By Tim Baxter, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

As counties prepare for a busy construction season, now is a good time to have road department safety meetings on the hazards of construction work as well as proper construction signing.

Safety training should concentrate on proper traffic control including but not limited to construction barricading and signing, flagger training, traffic through construction work zones, equipment operation, the dangers of trench collapses during culvert installations, etc.

Many factors are involved in creating a safe construction work zone. Some of which are discussed below:

Fatigue – Maintaining constant awareness of the many potential hazards on the jobsite is difficult even when you are refreshed and focused. It can be nearly impossible to maintain if you are drowsy. Working while extremely tired and sleepy can be as dangerous as working while drunk. Many counties work 4 10-hour days which result in extra fatigue versus 8-hour days. Nearly everyone is affected by fatigue but especially flaggers who sometimes stand for most of the day. If possible, flaggers should be relieved every couple of hours to give them a break. For instance, if on a crack sealing project, one of the employees on the project could relieve the flagger who could then work on the project to provide a break. All county road department employees should be required to obtain Flagger Certification Training, which requires re-certification every two years.

Distraction – Distractions can keep you from maintaining risk awareness on the job. Your cell phone or smart device is one of the biggest distractors. Use of such devices reduces work safety and increases reaction times. Employees, especially flaggers on projects, should not be allowed to use electronic devices such as phones, etc. as such use could easily distract them from the task at hand, which is controlling traffic to protect the safety of themselves, their fellow employees and the motorist. There is nothing worse than pulling up to a project where the flagger is reading their phone and not paying attention to traffic arrival.

Speed control through work zones – Too often, motorists see orange construction warning signs and seem to speed up. One thing counties should do is install an advisory speed plaque below the first sign a motorist sees on the project, which is the Road Work Ahead sign. Crack sealing projects, for instance, could use 35 mph or less for the advisory speed. This advance warning would hopefully slow motorists down enough by the time they reach the flagger to safely stop, if necessary.

Too often counties do not use advance warning signs on construction and maintenance projects. Installing the proper advance warning signs not only protect county employees on the job and motorist traveling through your projects but also assist NIRMA in defending claims against the county should an accident occur.

If your construction/maintenance project is on a heavily travelled road and motorists are not abiding by the safe advisory speed or the flaggers directions, you may have to contact the sheriff’s office for enforcement assistance.

Ensure the proper hearing and eye protection, safety vests – Type 2 during the day and Type 3 for nighttime use, and other necessary personal protective equipment is provided. Ensure first aid kits and fire extinguishers are in all vehicles to provide the proper first aid should it be needed. Ensure employees are performing walk around inspections prior to starting equipment each day and repairing any deficiencies found during the walk around.

This is also an excellent time to review your construction contracts to ensure the proper insurance, signing and project completion deadline information is included.

The above information covers just a few topics that need to be considered in providing a safe work environment for your employees on construction and maintenance projects. If you have any questions, please give Tim a call at 402-310-4417 or email at tim@nirma.info. Be Safe.

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