By K C Pawling, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

Most of our road department activity planning is really dictated by the weather and the weather forecast. This time of year, daily and weekly workloads are planned with priority projects. The one-and-six-year plans and department budgets are developed, presented, and approved. Yet, these are all things that can and do change with just one significant weather event. I know that some counties have received 65+ inches of snow for the winter and many are probably still recovering from that. Workers in other counties that have not received even a quarter of that amount of snow have their minds in a completely different place.

Regardless of whether we are just recovering from the winter, or getting the first project for the year started, we should not forget safety. We can’t lose our focus on the following safety considerations when entering the new season:

  • Everyone working in the county right-of-way needs to be wearing apparel that meets at least class 2 safety standards. If you are outside any vehicle or machine this is required and not an option. Anyone working in the dark will need to be wearing class 3 safety apparel.
  • All our equipment should be equipped with and using strobe lights. We do recommend operating with headlights and 4-way flashers on even during the day to increase visibility for the traveling public while working on the county roads.
  • All the county crews should be using advance warning signs. From motor graders all the way to maintenance crews, everyone should be placing portable advance warning signs if the project duration is less than 3 days. For any projects longer than 3 days, post-mounted signs should be placed in advance of the work zones.
  • Any road closures should utilize three type 3 barricades. We strongly recommend using 8 ft. wide barricades, so that they will cover the entirety of the driving lanes.  I would also like to remind you that these barricades should be “crashworthy.” Barricades mounted on some type of cart or running gear are not tested or determined to be crashworthy.
  • Barricades and even signs on our projects or closed roads need to be inspected to make sure they stay in place and the inspections documented.  As we all know, “if it wasn’t documented, it didn’t happen.”
  • Do walk-around inspections of all your vehicles and construction equipment.  You should do this not only for safe operation, but also for loss prevention. Look for signs of vandalism of the equipment that is left out on projects. Also look for any signs of disrepair, like leaks, loose or missing bolts, or missing guards.
  • I also need to mention using tarps on your trucks. I know that many gravel trucks are already running and history can tell us that windshield claims will soon be on the rise.  So, if you have tarps on your trucks use them, if you don’t have tarps, I strongly encourage you to consider them.
  • Most of the road department’s management have heard me say this many times, submit locates for your projects to Nebraska 811. After you make the one-call notification, document as much as you can. Photos, photos, and more photos!  A picture can capture so many things that may be overlooked during documentation, or even something we are not aware of, reducing loss through utility damage claims.

These reminders are not just about equipment loss but more importantly employee safety. Drink plenty of water and watch for signs of heat-related illnesses. Take breaks as needed and take care of your co-workers. Our employees are the greatest resource we have.

I understand this just scratches the surface of all that we need to be aware of entering the construction season. With construction workers being exposed to so many dangers you should have some situational awareness. Identify any dangerous situations you may have and manage them accordingly. Remember, if you need any safety training needs, do not hesitate to reach out to any one of us here at NIRMA. We will do what we can to help you with your needs.

I can be reached at or 402-310-4417. My office number is 402-742-9236. Let’s make sure we all make it home every night.