The leading cause of roadside worker injuries and fatalities is contact with construction vehicles and equipment. Workers operating construction equipment are most likely to be injured by collisions or overturning equipment. They might also be caught in equipment while it is left running.
More than half of fatalities caused by run-overs or back-overs involved construction vehicles. Such collisions have been attributed to limited visibility around equipment, with statistics concluding that 29% of workers were cleaning or repairing, 28% walking along the road and 18% directing traffic. NIOSH provides blind area diagrams to assist in visualizing areas that can’t be seen by equipment operators.
According to the Associated General Contractors of America (AGC of America) Highway Worker Safety Program, there are four basic hazards known as the Focus Four Hazards. These include:
- Falls, due to improperly constructed surfaces and unprotected edges
- Struck-bys, due to vehicle strikes and falling or flying objects
- Caught-in-betweens, due to rotating equipment and unguarded parts
- Electrocutions, due to contact with utility lines and live circuits
- Constricted work sites
- Inclement weather
- Low light
- Reduced visibility
- Vehicle congestion
With the steady increase of traffic congestion around the country, more construction work is scheduled at night; although the combination of increased traffic and night work compounds safety considerations for highway construction workers. 25% of accidents occur in the evening although less than 9% of the work force is on duty.
All workers should be careful not to assume they can be seen by equipment operators or motorists. You’ll need to make sure that motorists slow down and equipment operators acknowledge your presence.
If you’re supervising or managing a highway construction project like Michael Bach Atlanta do, consider the following tips on how to keep highway workers safe with administrative controls:
Complete a Risk Assessment – A risk assessment, based on OSHA regulations and standards outlined in the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, will help identify the risks workers face. The plan should outline what measures are needed to eliminate or mitigate those risks.
Train Workers on a Safe Work Zone – Be sure to train workers on how to set up and maintain a safe work zone. Anyone flagging traffic should know to follow the safest practices. When it comes to traffic control, it’s important to warn motorists of traffic zones far in advance.
Require Equipment Training – Be sure that employees know how to maneuver around equipment and take all precautions for their own safety and that of others.
Encourage Responsibility – Encourage employees to take some time to walk around the site and check for hazards.
You can also use engineering controls to protect your workers, such as:
Separate Workers from Traffic – be sure to separate workers from traffic as much as possible; although some workers will need to be flagging traffic in the road. Flaggers should know never to turn their backs to oncoming traffic.
Establish Safe Traffic Flow – To ensure that workers and vehicles move around the work site safely, it’s vital to establish where workers can enter and leave the site. There should also be procedures for when construction equipment is backing up and where it could come into contact with workers.
Consider Which Vehicles to Use – Traffic speed and the size of the work site are key factors in determining which equipment to use.
Improve Visibility- It’s important to ensure as much visibility as possible for workers. If visibility is low, use spotters to look out for potential hazards. Use of reflective uniforms also helps improve visibility. Additional work lighting may be necessary in addition to reflective tape on equipment.
Use Proper Safety Barriers – While light traffic might call for orange safety cones, heavy traffic may require barrels, or even temporary concrete barriers.
Mark Utility Lines – Identifying utility lines will help prevent electrocutions.
Ensure that Employees Are Vigilant Around Moving Equipment – It’s important that employees never stand in front of or behind an operating vehicle since equipment can often block an operator’s field of vision.
Manage Noise Level – Be sure to monitor noise level to prevent hearing loss. You should advise workers to wear earmuffs or earplugs to protect them from high-decibel noise.
Consider New Technology to Improve Safety – Glass-beaded paint better reflects oncoming headlights at night and makes it easier for motorists to exercise added caution. Electric signs with alternative warnings can give workers some warning when someone drives through a barricade. Rumble strips are a useful way to communicate caution and remind drivers that they’re entering a work zone.
Make Sure Employees Wear Personal Protective Gear – Construction workers should always wear appropriate protective gear such as hard hats, reflective clothing and steel-toed shoes.
With improved visibility, safe maintenance of traffic as well as sufficient planning and communication, many potential hazards can be avoided.
WEAR APPROPRIATE PERSONAL PROTECTIVE EQUIPMENT (PPE)
OSHA regulates employers to provide construction employees with proper personal protective equipment (PPE), used to supplement administrative and engineering safety controls. OSHA standards provide criteria for personal protective equipment, including protection for the head, feet, eyes, face, hearing and respiration. It could be the last defense between a worker and a possible injury.
A risk assessment will determine what personal protective measures work best at a given construction site. Such an assessment will require some, if not all, of the following.
Head Protection – Hard hats protect against impacts from fixed and falling objects. Some hard hats may come equipped with face shields or ear muffs. Helmets should fit properly and never be altered. They should also be replaced after any heavy blow. Be sure to inspect them periodically for cracks or deterioration.safety
Eye and Face Protection – Hard hats don’t protect the face, which makes safety goggles or face shields very important. When it comes to cutting, grinding, welding, or nailing, eye protection is essential. They should also be worn when working with concrete or harmful chemicals, or when exposed to electrical hazards. Goggles might be tinted and some offer side shields.
Foot Protection – Steel-toed boots will prevent toes from being crushed due to falling objects. Construction workers should also wear slip-resistant, puncture-resistant soles.
Respiratory Protection – When employees work with paint or are exposed to toxic airborne substances, respiratory protection is vital. Respiratory protection can protect against pesticides, paint spray, fumes and even dust. Respirators must also be cleaned to remain effective.
Hearing Protection –Be sure to use earplugs or earmuffs in work areas with high noise levels.
Hand Protection –Workers will need heavy-duty rubber gloves for concrete work and welding gloves for welding. Electrical hazards require insulated gloves and sleeves. Be sure to keep gloves snug.
High-Visibility Clothing–When visibility may be impaired, reflective clothing will be necessary.
There are also additional considerations for anyone managing a construction team, to ensure protective gear doesn’t create dangers:
It’s not enough to wear personal protective gear. Such gear should also be worn correctly to protect workers against dangers. Training may be necessary.
Michael Bach Atlanta Supervision remind employees to check clothing, to ensure loose clothing or hair doesn’t get caught in machinery. Fall harnesses should be worn snugly so there are no dangling straps.
Supervisors should make sure employees face equipment when dismounting, in case clothing is caught in the machinery.
You should also wear hats and use sunscreen to protect yourself from the sun. Drinking a cup of water every 20 minutes will help prevent dehydration.