Creating A Safer Work Zone Environment

April 11, 2022

As we enter the third construction season since the start of the COVID pandemic, we continue to adapt to our current climate and the interaction between the public and construction activities. While traffic volumes initially lowered because of the pandemic, work zone crashes and fatalities climbed, with a staggering 21% jump in pedestrian fatalities over the pre-pandemic year of 2019. A 2021 survey also found that 60% of contractors reported crashes into their work zone (source: Pedestrian Traffic Fatalities by State: 2020 Preliminary Data, GHSA).

Howard Stein Hudson has identified important areas to be aware of to create a predictable work zone for public and worker safety.

Providing Positive Protection and Sufficient Clear Zones

Providing positive protection in the form of concrete or steel barriers protected on their leading blunt ends with a crash cushion, or the use of truck-mounted attenuators for protection, creates a visual cue of separation to absorb contact from an errant vehicle and shield the workzone environment to protect all users.

Creating Alternate Paths for Pedestrians and Bicycles

Providing a path of travel with positive protection adjacent to the work zone protects users from construction in a safe existing or temporary facility. Creating predictable conditions using proper signage, pavement markings, barriers, and delineators to anticipate movements produces a safer environment.

Setting up the Road Environment to Clearly Convey the New Patterns 

A new work zone can cause driver distractions and require maneuvering around shoulder closures, lane shifts, and pedestrian and bicycle detours. Providing users with adequate advance notice of the work zone creates safer environment for drivers. Use of static and variable message signage, buffer zones by use of drums, and fully eradicating existing pavement markings can allow vehicles to react the construction area.

Click here for more on National Work Zone Awareness Week.