Work Zone Safety & Signs
Written by Steve Hudgik
Work Zone Safety
Highway, road, street, bridge, tunnel, utility, and other workers involved in road or utility work, or working near roads, are exposed to hazards from outside and inside the work zone. Falls, struck-by, electrical, and caught between are common hazards found in this type of work.
The CDC reports that from 2003 to 2007 a total of 639 workers were killed while working at road construction sites. This represents 7.9% of all construction related workplace deaths. Nearly half of these fatalities resulted from a worker being struck by a vehicle or mobile equipment, and those are more often caused by construction equipment than by passing traffic. In 60 percent of the cases where a worker was struck by a backing vehicles or mobile equipment, the vehicle was a dump truck.
This points to the need for work zone traffic controls that are easy-to-see and clearly communicate their message. Traffic lanes need to be clearly identified by signs, cones, barrels and barriers. Drivers, equipment operators, workers on foot, and pedestrians must be able to easily find, follow and understand the safe routes and areas.
This starts with work zone construction project managers creating traffic control plans that involve:
- Providing traffic control information using signals, signs and message boards that instruct drivers and equipment operators where to go, and show paths that are away from where the work is being done.
- Using approved traffic control devices, including cones, barrels, barricades, and delineator posts, including using these inside work zones to control the movement of equipment and construction vehicles.
- Using labels, inside the operator's cab of construction equipment, that remind operators and drivers about the procedures to follow, and approved paths to follow when the equipment is moving, in particular when backing up. Labels can be made using removable materials allowing them to be changed to match the current equipment location and situation.
Work Zone Traffic Protections
Various concrete, water, sand, collapsible barriers, crash cushions, and truck-mounted attenuators can be used to help limit motorist intrusions into construction work zones. Where possible, barriers should also be used to separate construction equipment movement from locations were workers are on foot, as well as areas where trench work is being done.
Work Zone Flaggers
Flaggers should wear high visibility clothing with a fluorescent background and made of retroreflective material. This makes employees visible for at least 1,000 feet in any direction. Check the label or packaging to ensure that the garments are performance class 2 or 3. Drivers should be warned with signs that there will be flaggers ahead. Flaggers should use STOP/SLOW paddles, or paddles with lights. Flags may be used only in emergencies.
Work Zone Nighttime Illumination
Nighttime lighting for work zone areas, including areas where flaggers are working, should be at least 5 foot-candles or greater. Where available lighting is not sufficient, flares or chemical lighting should be used. Glare should be controlled or eliminated.
Work Zone Safety - Trenching
Trench accidents are another leading cause of injuries and deaths in work zones. When trenching is required safety planning begins long before the job begins. Here are some important points:
- Train and designate a competent person to ensure trenching safety measures are in place. The competent person must inspect the excavation, adjacent areas, and protective systems each day before the start of work; as needed throughout the shift; and after every rainstorm. The competent person must remove workers from the excavation upon any evidence of a situation that could cause a cave-in, such as accumulation of water in the trench or should there be protective system problems.
- As a part of work zone planning call 811 so that utility lines can be marked. Then “pot-hole” utilities to determine the exact location and depth before digging.
- Plan the work zone layout to identify safe locations for spoil piles and vehicle routes. Ensure vehicle (including equipment) routes are marked with signs and barriers. Notify subcontractors of the trench location and required precautions. Ensure subcontractors know the routes to use to keep vehicles at a safe distance from the excavation.
- Have a competent person determine what type of trench protective systems will be used for the job. Ensure the trench protective systems are complete and in place before workers enter the area. As work progresses, ensure that ladders and other means of exit from the trench are repositioned so that ladders are never more than 25 feet away from any worker in a trench.
- Ensure that none of the workers designated for entry into a trench are under age 18.
- Ensure that all workers in the work zone are trained about hazards and work practices in a language that they understand and at the appropriate literacy level.
- Develop a trench emergency action plan [NIOSH 2006] to describe steps to be taken and to provide contact information in case of an emergency.
- Monitor other types of trenchrelated hazards that can occur such as falls from the edge, rigging hazards, or toxic and combustible gases.
- Implement and enforce procedures to ensure that work in an unprotected trench is not allowed.
Work Zone Labels and Signs
Having a standalone label and sign printer, such as the battery-operated DuraLabel TORO, available in the work zone can simplify visual communication and help improve both safety and productivity. With a DuraLabel TORO you can quickly make reflective or fluorescent signs. You can make signs and labels for your lay-down area, and to identify materials in the lay-down area. You can implement 5S and easily mark and track tools and small equipment. With a DuraLabel TORO wires and cables can be properly marked.
Work Zone Signs
Work zone signs are commonly thought of as those used in road and highway construction and covered by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The MUTCD defines the sign standards used by road and road construction managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads that are open to public traffic.
Other Types Of Work Zone Signs
They are other types of work zones and work zone signs. They all involve the movement of vehicles, but not necessarily on public roads. For example, mines are considered to be work zones, and work zone signs are used to control traffic and provide safety information in mines. Utility work is also defined as a work zone. During utility construction, upgrade or repair projects work zone signs are commonly used to provide safety and wayfinding information.
Work Zone Signs For Electrical Safety
Electrocution is a common cause of injury and death on construction sites. Cranes, lifts and ladders unexpectedly coming into contact with overhead wires result in numerous injuries. Just the costs resulting from damaged equipment and lost production alone can easily go into millions of dollars.
Custom work zone signs placed to warn equipment operators about overhead wires can reduce the number of these accidents. For example, signs such as:
DANGER - 25,000 Volt Overhead Cable
WARNING - Overhead Wires - Fully Retract And Lower Boom
These custom work zone signs deliver specific messages about the hazard and the action that should be taken.
Providing specific information about the hazard results in increased safety. General safety messages such as, “Danger - Overhead Wires” may not result in the correct response or generate sufficient concern about the safety hazard.
How Do You Get Custom Work Zone Signs?
With a DuraLabel printer on-site, such as the battery powered DuraLabel TORO, you can make custom work zone signs as needed. TheDuraLabel TORO is a four inch printer that can make high visibility, durable signs of nearly any size.
Work zone signs made with a DuraLabel TORO can also be used for traffic control. Signs are so easy to make that new signs can quickly be made to adjust for changing work conditions or emergencies.
Call 1-888-326-9244 today and ask about DuraLabel printers and supplies for making custom work zone signs.
Work Zone Signs For Heavy Equipment Safety
One of the most common work zone accidents are dump trucks backing into workers. In general, heavy equipment and truck accidents in work zones account for a large percentage of accidents. Keeping equipment and truck traffic separate from workers who are on foot, and away from trenches, will help to reduce these types of accidents.
Custom work zone signs, combined with barriers, are effective in directing traffic and establishing travel lanes and areas for construction traffic, equipment movement and material lay-down. In addition, using custom safety labels on heavy equipment and in cabs can help operators be more aware of hazards and the safety procedures they need to follow.
A custom printer such as the DuraLabel TORO can handle this job. DuraLabel sign and label making supplies are tough-tested to survive in construction work environments. DuraLabel vinyl is so tough that it is the ONLY vinyl that provides a warranty of the sign and labels you make -- in addition to a warranty on the vinyl itself. Call 1-888-3269244 today to find out more about DuraLabel printers and supplies.