Workzone Safety – Are you doing enough?

The weather is warming up, street work moratoriums are being lifted and the annual rush to the streets is about to begin.  Street work poses a unique set of challenges.  We introduce a level of uncertainty with the public.  We cannot control what they do, how they act and more importantly, how they drive around our work zones.  According to the Center for Construction Research and Training, “struck-by incidents are a leading cause of death among construction workers, and since 1992 the leading cause of nonfatal injuries in the construction industry.”  Struck by incidents are also part of OSHA’s Focus Four.  The Focus Four hazards are responsible for 64% of all fatalities in construction. 

So, what is a struck by hazard?  A struck by hazard could be a vehicle or equipment strike, a strike by a flying object or even something falling.  Street work zones expose workers to all of the possible struck by potentials.  Street work requires detouring of existing traffic patterns.  When the need to detour traffic around work zones arises, traffic management plans need to be put together. 

A traffic management plan is a detailed plan designed to keep workers safe from vehicles while working in the streets.  Some plans could be as simple as closing a road while others are much more detailed and elaborate.  In all cases, the plan needs to show what signage is to be used and where it is to be placed.  The plan should include the locations of cones, barrels, and barricades.  The lane sizes should be indicated on the plan and any locations of flaggers or police details. 

Having a plan is a good start, however, as in any plan, it is the implementation of it that is the most important.  The plan needs to be accessible to those in the field and clearly understandable so that the work zones can be setup properly.  The plan is another tool in the toolbox for the crew.  The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) sets the minimum standards for and provides guidance on traffic control.  Some states and even certain cities/towns have developed more stringent standards for traffic control.

April 26-30 is the National Work Zone Awareness Week.  This event is similar to Construction Safety Week where it’s a nationwide event designed to raise awareness and spreading the message of safety.  This year’s theme is Drive Safe, Work Safe, Save Lives.     

Drive Safe. A reminder that work zones need everyone’s undivided attention. When approaching a work zone, motorists should always slow down, follow all posted signs, be alert, and remain calm. Risky driving behavior affects more than just the driver – everyone’s lives and families are at stake.

Work Safe. Technology is helping to make work zones safer by collecting data and automating processes, which can remove workers from dangerous situations and provide motorists with important information. It is also a reminder that work zone safety begins with workers who are dedicated to safety.  

Save Lives. If we ALL work together, we can achieve zero deaths on our roads and in our work zones!

Utility work alone is dangerous and filled with unknowns, utility work in the street with the public encountering a new traffic pattern is even more so.  Take the time to create a traffic management plan and review the plan with the crew onsite.  Ensure that vehicle protection is in place and it is adequate for the traffic expected.  Remember, struck-by incidents are a leading cause of death among construction workers. 

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