Vehicular accidents are one of the leading causes of work related injury and death each year. From construction sites and roadwork to manufacturing facilities, forestry, oil & gas and public service work, there are numerous opportunities for workers and the public to be put at risk.
This article will deal primarily with the management of traffic in and around the workplace. This is where the numbers of accidental injuries or deaths can be more easily minimized through training and control. An accident out on the open road is considered to be a separate issue, with its own set of unique circumstances.
The first step in ensuring the safety of workers and the public is to assess the risks that are specific to the jobsite or facility. Once you have determined what the hazards may be, then your planning can be much more accurate and effective.
- When doing your site or facility assessment, work with industry experts who really understand the nature of the work involved and the inherent day-to-day hazards. Look closely at all traffic and pedestrian routes, where the general public may interface with your operation, the equipment that will be used and the safety zones or buffers that will be required. This assessment will form the basis for any traffic control plans that are developed.
- Consult with local authorities and occupational health & safety agencies to ensure that your jobsite is compliant with all regulations and standards
- Prepare (and keep updated) a formal, written set of traffic safety procedures that can be used as the basis of your worker training program. Update these procedures as necessary and hold regular briefings with workers to communicate any changes to your protocol.
- Ensure that all vehicle and equipment operators are properly licensed and certified. This would include your own employees plus those contractors that are on site for any reason.
- All vehicles and equipment should be part of a regular maintenance program and be in good working condition. Poorly maintained or unsafe equipment can lead to unforeseen mechanical failure and the increased potential of worker or public injury.
Signs & Barriers
Visual warnings and direction make up a big part of the traffic control process. Posting clear informational or hazard alerts helps to keep drivers, those on foot and the public safe and secure.
- As part of an internal or external traffic control plan, standard devices such as cones, barrels, barricades and delineator posts should be used to direct vehicles and to create safe zones around equipment or areas of danger. It should be noted that these devices must be in good repair and must meet standards for visibility and reflectivity.
- Approved signs must be in-place in and around all jobsites to fully inform workers, visiting contractors and the general public of hazards, speed limits, area restrictions, access routes and other general safety information
- In particular instances, more than a signal or sign may be required to ensure the safety of pedestrians and to limit vehicle intrusion into certain areas. This could come in the form of concrete, water or sand barriers, crash cushions, guardrails or gates.
It is common practice, especially for road work, to have traffic broken out into zones so that there can be no mistake about what the expectations are for drivers or equipment operators. These can be defined as:
Advance Warning – alerts drivers to upcoming activity or required action
Transition Area – redirection begins from the normal course of traffic
Activity Area – this is where the active work is taking place
Termination Area – traffic returns to normal flow
- Flaggers or workers providing temporary traffic control should be properly trained and authorized to undertake these tasks. Advance warning signs should indicate when they are present, they must be well lit at all times and must wear approved hi-visibility clothing.
- Where possible, plan to have vehicle and equipment traffic flow logically in one direction, with a minimum of reversing required. This helps to avoid the possibility of collisions and other mishaps.
The following are some other key elements that can help to improve traffic safety:
- In general, it’s always good practice to keep vehicles/equipment and people apart wherever possible. Establishing designated areas or lanes for foot traffic helps, in addition to creating adequate buffer zones between pedestrians and moving vehicles or working equipment.
- Overall speed reduction in work zones goes a long way in reducing the risk of injury and death. These rules must be clearly established, posted and enforced at all times.
- Schedule or direct traffic and equipment movement within the jobsite in a staggered fashion so that you avoid overcrowding and the increased potential for an accident
- All workers that operate within traffic areas should wear approved hi-visibility, reflective clothing so that they can be easily seen from all directions
- Be sure to adjust traffic safety protocol to account for adverse weather conditions and poor visibility
- Apply extra caution in areas where there are slick surface conditions and/or steep gradients
- Maintain a strict no-tolerance policy when it comes to impaired driving or equipment operation. This would also apply to distracted driving and the use of mobile devices during operation. Visiting site contractors must abide by these rules as well. Attention must also be paid to the consecutive hours that an operator has been working and if fatigue may cause a potentially unsafe situation.
- When mapping-out traffic routes (even on a daily basis), ensure that you account for all potential hazards and traffic ‘choke points’. These would include road or laneway bends and junctions, stationary tanks and pipes, gates and barriers, overhead cables and any unprotected edges where a vehicle may fall.
- Wherever possible, avoid or minimize the reversing of vehicles or equipment, as this is often when mishaps occur. If necessary, operators should get out of their vehicles and walk to the rear to look for people, objects and to confirm clearances. The use of flaggers or spotters is recommended in these cases. This would also apply to the dropping or removing of demountable containers on site.
There are a lot variables to contend with when you’re dealing with the movement of vehicles and heavy equipment. Luckily, most accidents can be avoided if all of those involved stay alert and play by the rules.