Highway Construction Safety

When thinking of construction safety, many envision highways with construction sites.  And, rightly so.  Highway work sites are dangerous places.  However, when looking at statistics, the obvious dangers may not be the biggest dangers.  It’s important to provide training and create safety plans that account for the hidden dangers at highway construction sites. Here’s more information on highway construction safety.

Highways are becoming safer places.  If you compare 2007 to 1966, fatalities have dropped from 5.50 fatalities to 1.37 fatalities for every 100 million miles of travel.  So, how do highway workers fit into these numbers?  Work zone fatalities account for 2% of all highway fatalities.  Four out of five of these fatalities are motorists, not the workers.

No one can ignore the signage and stepped up law enforcement patrols at highway construction work sites.  A lot of effort has been put into reducing the chances that passing vehicles will have deadly encounters with construction workers.  What is surprising is that passing vehicles aren’t the biggest danger faced by highway workers.   So, what makes highways such a dangerous place for workers?  Workers are more likely to be killed by construction vehicles that are operating at the site.  It’s also surprising to learn that 75% of the accidents happen during daylight hours.  The incidents seem to be occurring because of limited visibility.

It’s important to look at what those individuals were doing at the time of accident.  Statistics show that 18% were directing traffic, 28% were walking on the road or alongside it, and 29 percent were involved in construction, cleaning or repair activities.  So, what can a company do to protect its workers?  The following suggestions can help create a safety plan for highway construction workers.

Create a plan
A comprehensive safety plan will provide framework for safer worker activities.  Those developing the plan should thoroughly understand OSHA’s standards and regulations per the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.  A hazard assessment which identifies the risks faced by workers should be part of the plan.  Then, there should be ways to mitigate those risks through certain safety steps and personal protective measures.

Have regular safety training
In order for workers to protect themselves, they have to understand the dangers they face.  Involve the workers in the rule setting to help achieve higher compliance.  However, make sure there are specific rules that need to be followed.  Those that follow the rules will be rewarded and there are consequences for noncompliance.  Separate training should be focused solely on how to work around traffic safely.  Finally, those that are directing and controlling traffic need to know safe practices.

Make for safe work areas
A work site needs to be carefully studied to ensure both workers and vehicles can move safely.  Utilities should be clearly marked and there should be specific procedures to follow when equipment is backing up or traveling where a crew is working.

Increase visibility
If most accidents occur during daylight hours, other steps need to be taken to improve visibility for both equipment operators and workers.  Study clothing options and warning light options.

Traffic should be kept away from workers
Do whatever you can to separate traffic from workers.  When separation can’t occur, use rumble strips, law enforcement and signage.

All construction sites are dangerous.  Highways add more layers of complication that can lead to more dangerous situations.  Provide safety training and take steps to mitigate risks to make for a safer construction site.