the Road- Looking for Safety Zones
Office of Construction & Engineering
Time for An Orange Cone?
Its summer and time for an orange cone. You jump in the car with
your family, only to get stuck in traffic caused by a highway work zone
and lots of orange cones. Although not the delicious melt-in-your-mouth
treat you expected, these orange cones are good for everyoneespecially
for the workers they protect.
On June 9, 1998, the Congress approved a 6-year program for improving
existing roads and bridges, new construction, and other transportation
issues. Passed as a public law and known as the Transportation Equity
Act for the 21st Century, or TEA-21, the act includes approximately $217
billion for a variety of transportation programs. The most visible are
those marked with the orange cones and barrels indicating a highway work
zone. Other coverage includes historic covered-bridge preservation, seat
belt and child passenger protections, high-speed rail, transit planning
and research, recreational trails, and new vehicle technologies.
Highway work zones may be found everywhere from new road and highway construction
to pothole repair. The Department of Transportations Federal Highway
Administration (FHWA) develops and issues regulations and designs for
the safety of the public in and around these work zones. Occupational
Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards, which reference some
Department of Transportation (DOT) regulations, apply to the employers
and workers within these work zones. OSHA standards cover specific items
such as traffic control signs, devices, barricades, and signaling methods
by flaggers as well as much broader construction safety and work practices
for the construction industry.1
29 of the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR), Part 1926.
The first orange cone you are likely to see on the road usually follows
a sign indicating a highway work zone and/or speed reductions ahead. Orange
is used as the warning signal for construction and maintenance in the
area. The orange cones may indicate short-du-ration repairs for pot holes
or utilities, or the beginning of a taper to redirect the traffic or to
close a lane. Barrels and barricades, impact attenuators, rumble strips,
screens, more signs, flaggers, and concrete barriers may follow the orange
cones. These devices and speed reductions are used to balance both traffic
flow and the need to reduce hazards for workers. Highway construction
work can be very hazardous. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics
data, 104 workers died in Fiscal Year 1998 from highway, street, bridge,
and tunnel construction,2 an increase of 22 worker fatalities
from Fiscal Year 1997. Highway construction means working side by side
with 3,000 pounds of metal speeding along 2 to 3 feet from you 8 hours
of Labor Statistics, 1998 and 1997, Annual Data from the Census
of Fatal Occupational Injuries, Table A-1, Fatal occupational injuries
by industry and event exposure.
Work Zone Safety Awareness Week
SAFETY TIPS TO LIVE BY
|1. STAY ALERT!
Dedicate your full attention to the roadway.
|6. KEEP UP
WITH THE TRAFFIC FLOW!
|2. PAY CLOSE
Signs and work zone flaggers save lives.
CHANGE LANES IN THE WORK ZONE!
|3. TURN ON
YOUR HEADLIGHTS! Workers and other motorists must see you.
Avoid changing radio stations and using mobile phones while driving
in the work zone.
Keep an eye out for workers and their equipment.
Note the posted speed limits in and around the work zone.
|10. BE PATIENT!
Remember the work zone crew members are working to improve your future
note:Reprinted with permission of the Federal Highway Administration,the
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials,and
the American Traffic Safety Services Association.
Highway work zone
safety combines public and occupational safety concerns. The American
Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), using National Highway Traffic
Safety Administration (NHTSA) data, estimates that, on average, 760 neighbors,
relatives, friends, and workers died from work zone crashes during 1993-1995.
3 The trend had been decreasing until 1998 when there was a
10-percent increase in fatalities. The number of all persons injured in
work zone crashes is even more alarming. It was approximately 39,000 in
1998. And these fatalities and injuries increase by almost 30 percent
during the summer.
Traffic Safety Services Association, "1998 Workzone Crashes Fact Sheet."
But it doesn't have
to be that way. The public and the construction industry can work together
to reduce the hazards of these jobs. Drivers should follow the speed limits
and instructional signs. Work zone construction sites should have appropriate
protections, such as solid barriers, trucks with crash barriers, and workers
wearing highly visible protective gear.
Do you remember the driver's education class about stopping distance is
roughly your speed in feet? Well, that distance can be considerable more.
NHTSA has found that a small car traveling at 20 miles an hour has an
average stopping distance of 17 to 20 feet; a medium size car going 20
miles an hour has an average of stopping distance of 19 feet. As most
everyone has observed, highway work zones often give motorists only inches
between the flagger or barriers. If you are speeding through a work zone
at 40 miles an hour in a small car, you will need approximately 70 to
80 feet to stop—And there are a lot of workers and equipment within that
70 feet of work zone!
One of OSHAs strategic goals is to reduce worker fatalities by emphasizing
safety and health in highway work zones. Several OSHA offices in OSHAs
Chicago region have begun a local emphasis program for Road Construction
Work Zone Activities. This program combines enforcement and outreach
as well as collaboration with the National Safety Council (NSC), the American
Road and Transportation Builders Association, the Illinois Road Builders,
Illinois DOT and State Police, Laborers International Union, International
Union of Operating Engineers, and The Insurance Industry. This provides
an excellent forum for exchanging information on safety and health practices
in highway work zones.
The NSC will train the construction industry and assist in training OSHA
inspectors who conduct highway work zone inspections. And OSHA inspectors
will be able to help employers develop safe traffic control patterns in
accordance with Federal and State DOT guidelines and 29 CFR 1926.20 (b)(2),
utilize personal protective equipment that contrasts with the background
and reflects light, and determine alternate methods to stop or direct
Even before the Chicago program began, OSHA field personnel had been working
to reduce hazards in highway work zones. Since 1995, the Parsippany and
other area offices in OSHAs New York region have been working to
improve worker safety in highway work zones. These offices continue to
work closely with the New Jersey State Police, the New Jersey Department
of Transportation, the FHWA, the New Jersey OSHA Consultation program,
the Utilities and Transportation Contractor's Association, Rutgers University,
and local county police departments to reduce work zone fatalities.
began with specialized training for the New Jersey State Police on the
hazards found in and around highway work zones, such as struck-by, fall,
caught in/between, and electrocutions. New Jersey has established a State
Police Construction Unit to work with local police forces to identify
and eliminate hazards in highway work zones. As a result, they identified
and estimated 2,927 hazards and removed approximately 6,275 workers from
these dangerous areas.4
4 OSHA, April 25, 2000, "Update: The New Jersey Highway Construction
Work Zone Collaborative Coalition."
and leveraging resources, OSHA continues to create much safer and more
healthful working conditions for your neighbors, relatives, and friends
who work in a highway work zone.
Other federal agencies
and employer and employee groups have recently joined together to increase
worker and public awareness and call for more caution in highway work
zones. The week of April 3, 2000 was the the first "National Highway Work
Zone Safety Awareness Week," sponsored by the State of Virginia, FHWA,
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO),
and ATSSA. More than 30 federal agencies, state and local governments,
highway patrol officers, and associations contributed to the campaign
kickoff in Springfield, VA, or conducted seminars throughout the nation.
The theme—"Stay Alert, Stay Alive"—focused on increasing awareness of
this important message to the public, employers, and workers. When work
zone safety is followed, everyone can return home safely at the end of
Plans are already
underway for next years event from April 9-13, 2001. And although
the name has been slightly modified to National Work Zone Awareness
Week, the spirit of the programsafety and mobility through
our nations work zonesremains the same.
In December 1999, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health
(NIOSH) held a workshop Preventing Vehicle-and Equipment-Related
Occupational Injuries in Highway and Street Construction Work Zones.
Representatives from associations of road constructors, labor unions,
and various governmental agencies participated in an exchange about how
to reduce worker exposures during highway construction. They discussed
four main topics: pedestrian worker safety around traffic vehicles, safe
operation of construction vehicles and equipment in highway work zones,
planning for safe operations within work zones, and special safety issues
associated with night work in highway construction. NIOSH plans to publish
a document summarizing the ideas, recommendations, and utilization of
new technologies discussed at this workshop sometime in 2000.
These efforts are
really just the beginning; much more needs to be done to increase driver
and worker awareness and safety about highway work zones. But you can
help. Take a look at our tips for the road. Make the trip for your orange
cone safer for you and others on the highway as well as for the workers
in the work zones you see along the way.
Work Zone Safety
the last 5 years the number of persons killed in motor vehicle
crashes in work zones has gone from a high of 828 in 1994
to a low of 693 in 1997,for an average of 760 fatalities per
- In 1998,772
fatalities resulted from motor vehicle crashes in work zones
of which 222 resulted from large truck crashes.
- On average
from 1994 to 1998,16 percent of the fatalities resulting from
crashes in work zones were non-motorists (pedestrians and
39,000 people were injured as a result of motor vehicle crashes
in work zones.
3,000 people were injured in large truck work zone crashes
- In 1998,more
than half of all work zone crashes occurred during the day,while
about three-quarters of fatal large truck work zone crashes
occurred during the day.
three times as many work zone crashes occurred on week-days
compared to weekends.
work zone crashes,regardless of whether a large truck was
involved or not,occurred most often in the summer and the
percentage of fatal work zone crashes occurring on urban interstates
was more than twice the percentage of all fatal crashes occurring
on urban intersections (14 percent compared to 6 percent).
fatal large truck crashes,the percentage of work zone crashes
occurring on urban Interstates was twice as high compared
to all fatal truck crashes (20 percent compared to 10 percent).
majority of fatal work zone crashes for all vehicles and large
trucks occurred on roads with speed limits of 55 miles per
hour or greater (59 percent and 71 percent,respectively).
note:Reprinted with permission of the U.S.Department of Transportation,the
Federal Highway Administration,the American Association of State
Highway and Transportation Officials,and the American Traffic
Safety Services Association.
For more information, contractors and workers can find best practices
under FHWA Programs, Best Practices-Work Zones. A summary of the
practice or policy is included along with the benefit and a contact for
each state. Later this year, the FHWA and AASHTO will publish a document
containing these best practices, which will be available on FHWAs
Another source of information is the Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse
This site is a cooperative partnership with the FHWA, the American Road
and Transportation Builders Association (along with the National Utility
Contractors Association and Institute of Transportation Engineers), and
the Texas Transportation Institute. This site also links to the FHWA best
practices and contains information and links to topics such as new equipment
and technologies, crash/accident data, and research projects. JSHQ
Villanova is an occupational safety and health specialist in OSHAs
Directorate of Construction, Washington, DC.
This paper appears in the eLCOSH website with the permission of the author
and/or copyright holder and may not be reproduced without their consent.
eLCOSH is an information clearinghouse. eLCOSH and its sponsors are not
responsible for the accuracy of information provided on this web site,
nor for its use or misuse.
| CDC | NIOSH
| Site Map | Search
| Links | Help