The Other Dangers
Better Roads Staff
Sterndahl Enterprises installed two-way radios in their on- and off-highway vehicles for cases such as this one. “Having the two-way radios on the jobsite is critical,” he says. “It helps in the event that you need an early warning system. If a car breaches a lane closure, we can give everyone the heads up.”
On any road construction site, noise can make hearing and verbal communication difficult and at times impossible. If the jobsite equipment does not have radios, hand signals can help convey a command to an equipment operator and serve as a reminder of the workers whereabouts.
But lessons learned show that hand signals must be simple and clear and understood by everyone working the job.
5 Make Positive Contact
Equipment can be a major contributor to work-zone hazards. Add the extra physical constraints of working next to a roadway, and these machines account for 35 percent of the injuries, according to the FHWA.
“It’s important to be aware of the equipment around you,” Turmail says.
To keep from being struck by a piece of equipment, he suggests crews have spotters in place. In some cases, adding cameras to the equipment can also help with the operator’s blind spots. “Visibility is the issue within the work zone,” Turmail says.
The burden of responsibility to be on the lookout does not solely rest with the equipment operator, however. The crewmembers working on foot should also be aware of the machines around them.
Keeping these workers and equipment separated as much as possible can also limit injuries, according to the Centers for Disease Control’s (CDC) National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH).
“See and be seen: Don’t assume that just because an operator looks in your direction that he sees you,” Turmail warns. “Have positive contact with him, whether it’s hand signals or a nod.”
Most pieces of equipment have backup alarms as a safety feature, but there can still be accidents, especially with the added vehicle noise. Nearly half of road worker fatalities are caused from them being run over or backed over by vehicles or mobile equipment, according to the FHWA.
“A worker might think the alarm they hear is a machine 200 feet away, since there are so many alarms going off,” Turmail says. “It might not get their attention. They should constantly be aware of their working area.”
This attention to the area also applies when exiting the machine. “Don’t jump out or off of the equipment without checking the surroundings,” Sterndahl says. “Always be aware of the surroundings, including the motoring public and other equipment.”
There may be more injuries from the equipment on road project sites, Turmail says, but “if you get hit by a motorist, there’s less chance of survival.” So, he says it is important to be equally mindful of both.
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