Annually, nearly 200 people die at work in Australia, and construction deaths – including the deaths of roadside workers – account for between 17 and 28 of these annual deaths, making the construction industry one of the most dangerous in Australia. If you are a city manager, a roadworks manager or a project developer, you do not have to accept these dangerous working conditions.
Here is a look at five of the things you need to keep in mind to protect your crew and reduce roadside worker deaths in general:
1. Reduce litter and be proactive to reduce the need for roadside workers
If the road has holes in it, needs resurfacing, needs to be widened or needs other repairs, having a crew out on it is inevitable. However, there are crews that you can avoid sending to the roads. Instead of sending out crews of people to pick up litter, for example, reduce the amount of litter on the road.
Post signs urging people not to litter, advocate for stronger laws regarding uncovered loads that may blow into the street and push local authorities to assess more littering fines. Keep in mind that being proactive about litter isn't the only thing you should do. You can also be proactive about repairs.
2. Use an abundance of safe traffic control methods
When performing road construction, the biggest risk to crew members is being hit by an oncoming vehicle. There are standardised laws and safety protocols in place to ensure your crews are safe, but you can increase worker safety by going above and behind legal prescriptions.
Effective traffic control is key. You want signs alerting drivers about road works and road closures at least a kilometre before the work area, and once drivers reach the area, you need a variety of devices to keep the traffic flowing in the desired direction. In addition to static traffic flow devices such as signs and pavement markers, have workers holding signs and flags. If possible, consider shutting down the area and working at night.
3. Increase worker and equipment visibility
Even if they don't close down the road, many crews like to work at night due to lower traffic loads. If you opt to schedule your crew at night, visibility is key. Use a truck with flood lights to brighten the area, insist that all workers, supervisors and visitors to the area wear brightly coloured and reflective clothing, and make sure that any work trucks have reflective markings on them and warning lights as needed.
4. Install physical crash barriers
Regardless of how visible your crew and equipment are, you still face risks from drivers who are not paying attention, who are speeding, who are drinking and driving or who are simply poor drivers. Ideally, your work site needs to be prepared for these drivers, and the best way is with physical barriers. You can install temporary plastic walls around your worksite, and most workers find these walls offer much more safety than traffic cones. However, they are not completely crash proof.
To fully protect your work area, you need truck-mounted attenuators. Truck-mounted attenuators attach to trucks that you place at the end of your work site or behind workers. If a vehicle approaches your work site and crashes straight into the truck-mounted attenuator, the attenuator will absorb the crash. It won't move forward, and the rest of your equipment and your crew will be protected.
5. Use crash pads on construction vehicles
In addition to truck mounted attenuators on the vehicles that surround your work area, consider putting crash cushions on your other work vehicles. Crash cushions can be installed on a range of construction vehicles including dump trucks, and these cushions are so strong that they have a history of being able to withstand the intense impact of a huge lorry pulling another vehicle.