Roadside Construction & Work Zones – Facts & Safety Tips For Workers & Drivers

Roadside construction projects are dangerous. This goes for both the workers within them and the drivers who have to navigate through or around them. Over the years, great improvements have been made in traffic control technology, signage, and safety barricades. However, the dangers of roadside construction still can’t be ignored.

Quick Facts

  • Over the past 5 years, more than 4,400 people died in roadside construction sites. Of these 4,400 people, 85 percent of these fatalities were either the driver or the passenger. Over 200,000 people were also injured during this time period.
  • The most common fatalities in work zone crashes are the drivers.
  • Working-age adults are the most common fatalities in work zones.
  • The most common type of accident in a work zone is a rear-end collision (when one vehicle runs into the rear of a stopped or slow-moving vehicle).
  • The highest rates of work zone crashes occur in the summer and fall.
  • Most work zone crash fatalities occur on roads with speed limits exceeding 50 miles per hour. (It only takes 25 extra seconds to travel one mile at 45 miles per hour compared to 65 miles per hour.)
  • The stopping distance for vehicles at speeds of 50 miles per hour are: dry roadway-300 feet, wet roadway-400 feet, icy pavement-1,250 feet. 50% more stopping distance is required for a loaded 80,000-pound tractor-trailer.

Driver Safety Tips

Work Zone Safety Tips
  • Don’t Get Distracted – Your attention should be dedicated to the road as much as possible. Avoid eating, getting on your cell phone, or doing anything else that would turn your attention away from the road.
  • Stay Observant – Watch the road signs, pay attention to brake lights, and be ready to act in accordance with the traffic around you.
  • Merge Safely Into The Correct Lane – Do your best to merge long before the lane closure.
  • Avoid Tailgating – Remain at a safe distance from the vehicles in front of you.
  • Drive At The Posted Speed Limit – Not only might there be workers mere feet away, but fines for speeding are often double the normal amount in these areas. 
  • Be Careful When Changing Lanes – You should only change lanes when the pavement markings indicate that you can.
  • Follow The Flaggers Instructions – They’re there for the safety of you and those around you.
  • Be Patient – People get angry in these areas, which often leads to poor driving decisions.

Worker Safety Tips

Develop A Comprehensive Safety Plan

Work Zone Safety Tips

Before any kind of road construction project can take place, a transportation management plan needs to be set up. This is a temporary traffic control plan that should outline how traffic will be conducted through or around a work zone for the safety of drivers, workers, and pedestrians alike. 

This plan should also include a plan for transportation inside the work zone itself; it needs to manage the flow of workers, vehicles, and equipment.

Your plan needs to be site-specific. There’s no one-size-fits-all plan when it comes to roadside construction. Each construction project is different and every work zone has its own specific hazards. Your site-specific plan should identify all hazards and provide ways to eliminate or mitigate them. Schedules should also be set to inspect equipment, materials, and so forth. A first aid and medical emergency plan should also be included in the event of an accident.

Clearly Separate Different Work Zones

Roadside construction usually involves many activities going on at once; some areas may involve heavy machinery, while other areas simply require workers with tools. Your different work zones can be separated via cones, barriers, and barrels to avoid accidents. 

Begin Your Mornings With a Safety Meeting

Work Zone Safety Tips

Not only will this give you a chance to get everyone on the same page for the job that’s to be performed, it will also allow you to make sure everyone is wearing the proper PPE. Work conditions often change from day to day, so it’s important to make sure workers know what to expect.

Efficiently Control Traffic

Your work zone should include the following:

  • A Warning Area for approaching vehicles. It should be located at an appropriate distance from the work zone so drivers know what to expect in advance. iTraffic systems are useful for this endeavor. 
  • A Transition Area, which should include traffic control devices to close lanes and shift the flow of traffic.
  • A Buffer Area to separate traffic from the work zone itself.
  • The Work Zone
  • The Termination Area where traffic can resume at a normal speed.

Wear Safety Equipment

Personal protective equipment (PPE) should be worn by all personnel in the work zone. This equipment includes:

  • Steel-toed boots
  • Hard hats
  • High-visibility clothing
  • Hearing protection (if required)

Your PPE needs to at the very least meet the American National Standards Institute’s (ANSI) standards. 

Avoid Blind Spots

Work zones have a lot going on in them, and much of the work is dangerous. All vehicles need to have mirrors and visual aid devices attached and functioning, Workers on foot need to keep in mind drivers have a relatively limited line of sight. It is up to everyone to keep an eye out and avoid accidents on the job.


Work Zone Safety Tips

Dehydration can have debilitating effects on not just the body, but the mind as well. Workers who stay hydrated will be more efficient and also able to work more safely. Workers should be drinking plenty of water or sports drinks and getting in the shade as much as possible, especially on very hot days.