Continuing its mission to make highway work zones safer, the Roadway Safety Consortium has developed six new work zone guidance documents – for a total of nine – that have been added to the Roadway Safety Program DVD (version 10.0). The documents expand upon 23 CFR 630 Subpart K, Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rules that went into effect in 2008 to promote safety for workers and motorists in roadway construction zones.
Use of Law Enforcement in Work Zones (Subpart K), Guidelines on Payment for Temporary Traffic Control, Guidelines on Ensuring Positive Guidance in Work Zones, Guidelines on Improving Work Zone Safety Through Public Information and Traveler Information, Guidelines on Use of Exposure Control Measures and Strategies on Improving Worker Safety in Work Zones are now accessible through the online National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse. They provide guidance for these common highway work zone scenarios:
Have you ever driven through a work zone and seen a police car stationed there? Makes you slow down, right? Use of law enforcement has been shown by researchers to have a significant effect on speeding through work zones. However, there are many questions about how best to use it:
- When is it best to use law enforcement, e.g., during set up and removal of traffic control devices?
- How should law enforcement officers be deployed, e.g. should you station one officer at the front end and one at the back to issue tickets? Should they be circulating?
- How should use of law enforcement be paid for? Some states have special funds set aside from fine revenues.
- Do you need to design areas for police to pull over speeding motorists?
- What kind of work zone training should law enforcement officers have?
If used properly, police officers can help significantly improve work zone safety. This guidance will help contractors and state departments of transportations (DOTs) deploy them to their best advantage.
Police officers, speed display trailers, warning lights and other temporary traffic control devices (TTCs) make work zones safer and New Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rules require that TTCs be paid for separately so that contractors cannot skimp on safety when bidding. Everyone is on a level playing field.
Guidelines on Payment for Temporary Traffic Control discusses the various payment methods for TTCs.
- Lump sum
- Unit price
- Combination of both
Understanding payment methods and the regulations surrounding those helps in the bidding process and with project planning.
Have you ever had to slam on your brakes in a highway work zone in order to avoid hitting highway workers putting out traffic cones or because the lane in which you were traveling suddenly ended, forcing a lane change? Was it because you missed the warning signs, or did not understand what the signs said? Poor signage is a major hazard in work zones for both drivers and workers.
Positive guidance means using good signage to direct motorists so that they can detect work zones well in advance. The guidelines address the following approaches:
- Standardizing driver information for ease of understanding
- Spreading out information to avoid driver overload which helps ensure that hazards are identifiable and visible to the motorist
Giving motorists up-to-date information about work zone activity helps everyone.
Have you ever come across a work zone for which you had little warning and then been stuck in a traffic jam that delayed your getting to work? Makes you angry, doesn’t it? And that might lead you to drive too fast once you start to move or to engage in other unsafe behavior. Effective information reduces driver frustration with delays and reduces crashes caused by traffic congestion, queuing and poor driver behavior. It encourages drivers to find alternate travel routes and modes of travel.
The guidelines address the real-time information strategies that help travelers receive information, such as:
- Portable changeable message signing
- Radio advisories
- Telephone hotlines
Are there effective ways to reduce worker exposure to traffic? Have you ever sat in traffic in a work zone due to a crash up ahead or had to slam on your brakes to avoid hitting the car in front of you when it stops unexpectedly? Guidelines on Use of Exposure Control Measures discusses traffic management strategies that can eliminate, or at least reduce traffic through work zones and reduce worker exposure to traffic and work zone crashes. For example, completely closing the road and reopening it when the work is finished is safer and more efficient because jobs are done quicker and without fear of traffic.
Other exposure measures discussed include:
- Full or partial detours or divisions
- Median crossovers
- Ramp closures
- Rolling roadblocks
- Nighttime work
- Accelerated contracting techniques
Have you ever driven through a work zone and observed highway workers working perilously close to traffic or working around drivers traveling through the zone at unsafe speeds? What techniques should be used to improve the safety of highway workers? These guidelines discuss the following strategies:
- Enhanced flagger station set-ups – increased lighting and signage to make flaggers more visible
- Intrusion alarms – alarms attached to traffic cones which can warn workers when a car has knocked the traffic cones over
- Pace or pilot vehicles – a vehicle which must be followed through a work zone regulating traffic flow and speed
- Temporary traffic signals – traffic signals that stop and start traffic through the work zone that are controlled by the workers.
Every work zone is different and what is effective in one might not be as effective in another. The guidelines will help state DOTs and contractors decide which ones should be implemented.
These guidance documents join already published guidelines pertaining to access and egress, speed management, motorcycles and bicycles and use of positive protection in temporary traffic control zones. Their release completes the Consortium’s contribution to the highway work zone safety guidelines roster.
Intended for state DOT personnel, highway designers, construction supervisors and contractors, the guidelines address safety management challenges that, unmet, led to injuries and illnesses of more than 4,200 highway workers in 2009 and 72 highway worker deaths.
The Consortium issued its guidance documents under a $4 million grant awarded in 2006 by the FHWA. The funding also covers all of the training modules in the Roadway Safety Program.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]