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Safety measures for roadside workers

Orange vests, flashing lights and cones are helpful, but are they enough?

Motorists speed past roadside workers at highway speed every day, just feet away from vulnerable human bodies while the drivers are isolated inside their protected vehicles. For the driver, the rush to get home from work or to get to the movie on time may seem like a reason not to slow down significantly, but as you stand at the wayside and try to get your work done it’s not just a distraction to your workspace, it’s a serious safely hazard. In a human and car accident, the human is always in critical danger.

It’s not just road work, there is a wide variety of job that place a worker adjacent to speeding vehicles: construction, curb and gutter, sewage, electrical, auto repair and towing, maintenance, lawn mowing and more.

All method and manner of work takes place right next to traffic. There are regulations and provisions that employers need to take to make sure everyone is properly trained and cared for.

Besides the safety regulations and public awareness campaigns, what more can you do?

Work space vs. car space

While your workspace needs to be safe, keep in mind that drivers are often unprepared for the sudden detour or interruption to their traffic flow. Installing warnings and traffic transition zones will accommodate driver needs before it feels like an intrusion to their planned route. The key is to get their attention early and to keep it through your work zone.

Using careful and eye catching warning signs has proven effective and, once the driver enters your zone, the focus should be to provide transition and traffic control methods that ease drivers away from your work while maintaining their attention on safe driving. Well-trained flaggers and traffic planners will reduce frustrated and aggressive drivers.

Working side by side with speeding vehicles that can cause serious injury, it’s important to be seen and to be aware of your surroundings. Wearing easily recognized safety gear that broadcasts your trade is number one, and creating a safe barrier around your work area is essential.

For stalled truck drivers this means setting up emergency flairs and reflective triangles, and maintenance vehicles must activate emergency flashers or sirens. In a construction environment, barriers are the most effective separation between traffic and worker. They keep you from the open road and prevent driver distraction by blocking the instinct to gawk or rubberneck at your activity.

Federal regulation and employer protection

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is a leading government resource for workplace safety and has a detailed “Work Zone Hazards Workbook” available for roadside professionals. In it, the emphasis is on creating a safe work zone, training staff and presenting information and warning to drivers about the conditions ahead. Methods include preparing for all scenarios with a precaution to avoid them.

While federal and state rules provide regulations to help protect, we all know that doesn’t stop motorists from forgetting how it feels to stand next to a moving car. Carefully preparing your work zone focuses on the root cause of most accidents: driver focus and reaction. It increases awareness and makes for more defensive drivers.

Nebraska has nearly double work zone fines and an accident is a serious issue. If a reckless driver has injured you, you need to seek the best medical help and treatment. Working with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney will afford access to unbiased doctors and helpful direction through the legal and compensation process, while making sure that the proper safety measures were in place.