As the sun starts making a more regular appearance, so will the number of construction zones on the highways, streets, and roads since it is an essential aspect of infrastructure development and maintenance. However, with roadwork season in full force in the summer months, road construction poses significant safety risks to workers due to the amount of heavy machinery, environmental factors, and the abundance of Americans using the roads to get to popular summer vacation spots!
The construction industry is one of the most dangerous industries for American workers to lend their hands to, with some of the most fatal and non-fatal accidents reported each year. Of those incidents, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor, transportation was the second highest cause of fatal incidents for construction workers, highlighting the importance of stringent safety practices on road, tunnel, and highway construction sites.
From wearing the correct safety equipment and staying out of blind spots to properly controlling traffic and constantly being aware of their surroundings, there are several ways construction workers can keep themselves protected while working on highways, streets, or roads. So, whether you’re a laborer, a project manager, or an industry professional, this article outlines several safety tips to protect you and your colleagues and ensure your road construction project is completed.
Keep Out Of Blind Spots
As discussed in our introduction, one of the most dangerous aspects of working on road, tunnel, and highway construction projects is being surrounded by heavy machinery, environmental factors, and pedestrian vehicles that enter and exit the work zone at all moments throughout the day.
Due to this, whether you’re working on the ground or operating heavy-duty equipment such as a paver, roller, compactor, or dump truck, it is essential that you are observant and keep out of any blind spots.
While it can be easy for an on-foot worker to place all the responsibility for their safety on the shoulders of the person operating the machinery, it’s essential to remember that those using these machines have a minimal line of sight, making it challenging to see things or people.
Therefore, you have a duty of care to keep your wits about you and keep out of blind spots (including oncoming traffic!) so that you don’t get hurt. Generally, it is best to follow the rule that if you can’t see them, they can’t see you.
On the other hand, if you are operating machinery, you have a duty of care towards your colleagues on the ground to check that all mirrors and visual aids are attached, double-check the area around you before moving the machine and testing the backup alarms/lights to see if they work before use.
Create A Site-Specific Safety Plan
Whether you must dig up the highway to carry out work on utility services or alter the appearance of streets to benefit road users/pedestrians, it is vital that you have a site-specific safety plan for each work zone you find yourself in. Even the most innocent-looking country road out in the sticks of Texas has its own unique challenges and hazards that can pose risks to unaware construction workers, so creating a site-specific safety plan for each is paramount for avoiding accidents.
Each of your plans should include any hazards, the methods to avoid/mitigate them, a program for first aid/emergency medical attention, routine inspections for equipment, or safety training schedules, and should be accessible at any time, which you can ensure by having a good document management process in place.
Using a reputable document management tool like the one included in Kahua’s construction management software makes it easier for your team to store, manage, and find any of your paperwork around the clock. Consider visiting their website to learn more and see how their software could help your construction business manage/store your site-specific safety plans to protect your workers on a tunnel, highway, or other road construction project today.
Observe Your Surroundings
Regardless of your work zone or task assigned for the day, it would be best if you always were observant of what’s happening around you. Even if you’re doing a passive job like supervising someone with a piece of equipment, don’t be tempted to lose focus because if you let your mind wander for the slightest second, something could happen that you could have prevented by being alert which could put you or your colleague (or both!) in grave danger.
To prevent this, it is essential that you always keep alert, whether this is by keeping hydrated, splashing your face with cold water, reducing your sugar intake, getting a good night’s sleep before work, taking regular breaks, and much more. As well as using the previous tips to keep yourself alert, you should also use spotters to keep an eye on surrounding traffic, face traffic when inside the work zone, and avoid walking behind vehicles that could reverse into the work zone.
Drink Plenty Of Water
Depending on which state your construction company operates within, the summer months can reach extreme temperatures. While pedestrians can avoid the heat, many construction workers do not have that luxury. Hence, keeping hydrated and sheltered is essential when working on a road, tunnel, or highway construction project.
Failure to get the recommended 15.5 cups of water daily can lead to debilitating side effects, making it more challenging for workers to complete their daily tasks and even cause illness. Some of the most common side effects of dehydration include overexertion and heat-related conditions such as heatstroke, which can cause other harmful symptoms like headaches, dizziness, temperature, continuous sweating, seizures, dry skin, and even death if not treated.
To avoid these fatal and non-fatal conditions, it is essential that construction workers keep themselves hydrated with water and drinks high in electrolytes like coconut water and sports drinks. As well as keeping their fluid intake high, it is essential that workers keep themselves cool and take regular breaks under shelter, especially on scorching summer days.
Wear The Proper Clothing
Whether working in the food, healthcare, or construction industry, you must wear personal protective equipment (PPE) to ensure a barrier between you and any hazards, especially when working in dangerous industries like construction, which records some of the highest fatal and non-fatal incidents yearly.
Although the construction industry uses risk assessments and implements controls to ensure the minimization of accidents, they don’t stop workers from being subjected to specific health and safety risks entirely, which is why PPE is necessary. PPE is commonly used to protect the body’s most vital parts, such as the lungs, head, eyes, ears, and skin. Some of the most popular pieces are hard hats, reflective vests, earmuffs, steel-toed boots, safety spectacles, and respirators.
In severe incidents wearing the correct, well-fitting PPE can make all the difference between a mild/moderate accident that might need on-site medical care to a severe accident that might require emergency medical attention or, in worse-case scenarios, even prove to be fatal!
Fortunately, suppose you’re not up to speed with the types of personal protective equipment used on all manners of construction sites. In that case, several courses are available to provide you with the skills/information you need to choose which gear to wear, how, and why you should wear it.