orange construction sign with silhouette of flagger

The Importance of Roadside Safety

If you have spent any amount of time working on the side of the road, you should have some pretty good stories of what can go wrong. Every year, Pool members spend a lot of time on the side of the road obtaining water samples, maintaining infrastructure, or treating water for mosquitoes. All of these activities come with their own hazards. But the biggest roadside hazards are those you have no control over: drivers.

It doesn’t take much to distract an otherwise good driver, let alone a bad one. So a good rule when working roadside is to never turn your back on traffic. It’s a simple concept, but it can be much harder to maintain than you think. Fortunately, we have a few tips for the next time you’re in the field.

When working on the side of the road, things can quickly and unexpectedly go wrong. The internet is full of eye-popping videos depicting crazy roadside incidents. Most of these are accidents, some are intentional, but they’re all reminders that you have to be prepared for anything.

At a roadside work site, your first priority is to proactively evaluate the situation and think about what could go wrong. Take stock of your surroundings. Can you spot someone going at a high rate of speed? Can you see drivers on their cellphones? If you are in a blind spot, consider how to reposition for greater visibility to drivers. If this is not an option, work with a spotter to notify you if an issue arises.

Wear Proper Safety Equipment

At minimum, when working on the side of the road, it is imperative that employees wear an ANSI (American National Standards Institute) approved class II safety vest and, depending on what they are doing, a hard hat as well. A class II vest helps passing drivers identify you at up to 1,000 feet. If you are working at night, consider wearing a class III vest to give that extra bit of visibility that could very well mean the difference between life and death.

Always be Aware of your Surroundings

You can’t just focus your attention on traffic in these situations. You need to understand the area around you in order to spot non-traffic dangers as well as routes of escape. If there is an out-of-control vehicle coming right at you, have you scouted where you’re going to go?

In most situations, this can be a fairly easy decision if you can jump into a ditch on the side of the road, but what if you are working on a bridge? In these situations, workers often only have a split second to make a decision. By preparing ahead of time for all possible outcomes, you will be ready to act.

Set up Your Work Zone Safely

There are a lot of resources available for work zone safety including how to set up a safe work zone. Here are a few things to consider:

  1. Do you have adequate cone spacing?
  2. Do you have signage in place notifying drivers that there is a lane closure, or a “flagger ahead” sign?
  3. Do you have an adequate number of flaggers? Are your flaggers CDOT Flagger trained?
  4. What are you doing for quick stops on the side of the road when obtaining water samples?
  5. Does your district trucks have light bars, and are you using cones to help bring attention to your vehicle?
  6. Are supervisors trained to set up road closures appropriately?

Flaggers

Whenever possible, use flaggers to improve road work safety. Cars driving through work areas tend to slow down more when there is a flagger stopping or slowing traffic. Flaggers also work as the eyes and ears for everyone else. They can notify others if they see that something by using their radio, a whistle, or an air horn.

We offer proctoring for CDOT Flaggers and can train your employees at no cost. Please contact us to schedule your training today at safety@csdpool.org.

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