Aging infrastructure needs to be refreshed, and new highways are getting constructed every day at sites across the country. While the work these crews are doing is essential to keep travelers and commuters moving, it is just as essential to ensure these sites are safe for the hardworking men and women who keep this country going. Here are a few tips we've found to help improve safety on your site and make sure your crew stays safe while completing their jobs.
1. Wear and Maintain All Safety Equipment
Keep hard hats, gloves, safety goggles and any other necessary personal protective equipment (PPE) onsite all the time. Wearing proper PPE should be a requirement on every job site, and you should educate your workers on the importance of using the proper safety equipment for any and all jobs.
In addition to this, maintain all safety equipment regularly. If you discover any worn or broken equipment, repair or replace it.
2. Control Traffic
Unless all your construction sites are operating in the wee hours of the morning or on unused stretches of highway, chances are you'll have traffic to contend with. Traffic control is essential to maintaining a safe and active worksite. Ensure there is enough space between your worksite and nearby traffic that allows employees to complete their jobs without worrying about dodging oncoming cars. Provide sufficient warning for oncoming drivers that a lane is closed, and a transition area long enough to deal with the amount of traffic in the area.
3. Wear High-Visibility Clothing
Roughly 48 percent of fatalities on highway construction sites between 2005 and 2010 were caused by an individual being run over or backed over by a vehicle. Wearing high-visibility clothing, hats, vests and armbands can help prevent these accidents. These bright colors also make your workers more visible to drivers in the area, which can help prevent accidents caused by passenger cars or other traffic on the highway.
4. Continuing Safety Education
Safety education isn't something that should happen once — it's important to continue to reinforce safety rules and protocols for your workers on an ongoing basis. Some experts suggest starting every morning with a safety meeting where you can discuss risks and reinforce safety protocols. Keeping safety in the forefront of everyone's mind can help reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities in the long run.
5. Be Wary of Blind Spots
We understand — part of working on highway construction means you're constantly around dump trucks and other heavy machinery. That doesn't mean that these worksites need to be dangerous. Whether you're behind the wheel of a piece of equipment or on the ground, be wary of blind spots that could hide a person. Most of those fatalities we mentioned earlier happened because a worker was standing in a truck’s blind spot.
6. Drink Plenty of Water
Most highway construction takes place during warm spring and summer months, especially in areas that receive a lot of snow in the winter, making construction impossible. Proper hydration is essential, as is taking frequent breaks out of the sun to prevent dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Keep water or sports drinks containing electrolytes available at all times to prevent heat-related illness on the job.
7. Create Safe Work Areas
Compartmentalizing your work areas isn't always an option, but you should try to keep workers who are on foot away from areas where heavy equipment is in use, if possible. Section off your work site and create designated areas for foot traffic, vehicle parking and heavy equipment work. This helps to ensure that no one is getting underfoot — or under tire, in this case — and that those who are working on foot can do so safely.
Highway construction is an essential part in maintaining the country's infrastructure, but it is up to you and your crew to make sure you're always safe onsite to prevent injuries and accidents. A safe worksite allows you to get more done while keeping your employees out of harm's way.
Megan Ray Nichols is a STEM writer and blogger.