Construction work is sadly one of the most dangerous employment sectors.
Highways England report that 12 road workers have died in the previous decade – three deaths involving members of the public colliding with on-site workers. Motorists have also struck and injured workers in excess of 50 separate incidents, and every month brings more than 150 recorded cases of cars and trucks infringing on live work sites. These statistic are some that can be avoided if the right equipment and health and safety points are followed.
Simple guide to highway worker health and safety
We have put together some key points which will help you to ensure that health and safety is front of mind at all times while completing a highway maintenance project and that will ensure your workforce are kept as safe as can be at all times.
Temporary traffic control measures should be designed to safely guide public vehicles through or around the highway work zone. There should also be a control plan for traffic within the work zone itself, carefully directing the flow of workers, heavy equipment, and construction vehicles.
Think about what equipment you might need to do this, which we touch on further in the point below. Also ensure everyone knows what they are doing before they start the project and during the project so you can all help each other complete the task as safely and quickly as possible.
Manage traffic effectively
Every project site should create an advance warning spot with signs that alert advancing motorists to the upcoming hazards. A transition area should use mobile traffic products and control devices for lane closures. These can include mini light arrows directing the flow of traffic, or red X light arrows, which show immediately if a lane is closed.
There should also be a buffer area around the work zone itself, which will protect your highway construction workforce in case there is an impact to the barrier.
There must be a termination area, which properly feeds traffic back into normal road conditions with signs that inform motorists that the construction area has now been passed.
Construct clear work zones
Road construction projects often involve multiple activities occurring simultaneously and this is often where the problem of accidents can arise. It’s all about ensuring each highway construction worker knows in which part of the space they should be operating in. Some areas will be devoted to the use of heavy equipment, while others might be reserved for parked vehicles, or for workers to travel across on foot.
To fully ensure safety, road barrier systems such as portable steel barriers, cones, and barrels should be used to clearly and protectively subdivide such a busy environment.
Personal protective equipment (PPE)
It might seem obvious, but all members of the construction workforce should use the correct safety equipment within the work zone. PPE should be worn at all times, including high visibility clothing, hard hats, steel-toe boots and hearing protection, where appropriate.
Highway construction workers should also be trained on how to move safely around the construction area. Supervisors should warn about common dangers, such as walking behind any moving equipment, or straying into the swing radius of heavy machinery.
Workers at the roadside should always remember to face oncoming traffic and the work zone should use spotters to monitor all traffic, including both public vehicles and heavy construction equipment within the site. This can be done by use of an anti-incursion gate, such as the SOSEC. This ensures any motorists who do find themselves in the workforce area by accident will be prevented from entering by a gate that requires a code and is operated purely by solar power.
Roadside conditions are dynamic, changing daily with such factors as the weather or traffic volume. It is advisable to conduct a brief safety meeting each day before work commences, both to inform workers of the schedule and to highlight potential hazards that may occur during the next few hours.
Hydration and rest
Overexertion and heat-related health problems such as heatstroke, dehydration, sunstroke, and exhaustion are a frequent danger in highway construction projects.
Road surfaces also absorb the sun’s heat and can be much hotter than the ambient air temperature might suggest. Workers should therefore be regularly reminded to drink water regularly and should avoid overexposure to sun on very hot days.