Working in Traffic: 6 Important Safety Precautions (Part 2 of 2)

Working in traffic is a dangerous job, and it is easy for workers and drivers to become confused and frustrated as they navigate through construction zones. In this two-part blog series, I share ways to prevent, or even eliminate, work zone injuries and fatalities with a strong focus on safety.

Now that you have assessed the unique dangers that may affect your worksite, let’s take a closer look at six common controls that will help to keep your employees safe when working in traffic.

1. Temporary Traffic Control Devices (TTCDs). All road construction projects have TTCDs which need to be set-up and eventually removed. Do this when traffic is light. When installing, begin with the first TTCD a motorist will see and end with the last. When removing, begin with the last and work your way to the first. Don’t forget to consider the following safe equipment for placing TTCDs:

  • Platforms for safe deployment/retrieval
  • Seat belts, fall restraint, and/or guardrails
  • Shadow vehicles
  • Automated TTCD deployment/retrieval devices

2. High Visibility Garments. Employees commonly take this precaution to be seen by both construction and public traffic. But not all high visibility garments are created equal. There are three classes which are differentiated by the amount of background material required, the width of retro reflective material used, and garment design.

  • Class 1 is for workers where traffic does not exceed 25 mph and there is ample separation from the traffic. These workers often include parking service attendants, warehouse workers in traffic, shopping cart retrievers and those doing sidewalk maintenance.
  • Class 2 is for workers who work near roadways where traffic exceeds 25 mph and for workers who need greater visibility in inclement weather. In general, this includes railway workers, school crossing guards, parking and toll gate personnel, airport ground crews and law enforcement personnel directing traffic.
  • Class 3 is for workers with high task loads in a wide range of weather conditions where traffic exceeds 50 mph. The standard recommends these garments for all roadway construction personnel, vehicle operators, utility workers, survey crews, emergency responders, railway workers and accident site investigators.

3. Work from a Platform. Platforms keep employees out of traffic but may increase their risk of a fall from height. Using guardrails is one way to prevent a fall. Other times it may be necessary to provide employees with a fall restraint. In some cases you may need to use both, such as when working from a platform attached to a moving vehicle. Employees should never work from foot behind a backing vehicle, vehicles that might back up, or in blind spots.

4. Communication. Maintaining communication with drivers of construction equipment is a good safety practice. Visual communication is a minimum requirement. Audio communication is strongly recommended. Audio plus video is best. Staying aware of your surroundings so as not to place yourself in harm’s way is still one of the most important safety measures a worker can take, but is especially important when communication is limited.

5. Worker/Motorist Interactions. Getting stuck in traffic as the result of a construction zone is something all drivers must deal with. Many choose to take it in stride while some may choose the alternative. No matter the situation, try to stay calm and respond in a nonviolent manner. Getting angry will only escalate the issue. Prepare for these possible situations by:

  • Keeping employees visible and in well-lit areas.
  • Making sure employees can communicate with each other and call for help.
  • Having the means to record events, license plate numbers, etc. Respond to public violence immediately.
  • Considering extra police protection and/or security when necessary.

6. Training. None of the above controls will matter if employees are not properly trained. Conduct training on all dangers and the corresponding safety measures prior to working in traffic. In addition, hold supervisors accountable for the daily documentation of potential hazards and demonstration of the steps taken to eliminate those risks.

For more information on keeping your employees safe while working in traffic:

-Pat O’Brien



Pat has broad experience working with contractors, supermarkets, convenience stores, restaurants and the hospitality industry. He is a Certified Safety Professional (CSP), holds the Associate of Risk Management (ARM) designation, Associate of Underwriting (AU) designation, and is a member of the American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE).

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