Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives.
Members of the OSHA Georgia Struck-By Alliance and the Associated General Contractors of Georgia Inc. (AGC Georgia) will join thousands of employers and workers during this year’s National Work Zone Awareness Week (NWZAW), which takes place April 26-30. This year’s theme is “Drive Safe. Work Safe. Save Lives. Everyone plays a role in work zone safety.”
NWZAW is an annual campaign sponsored by federal, state and local transportation officials to raise public awareness about the need to drive safely in work zones. The campaign is held at the start of the highway construction season and draws attention to the safety of road workers as well as motorists.
The Georgia Struck-By Alliance encourages participants to recognize NWZAW by conducting safety stand-downs at their job sites. During a safety stand-down, all work is stopped for 30 minutes to one hour and a focused safety meeting on one specific topic is provided. AGC Georgia explained that “these types of meetings provide effective communication of safety policies, goals and expectations through all levels of a team.” They recommend that participants conduct toolbox talks, perform safety equipment inspections, develop rescue plans or discuss job-specific hazards during their safety stand-downs.
Safety Starts with Training
Safety starts with training, and OSHA requires employers to provide training to workers who face hazards on the job. Those who perform infrastructure operations on highways, roads, streets, bridges, tunnels and utilities are exposed to hazards from both outside and inside work zones. Fall, electrical, struck-by and caught-between hazards are common.
According to national data from the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), in the U.S. during 2018 – the most recent year for which data is available – there were:
- 671 fatal work zone crashes with 754 fatalities, including 124 workers.
- 238 work zone fatalities involving large trucks and buses.
- 121 work zone fatalities involving pedestrians.
Transportation incidents and workers who are struck by vehicles or mobile equipment account for the highest number of fatal work injuries, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Workers including emergency responders and those responsible for cleanup, utilities, demolition, construction and directing traffic are at risk of being struck by moving vehicles. Work zones are used to move traffic in an approved direction and are typically identified by signs, cones, barrels and barriers.
Preventing Struck-By Incidents
There must be a traffic control plan for the movement of vehicles in areas where there are workers conducting other tasks. Drivers, workers on foot and other pedestrians must be able to see and understand the routes they are to follow. Federal, state or local authorities determine the configuration of temporary traffic control zones for motorists and pedestrians. The construction project manager determines the internal traffic control plan within the construction/demolition work site. When there are several projects, coordinated vehicle routes and communication between contractors can reduce vehicular struck-by incidents.
Following are various actions that employers and workers can take to help prevent struck-by incidents:
- Properly plan traffic control and follow applicable rules.
- Use proper lighting and road signs.
- Train and certify flaggers.
- Utilize proper work zone barriers.
- Stay alert and don’t turn your back to traffic.
- Wear high-visibility garments, such as fluorescent or reflective clothing, arm bands, hats and vests.
- Wear seat belts and use rollover protection.
- Never position yourself between moving and fixed objects.
- Plan an escape route. Have a bailout plan in case of an errant vehicle.
- Be aware of all potential hazards, especially blind spots relative to moving construction equipment.
- Fully understand the channel lanes where walking is prohibited, where vehicles and equipment enter and exit, and the direction of all traffic in and out of the work zone.
- Utilize spotters while loading and unloading equipment.
- Before each work shift begins, familiarize yourself with the communication signals to be used between equipment operators and workers on foot.
- Ensure that all parking brakes are applied to any parked equipment, especially if you must temporarily exit the vehicle. Additionally, all vehicles parked on inclines should have adequately sized chocks placed under their tires.
- Never approach any machinery without (1) signaling to the operator to shut down the equipment and (2) receiving an acknowledgement in return.
- Ensure flaggers understand the traffic flow, work zone setup and proper placement of traffic channeling devices.
- Install as many of the traffic control devices as possible from the shoulder and use truck-mounted attenuators during installation and removal.
- Utilize law enforcement personnel during installation and removal activities to help deter speeding and provide enhanced visibility for the operation. Enforcement personnel should be in safe locations on the shoulder or off the roadway.
- Always think about your safety and be aware of your surroundings. Above all else, never assume that equipment operators or motorists outside the work zone have spotted you and will slow down or stop.
For motorists, here are 11 tips to know for driving in work zones:
- Obey the rules of the work zone. Pay attention, slow down and watch for workers.
- Expect the unexpected. Things may change quickly. Normal speed limits may be reduced; traffic lanes may be closed, narrowed or shifted; and people may be working on or near the road.
- Don’t speed. Obey the posted speed limit even when workers are not present. In 2016, there were 190 fatal work zone crashes in which speeding was a factor.
- Don’t tailgate. Keep a safe distance between you and the vehicle ahead of you as well as the construction workers and their equipment.
- Obey road crew flaggers and pay attention to signs. Failure to obey speed limit signs or a flagger’s traffic control directions can result in hefty fines and/or imprisonment.
- Stay alert and minimize distractions. Give your full attention to the roadway. Avoid changing radio stations or using cellphones or other electronic devices while approaching and driving in a work zone.
- Keep up with the flow of traffic. Do not slow down to gawk at road work.
- Know before you go. Expect delays, leave early and schedule enough time to drive safely. For 24/7 real-time traffic information, pull over to the side of the road and call 511 or visit https://ops.fhwa.dot.gov/511/. You can also follow the FHWA on Twitter (https://twitter.com/USDOTFHWA) for additional updates.
- Be patient and stay calm. Work zone crews are working to improve the road and make your future drive better.
- Wear your seat belt, and make sure your passengers are buckled up, too. Doing so is your best defense in a crash.
- Remember that dads, moms, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters work here!
The Georgia Struck-By Alliance has created a registration page that contains a variety of fact sheets and safety training materials, including flagging safety tips; work zone safety tips; struck-by hazards; tips for traveling safely in work zones; and suggestions to prepare for a successful safety stand-down. To review those resources and more, visit www.agcga.org/web/Safety/Struck_By_Stand_Down_April_2021.aspx?WebsiteKey=412b73a8-57bf-4260-bd7c-6d526d9b2354.
About the Author: Marilyn M. Vélez, MPH, is the compliance assistance specialist for the OSHA Atlanta-West Area Office. She started her career with OSHA in 1997 as an industrial hygienist.