Road construction professionals are no strangers to danger and potential hazards. In fact, between the unpredictable traffic conditions surrounding them and the possibility of mother nature working against them, this is arguably one of the highest-risk jobs out there. Still, with many of our most used roadways crumbling fast, itís up to these brave men and women to take up the task, despite the chances of injury. These are some of the potential hazards for workers in road construction and how you can protect yourself from them on the job.
The erratic nature of traffic, and the drivers involved in it, are one of the biggest risks that road workers need to contend with. Unfortunately, careless drivers are actually the most common cause of roadwork-related injury and even death. Despite the efforts made to keep these individuals under control as they drive through the work zone, thereís no telling what frame of mind theyíre in or what they plan to do. Because of this, additional care is often necessary to guide vehicles and increase work zone safety and provide an extra protective layer between cars and workers. This could mean narrowing the available driving space to as little as one lane, where necessary, or setting up barricades to take the bulk of an impact.
Road workers are also at a particularly high risk of electrocution on the job. While the bulk of a given project involves working on the road itself, there are a lot of utility lines and live circuits that run beneath the pavement. These setups power roadside lighting systems and even provide some nearby homes with the energy they need. As such, electrical outputs are crucial to local infrastructure, and knowing how to work with them is just another vital part of the profession.
When accidents occur around these components, they have the potential to be severe. As such, to protect workers while they handle electric lines, itís important that they receive thorough and comprehensive training in electrical safety and refrain from wearing conductive clothing to limit potential hazards.
Additionally, the average road construction project requires the use of many different machines to complete each task effectively and efficiently. Some common ones include the steamroller, dump truck, and concrete mixer. Due to their size, weight, and overall power, just being near these devices is enough to pose a threat to a person. For this reason, lights and signs are often necessary to indicate to pedestrian workers when a piece of equipment is in use. These tools are also useful in letting the machine operator know when they need to be more careful because other workers are near. Operators should also refrain from moving too fast, exceeding the specified limits of their machine, and failing to surround the work area with protective barricades.
Low visibility environmental conditions are another potential hazard for workers in road construction, as staying safe relies heavily on the ability to see and be seen by others. Unfortunately, since many jobs require road construction professionals to work at night or in fog, this greatly increases the chances of someone getting overlooked and hurt. Therefore, itís during these times when increased protection and warning are the most necessary when controlling traffic. Only the strongest of barricades will do the trick, and they should also have traffic barricade flashing lights to warn drivers of your presence. This way, individuals near the job site have every chance of noticing the alternate traffic pattern and can approach with caution.
Our traffic control equipment is at the heart of what we do. These tools allow us to bring a semblance of order to the congested work site area and ensure that everyone makes it through in the safest possible way. But when these items begin to break down after years of use, we lose the ability to effectively communicate hazards and navigational instructions to drivers and fellow workers. As such, itís crucial to replace these tools whenever they become worn, faded, torn, or defaced in any way. This will help ensure that drivers are aware of the presence of workers and know exactly what they need to do when they pass through a work zone.
Personal protection equipment, or PPE, consists of anything that an individual worker wears on a job site to protect their physical well-being. This equipment includes hard hats, long gloves, safety glasses, earmuffs, and, most importantly, high-visibility clothing. These items limit the impact of various stressors on the body by protecting some of our most vital areas, such as the eyes, ears, arms, and head. But bright, reflective construction vests are especially vital as they stand out much more in low-visibility conditions than darker clothing. These items also help other pedestrians recognize you as a road construction worker, which adds a level of authority to the instructions you give them.
One of the most important hazards to be on the lookout for on a job site is overall worker exhaustion and fatigue. Because there are so many dangers involved in working on road construction, workers need to be at their mental and physical best in order to avoid them. When weíre overworked and tired, it can be easy to overlook details that could put us in harmís way. For this reason, you need to be acutely aware of your own wellbeing and recognize when you need a break. Otherwise, you risk putting not only yourself in danger but those around you as well.