By K. C. Pawling, Road Safety and Loss Prevention Specialist

As I am writing this, I heard the weather forecast for this week. It is forecast to be in the 70’s here in the central part of the State for a couple days this week. I would guess that it would be the same for many parts of the state. With weather like we have been experiencing, we naturally start to think about all the spring activities that go along with nice weather. So naturally road departments really start to focus on the first project that is going to be completed for this construction season.

I have a few things that we should make sure that we have finished up before heading out to the projects. One of our focuses should be on the equipment. Did we get all the inspections done on the equipment this year? With the completion of inspections, did we get all the necessary repairs done. A properly functioning piece of equipment not only reduces the amount of downtime but also leads to a construction crew working safely. If our machines are operating correctly, and in good repair, our crews are not trying to “get by” or “doing the best we can with what we got”. In my experience those are words and attitudes that usually lead to cutting corners and unsafe work practices. This also leads to bad attitudes on the jobsite, all contributing factors to an unsafe work environment.

Second thing I think about is our employees. Do we have new employees that need to be trained on equipment before heading to the jobsite? Do we have ANY employees needing training or refresher training on any of the tasks we expect them to do this year? Are there any PPE needs that should be addressed? For example, does everyone have a safety vest or safety toed footwear if the footwear is required? This is a good time to meet with our individual work crews and go over these items before heading out. To circle back just a bit, do the crews understand the procedure and importance of daily equipment inspections? Again, this contributes to employee safety whether they realize it or not.

The third thing I am thinking about is properly closing roads. Are the employees trained to understand the correct way to properly close a road using three barricades? Do we have the advanced warning signs up that are necessary? We also need to make sure that we are making and documenting barricade inspections. Again, photos are a great way of documenting the installation and inspections of the barricades.

NIRMA has recently had a claim concerning a road closure. A county had a road that was damaged by excessive rain, and barricades were installed by the county. The county had not been able to complete the road repair as they had planned so, the road remained closed. The county never did inspections to verify the continual presence or the condition of the barricades. Also, when the barricades were put up, there was no advance warning sign installed to alert motorists of the closure.

The motorist who was pulling a trailer with a pickup noticed the condition of the road and was able to get stopped coming to rest in the road ditch before proceeding onto the “closed” portion of the road. The motorist provided information that the barricades and advance warning signs were not up, and the county could not produce documentation or any proof to dispute the claim. NIRMA ended up settling the claim because we could not prove the barricades were not up. Luckily there was only vehicle damage and not injury to the occupants of the vehicle. It could have ended up far worse than it did.

It would be a good idea to do a hands-on exercise to walk employees through the first closure of the season. This gives you an opportunity to learn firsthand if you have any sign needs or if any repairs need to be
made to your barricades. This is also a good time to review the inspection process that needs to be done with every road closure. Let’s make sure everyone makes it home every night. Be safe!

If you have any questions on any of the above information or want to request training, please contact me at 402-310-4417 or email