Work zones near roadways are dangerous places to work. Drivers of cars, trucks, buses and other vehicles often race past within inches of workers without a second thought. Although work zones are generally posted with reduced speed limits, drivers don’t slow down when they enter the work zone, even when fines for traffic offenses are doubled.
While working next to traffic is very dangerous, working inside the cones and barricades can sometimes be even more dangerous. The fact is more than half of work zone fatalities occur inside the barricades because workers are struck by trucks or equipment.
Often construction workers, regardless of their particular jobs, work in conditions of low lighting, poor visibility, inclement weather and congested work zones. Sometimes they also work at night. Sometimes it is just as difficult for the driver of a truck delivering pipe or an equipment operator moving dirt to see a worker as it is for drivers outside the barrels. This is especially true when a worker is wearing clothing that blends in with the surroundings, making the individual difficult to see. To reduce the possibility of workers being struck by trucks and equipment inside the work area, all workers should be required to wear highly visible garments or safety vests.
Although personal protective equipment in the form of high-visibility clothing is a step in the right direction for preventing accidents inside the barricaded work area, more needs to be done. The best place to start is with an organized, well planned internal traffic control plan (ITCP). An ITCP is a tool that project managers can use to coordinate the movement of vehicles and equipment within the work area.
According to the Roadway Safety Alliance “Establishing safe construction control principles is the foundation for setting up an effective ITCP.” The Alliance identifies those principles as follows:
- Isolate workers from equipment.
- Reduce the need to back up.
- Limit vehicle access points to work zones.
- Coordinate truck and equipment movements.
- Provide signs within the work zone to give guidance to pedestrian workers, equipment and trucks.
- Design buffer spaces to separate pedestrian workers from errant vehicles and work zone equipment.
- Inform all on-site personnel and workers of ITCP provisions.
The Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA), in partnership with the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), has been at the forefront of efforts to address this problem. The effort took a big step forward with the LHSFNA’s publication of a new, 14-page pamphlet titled “Internal Traffic Control Plans.”
This excellent publication on ITCPs explains how to set up a plan. The following is a step-by-step procedure that they have created to help construction companies create an ITCP for their jobsites.
“How Do I Set Up an ITCP?”
The ITCP is developed by one or more members of the contractor’s staff and should be part of the project’s safety plan. The safety office should be in charge of developing the ITCP. However, foremen and supervisors are crucial to implementing the plan. They should be taught the principles of safe construction traffic control and be in charge of the daily setup and monitoring of the ITCP.
Site-specific ITCPs should be developed for different phases of the project as the site conditions change. Remember, ITCPs are not fixed but living plans, reflecting current conditions and subject to change as conditions warrant. The steps for setting up an ITCP are as follows:
- For each ITCP, draw the basic work area layout. In many circumstances, the basic layout can be taken from the traffic control plan for the phase being shown.
- The drawing does not need to be to scale, but should be of sufficient size to allow the addition of personnel and equipment paths.
- Plot pedestrian worker and vehicle paths using the principles of safe traffic control. The most important step in the development of an ITCP is to plot where pedestrian workers will normally be located, the types of equipment in the work area and the path each piece of equipment will take in the work area. Be sure to designate access and egress points for dump trucks and other equipment.
- Complete the ITCP diagram by plotting the location of utilities and storage areas in the work areas within the work area.
- Finally, write plan notes that explain the diagram and that specify the duties of various personnel in the work area — e.g., posting pedestrian worker-free areas and speed limit signs, developing injury reduction measures and fulfilling contract requirements.
If you would like some sample ITCPs to help you get started, the ITCP publication provides some. A free copy of the publication can be obtained by visiting the LHSFNA website at www.lhsfna.org.
In addition, the Roadway Safety Alliance, of which LHSFNA is a partner, has developed other useful and informative roadway safety materials which are available for download. For example, at NUCA’s last Safety Directors Forum, Emmett Russell and Gary Fore introduced the Roadway Safety Plus program to forum attendees. This program has been designed to help you and your trainers educate employees about working on or near roadways. All the materials you need to teach this program are available for download. All you have to do is visit its website at www.workzonesafety.org.
Work zones can be a dangerous place to work due to public vehicular traffic, but they can also be as dangerous inside the barricades if construction traffic is not organized and controlled. Your company can reduce this danger by implementing an ITCP and educating your employees about work zones safety today.
George Kennedy is NUCA Vice President of Safety.