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Published: November, 2010; Vol 7, Num 6

 

Photo: Earl Dotter

Consortium Issues Guidance
For Safer Work Zones

Opening a new realm in its Roadway Safety Program, the Roadway Safety Consortium – the LHSFNA and LIUNA Training and Education are consortium partners – has, for the first time, issued guidance documents under its Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) grant for state Department of Transportation (DOT) personnel, highway designers, construction supervisors and contractors to use when working in highway work zones. 

Alternate description

LIUNA General President Terry O'Sullivan

“Highway work zones are among the most dangerous construction environments,” says LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan citing data that show that each year, more than 7,500 highway workers are injured or become sick and more than 80 are killed.  “Our funds are committed to reducing the risks that make these worksites so hazardous.”

Access and egress from highway construction and maintenance areas, speed management in highway work zones and motorcycle/ bicycle accommodation guidelines are now available at www.workzonesafety.org.  Additional guidelines for exposure control, ensuring good positive guidance for the motorist, traveler information, worker safety strategies, use of uniformed law enforcement and payment for traffic control are also drafted. As the guidelines are completed, training modules will be developed. Early next year, the new set of modules will join the worker training modules on the current Roadway Safety Program CD (version 9.0) in an expanded, new Roadway Safety Program DVD (version 10.0). 

Roadway Safety Consortium Partners

Laborers' International Union of North America (LIUNA)

Laborers' Health & Safety Fund of North America (LHSFNA)

LIUNA Training & Education Fund (LTEF)

American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA)

National Asphalt Pavement Association (NAPA)

International Union of Operating Engineers (IUOE)

American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO)

CNA Insurance Company

Texas Transportation Institute (TTI)

The new guidelines address a variety of safety management challenges.

Access and Egress

When work zones are located on busy highways, access and egress to and from the work zone present complex safety issues in the form of:

  • Motorists following construction vehicles into work space
  • Acceleration and deceleration of construction vehicles exiting and entering open traffic lanes
  • Proximity of workers-on-foot to access and egress locations
  • Proximity of parked or staged equipment to motorists

The guidelines recommend these issues be addressed in the Temporary Traffic Control Plan (TTCP) and integrated during the planning and design phases of the highway construction project.

Speed Management

While it is known that work zone safety for workers and motorists improves when traffic speed is slowed, doing so can contribute to congestion and rear-end crashes. When determining when speed reduction is appropriate, the guidelines specify the following conditions be taken into consideration:

  • Workers located near an open travel lane without positive protection
  • Temporary traffic barrier or pavement edge drop off near an open travel lane
  • Narrow lanes
  • Lane closures
  • Temporary crossovers
  • Unexpected conditions (such as access/egress points, traffic congestion and crash history)

Motorcycles and Bicycles

Pavement degradations and temporary changes in roadway geometrics are part and parcel of highway construction. They can also be particularly treacherous for riders of motorcycles and bicycles. Handling and stability can be difficult due to motorcycle/bicycle weight and two-wheel design which provides less contact with the pavement. The guidelines for improving safety for motorcycles and bicycles in work zones include:

  • Implementing standards which reduce the height of vertical pavement edges on or near roadway surfaces
  • Avoiding use of design speeds that are more than ten mph below the existing design speed of the roadway for temporary changes to horizontal alignment
  • Motorcycle/ bicycle specific static warning signs and portable changeable message signs (PCMS) in advance of pavement degradations, loose gravel and other features that create hazards
  • Wedge transition or recess/delineate manhole covers, steel plates and other temporarily elevated pavement obstructions
  • In-lane pavement markings placed in the center of the lane, outside of horizontal curves and lane shift transition areas

The funding for these guidelines and worker training materials comes from a $4 million FHWA grant that was awarded to the consortium in 2006.  

“The Roadway Safety Program makes a difference in the lives of highway construction workers and for all people traveling through highway work zones,” says O’ Sullivan. “Our funds and the other consortium partners will continue to provide expertise to further advance highway safety.” 

[Janet Lubman Rathner]