Creating the Safest Work Zone Environment
April 03, 2019
As construction work zones continue to sprout up, temporary conditions arise that are unexpected and potentially dangerous in environments already filled with distractions. From workers entering and exiting sites to pedestrian and bicycle detours around the work zone to passenger vehicles maneuvering through conditions outside of their normal routine, an environment is created which can lead to accidents and fatalities. Howard Stein Hudson has identified important areas to be aware of in order to create a predictable work zone for public and worker safety.
Creating New Safe Paths for Pedestrians and Bicycles
Oftentimes when working in a suburban or urban environment, it is necessary for a construction work zone to encroach upon a sidewalk or bike path, leaving the users needing a new safe path of travel. This could mean providing a path of travel with positive protection adjacent to the work zone by protecting from the work zone on one side and vehicular traffic on the other, or directing them to cross the street to use a safe existing or temporary facility. In each case, providing predictable conditions utilizing proper signage, pavement markings, barriers, and delineators to anticipate this movement, even in interim conditions, can create a safer environment.
Clear Markings for New Vehicular Work Zone Routes
Simply introducing a new work zone can cause driver distractions and becomes exacerbated when it requires shoulder closures, lane shifts and closures, and pedestrian and bicycle detours which cause users to operate outside of their normal day-to-day expectations and may lead to accidents. Providing users with adequate advance notice of the work zone they are about to encounter, and how they are expected to navigate around it, creates an environment drivers are prepared for when they finally encounter it. Use of static and variable message signage and fully eradicating existing pavement markings and providing clear markings for the new condition can minimize confusion.
Safe Access for Workers
A work zone may be setup once for the duration of the project or may need to be setup and broken down for each work day or a short duration of activity before progressing to the next activity. In each case workers need to have a safe working environment with proper ingress and egress with access points that may have to conflict with pedestrians, bicycles, and drivers trying to navigate around the area. Providing access points easy to identify and navigate by providing sufficient sight distance and clearly communicating the work zone conditions can mitigate the hazards and create a safe working environment for all.
For more information, please contact Robbie Burgess, P.E., PTOE.