for roadside workers include:
In the construction industry, there are four major hazards identified by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Combined, these Fatal Four hazards made up nearly 60% of construction worker deaths in 2018. While falls are the biggest culprit, struck-by incidents came in at 11.1%. The hazards are as follows:
Ensure your workers are well-aware of these threats and arm them with the equipment to protect themselves. We'll go over how to stay safe in road construction work zones in the next section.
Every element of the jobsite, from entering it to driving heavy machinery throughout, can be risky if workers don't know what to look for or how to use their tools properly. Here are some worker safety tips for road construction work, along with administrative tasks that can help make the work zone safer.
One of the most fundamental approaches to safety is to instill safe behaviors in your workers. Informing them of the dangers and how to appropriately respond to risks can help drill in these ideas:
Remember that motor vehicles, from both traffic and construction equipment, are one of the most prominent dangers to construction workers on the highways. Follow appropriate safety procedures to help keep their hazards to a minimum:
Understanding your surroundings is vital in a construction environment. Workers need to know basic safety measures and follow them strictly. Some that are particularly prevalent in roadside construction include the following:
While everyone is responsible for the general safety of a construction zone, certain people have specific safety-related tasks to perform:
As someone with more control over the worksite, administrative tasks like engineering controls and training methods can help reduce the risks within a construction site:
Over the years, a collection of organizations have stepped in to make the road work zone a safer place. One of the most significant ones is OSHA, which has plenty of regulations in place for worker safety efforts. OSHA created the PPE requirements and much more.
Another big player in road safety standards is the FHWA. They created the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Design (MUTCD), which identifies the standards for traffic control mechanisms, required in almost every roadwork site. They also define the needs for high-visibility clothing and gear.
Both of these organizations reference guidelines set by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI). The ANSI develops standards for various industries, products and services throughout the country.
Other useful organizations include the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) and the National Highway Work Zone Safety Program (NHWZSP). Both provide more information about traffic control mechanisms, safety practices and more.
One significant part of OSHA's requirements is their directives for PPE. Personal protective equipment is a critical part of keeping individuals safe on worksites. The categories that OSHA provides regulations for include:
In every instance of PPE, workers should be trained on proper usage and how to identify a piece of equipment that needs to be taken out of service. No PPE should be used if it is damaged, worn or could otherwise impede upon the safety of the worker. Also, accurately wearing PPE is necessary for it to work correctly. A hardhat that doesn't fit right could slide off on impact, and a respirator that doesn't have an air-tight seal is one that still allows contaminated air to reach the wearer. Ensure appropriate practices when using PPE for all workers.
Roadwork construction zones are a particularly dangerous place to be. While we may not yet be able to eliminate the causes of road construction injuries or deaths completely, we can significantly reduce the risks by following strict operating procedures and safety standards for road construction sites.
When it comes to making the road a safer place for motorists and your workers, The Cat® Rental Store has an array of high-quality roadworking tools. We have safety equipment like arrow panels and light towers, along with heavy machinery such as asphalt pavers, road reclaimers and more. In addition to our collection of Cat products, we also have equipment from 70+ OEM providers and excellent customer service. Renting roadwork equipment can offer flexibility and cost savings. Browse our roadwork equipment today and see how The Cat Rental Store can help you make a safer worksite. Rent the tools you need from the people who know what it takes.