How to Prevent Hazards when Working with Vehicles in Work Zones

Workers who operate construction vehicles or equipment can be injured by overturns, collisions or being caught in running equipment.  Flaggers and other workers on foot are exposed to the risk of being struck by passenger traffic or construction equipment if they are not visible to motorists or equipment operators.  Falls, electrical, struck-by and caught-between are common hazards for workers in highway work zones. Each year more than 40,000 people are injured in crashes in these areas. 

An internal traffic control plan (ITCP) can be used to coordinate the flow of construction vehicles, equipment and workers who are operating in close proximity within the activity area, so that the safety of workers can be ensured.  A supervisor can evaluate the effectiveness of the temporary traffic control setup by walking or riding the job looking for skid marks, damaged barricades and other evidence of near misses.

Temporary traffic control devices such as: signage, warning devices, paddles and concrete barriers can be used consistently throughout the work zone to help reduce injuries.  Motorists should be given plenty of advance warning of upcoming work zones, and the messages on the warning signs should be simple and brief.  Providing flaggers with devices that increase their visibility to passing motorists and construction vehicles can also be very effective.

In residential construction, large vehicles on small lots present special hazards for workers and home owners, especially during remodeling or making additions. A ground guide should help move big vehicles that have limited views.

Here are a few safe practices that workers can follow when working near vehicles:

  • Use a back-up alarm or guide during all backing of bi-directional machines like rollers, compactors, front-end loaders, bulldozers and similar equipment, excluding forklifts.
  • Use a horn that is distinguishable from the surrounding noise level as needed when the machine is moving in either direction.
  • Keep the horn in operating condition.
  • Be sure that all vehicles have full operational braking systems and brake lights and that parking brakes are set when not in use. Block and chock on hills as needed.
  • Be sure that all vehicles have working headlights and taillights when used in low light.
  • Use seats and seat belts when transporting workers in motor and construction vehicles.
  • Inspect all vehicles before using them for broken or unsafe conditions, including: all brake systems, tires, the horn, steering, couplings, seat belts (which are not required for equipment operated standing up) and any other safety and health program system.

See OSHA’s resources on Highway Work Zones and Signs, Signals, and Barricades for more information.



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