Road Construction Safety Tips

Road construction can be frustrating for drivers, but it is important for all of us to remember that real people work in these construction zones. They put their lives on the line each day to ensure our roads are safe. Unfortunately, US Federal Highway Administration says that there were 132 roadside construction worker fatalities in 2017, the latest year of available data. Tennessee is one of the leading states in roadside construction worker fatalities year after year.

It is important that construction companies, contractors, and state agencies work together to keep these work zones safe. Today, we want to talk about some important safety tips for roadside construction work.

What are some common causes of highway construction injuries?

Roadside construction injuries happen in a variety of ways. The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) tells us that the most common causes include incidents with:

  • Automobiles
  • Dump trucks
  • Semi-trucks
  • Delivery vehicles
  • Backhoes
  • Rollers, compactors
  • Skid steer loaders, mini loaders
  • Street sweeping and cleaning machinery
  • Overexertion
  • Exposure to harmful substances
  • Slips and falls

How can roadside construction sites remain safe?

It is important for all construction companies and government agencies to have a transportation management plan in place. This plan should include all of the following:

  • Proper Traffic Control – all work zones are busy, even when construction takes place at night. There should be a proper advanced warning area with signs letting oncoming motorists know about upcoming changes in driving conditions (road surface changes, lane changes, etc.). There should be a transition area for lane closures and traffic pattern changes. The traffic control should include a buffer, the work area, and then a termination area to allow traffic to return to normal after the work zone has ended.
  • Separate work areas – there are usually many different kinds of work going on in a road construction zone. Each activity should be delineated with cones, barriers, and barrels. This will help keep construction site activity organized and give vehicles a space to drive and workers a place to move about on foot.
  • Proper safety equipment – every worker inside the work zone should wear personal protective equipment (PPE) at all times. This includes steel-toed boots, hard hats, visible or reflective clothing, eye and ear protection, etc. All PPE should meet or exceed national safety standards.
  • A “competent” person – each roadside construction site should have a competent person on hand. OSHA defines a competent person as “one who is capable of identifying existing and predictable hazards in the surroundings or working conditions which are unsanitary, hazardous, or dangerous to employees, and who has authorization to take prompt corrective measures to eliminate them.”
  • Safety meetings – each day or shift should start with a safety meeting. Roadside construction sites change each day, and new hazards or concerns may come up. Supervisors can ensure safety by keeping everyone in the loop each day.
  • Proper worker training – every construction worker should be properly trained on their specific jobs as well as on roadside safety measures. Training should be ongoing and include both new workers and veterans.

Injuries from roadside construction incidents can be severe. They can lead to major expenses for victims, including medical costs, lost income, as well as pain and suffering damages. By following proper safety measure, construction companies and workers can remain safe each day.