Separation is a positive

Allen Zeyher / September 05, 2007

Some safety factors are not as easy to master as wearing high-visibility clothing. Between 70 and 80 pedestrian construction workers are still struck and killed every year by construction vehicles within a work zone.

ARTBA named run-overs and back-overs the leading cause of death for roadway construction workers, and over half of the run-overs occur when workers are struck by construction vehicles or equipment inside the work zone.

“Routes should be identified and marked to allow workers and work vehicles to safely enter and exit the work space,” stated a Federal Highway Administration document on worker safety and visibility, but the recommendation does not have the force of a regulatory requirement.

Before work starts on a highway construction project, the contractor should plan traffic paths within the work zone for on-road vehicles to enter safely, do what they need to do safely and exit safely, according to Brad Sant, vice president of safety and education at the American Road & Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA). The fact is, many construction vehicles have large blind spots.

The contractor’s safety officer and work-zone supervisors should decide how to demarcate traffic routes within the work zone, whether by using cones or other means. Also, there should be a plan for communicating between vehicle operators and workers on foot about where they are.

“If you have to have a worker on foot in that traffic area in the work zone, such as a spotter for somebody backing up, . . . you have a plan in place for where those people are going to stand, where they are going to go and what kind of communication or signals there will be between the driver of the vehicles and the worker on foot so they know each other’s approach,” Sant told Roads & Bridges.

ARTBA was part of an alliance that published a pamphlet two years ago setting out the principles of “internal traffic control.” The subject is not exactly new, but the national discussion continues, and ARTBA would like to see more planning for traffic control within work zones.

The alliance included the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH), the Laborers’ Health & Safety Fund of North America and the National Asphalt Pavement Association.

FHWA also advised, “Backing should be controlled by spotters or other positive means wherever workers or pedestrians may be present.”

“At this point, it’s really still a very, very new concept,” said Sant. “A few people have picked up on the concept and are implementing it, but by and large it’s probably not happening now because people are simply not aware of this concept of an internal traffic-control plan. It’s just an industry best practice. It’s not required anywhere.”

An ANSI work-zone standard now under development might include concepts of internal traffic control, said Sant.

NIOSH reprinted the pamphlet last year, and OSHA is planning a reprint this year, Scott ­Schneider, director of occupational safety and health for the Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America, told Roads & Bridges.

Schneider added that Washington state has new rules that require either new technology or spotters to help avert accidents.

NIOSH is currently doing tests on various devices to help prevent run-over and back-over accidents in work zones.

“The most important step in the development of an ITCP [internal traffic-control plan] is to plot where pedestrian workers will normally be located, the types of equipment in the work area and the path each piece of equipment will take in the work area,” said the pamphlet on internal traffic control.

In addition to organizational measures, technology also might come to the worker’s rescue in preventing run-overs and back-overs. Back-up cameras, sonar, radar and the Global Positioning System are all devices that can help detect—and avoid—a pedestrian worker in a location where a construction vehicle could pose a threat. The challenge is designing a system that is effective and then getting the system adopted by the industry.

Back-over alarms can warn pedestrians of moving vehicles, but they do nothing to warn the vehicle operator of a pedestrian in its path. The fact is, back-up alarms are not always enough to protect pedestrian workers because (1) the alarms do not always function, and (2) on a noisy site, workers may hear several back-up alarms and get confused about the location of the vehicles.

Run-over accidents within the work zone are the subject of an educational session at the upcoming National Traffic Management & Work Zone Safety Conference, held concurrently with Intertraffic North America 2007, Oct. 9-12 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. The session, titled “Preventing Run-overs and Back-overs,” is billed as a report on the Transportation Research Board’s 2006 Positive Separation Workshop. One of the speakers at the session will be David Fosbroke of NIOSH.

The Intertraffic session will provide the latest research, technologies and strategies to reduce many causes of roadway construction worker deaths.

ARTBA is one of the cooperating organizations in Intertraffic North America.


Step Right Up

Six transportation infrastructure, traffic-management, safety, parking and emergency response events are coming to the Greater Fort Lauderdale-Broward County Convention Center in Florida Oct. 9-12.

The National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse is hosting the National Traffic Management and Work Zone Safety Conference, where visitors can learn from industry experts about topics such as work zones and nighttime construction, 5-1-1 motorist assistance programs and intelligent transportation systems.

The conference is organized in partnership with the FHWA, the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and ARTBA's Transportation Development Foundation.

The conference is organized into a work-zone safety track, which includes sessions such as Trends in the Integration of ITS Technologies and Smart Work Zones, and a traffic management track, which offers sessions on Emergency Notification, Evacuation and Response; Overview of Traffic and Congestion Management Hot Button Issues; and Trends in Automated Tolling and Pricing.

The 2007 ARTBA National Convention is offering an opportunity to hear from top business leaders, who will share their views about ARTBA’s Critical Commerce Corridors freight initiative and the future of our nation’s highway program.

It brings together contractors, planning and design executives, financiers, manufacturers and suppliers, educators, researchers, public officials and traffic safety companies.

ARTBA’s proposed Critical Commerce Corridors initiative, which is aimed at improving the movement of freight, and the future of the nation’s highway system are the focuses of the meeting.

Speakers include Gov. John Engler, president and CEO of the National Association of Manufacturers; and Patrick E. Quinn, co-chairman of U.S. Xpress Enterprises Inc. and 2007 chairman of the American Trucking Associations.

Presented by ARTBA and Amsterdam RAI, Intertraffic North America 2007 will showcase innovative solutions to traffic management, safety and transportation infrastructure challenges.

Three other events will be held concurrently with those mentioned above.

The International Road Federation is holding the only annual summit and educational forum on roadway safety issues for top-level transportation professionals from Latin America.

Park Across America is a one-day regional seminar about issues facing parking industry managers.

And the Florida Transportation Commission, created in 1987 by the state legislature to serve as a citizens’ oversight board for the Florida DOT, will conduct its monthly meeting to discuss important transportation-related issues affecting the state.

Resources Online

2007 ARTBA National Convention: National Traffic Management & Work Zone Safety Conference: www

2007 Intertraffic North America: Park Across America:

International Road Federation Latin America Regional Meeting: www

Florida Transportation Commission Meeting:

Information provided by ARTBA, Washington, D.C.

About the Author

Related Articles

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) this week announced the expansion of the Automated Vehicle Transparency and Engagement for…
January 13, 2021
Ground breaks on final Centennial Bowl phase in northwest Las Vegas
Image: Nevada DOT
The Nevada DOT (NDOT) this week broke ground on the $155 million final phase of the Centennial Bowl interchange where U.S. Highway 95 meets the 215…
January 12, 2021
Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety today released the 18th edition of the annual Roadmap of State Highway Safety Laws, a comprehensive guide for…
January 11, 2021
rural roads research
Image: Western Transportation Institute
When someone says rural transportation, what do you picture?  A two-lane highway with large trucks transporting crops or the county expressway that…
January 08, 2021