Highways maintenance and road workers ensure that roads and pavements are safe and well maintained in towns, cities and rural areas throughout the country of operation. They might also build new roads and look after the repair, building and resurfacing of the country’s motorway networks. Highway maintenance safety involves safety of workers working on highway or road network services including road markings, pothole patching, road signs, road and footpath resurfacing, gully or drain cleaning, flooding, safety barriers, school crossing patrols, winter maintenance (snow removal), vegetation control, emergency services installing cat’s eyes, digging access trenches for cable and pipe laying, applying specialist surface treatments (such as high friction surfacing) traffic lights, fencing and street lamps and many more. All these maintenance activities need proper road safety awareness and control when they are executed, so working safely is aimed at staff from any road sector with no supervisory or managerial responsibility to be made aware of the risks involved. It is of utmost importance to provide the essentials of health and safety for everyone at work to have an understanding of why they must ‘work safely’ and this can be achieved by training road workers through the use of seminars and workshops.
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In Britain, roads are some of the busiest and dangerous in the world, but in today`s traffic conditions, it shows that live in carriageway of any highway is a very-very dangerous place to work and injuries to road workers have been increasing against the national trend. Road workers or operators will often be responsible for setting up warning signs, cones and temporary traffic lights and redirecting pedestrians. They may also manage traffic flow while colleagues are working, communicating with another operator via radio or hand signals further down the road are commonly used devices.
As a road supervisor before conducting roadwork jobs, review the required tasks, location, and time of day to determine the necessary equipment, personnel, and materials required. Plan how you will control traffic along the road and within the construction zone. Have enough trained flaggers to complete your work. Gather the signs, cones, flags, drums, and/or message boards that you will need for the job. Inspect your signage to make sure it is in good repair and highly visible. Clean or discard dirty equipment with limited visibility. Get training on traffic control and safe work practices. Set up and maintain your roadside work zone properly. Get training on the equipment that you will use and drive, from the smallest tool to the largest moving vehicle. The operation of tools and equipment must be according to the manufacturer’s recommendations. Know the hazards of the chemicals and materials that you use and get training on the personal protective equipment that you are required to wear, including its uses and limitations. Wear high visibility garments on your legs and chest. Wear your assigned persona protective equipments, including a hardhat, safety shoes, and work gloves. Consider earplugs or muffs, safety glasses, and fall protection depending on the job task. In the work zone, workers must watch for fast-moving motorists and large construction equipment. Set up parking zones for your working vehicles such that they have safe entrances and exits from the highway that is maintained and group your vehicles on the same side of the road for visibility. As a supervisor you can set-up the job site and tasks to minimize the need to cross the active road time and again and also set up traffic lanes within the jobsite for clear access and visibility.
When working on road, work facing traffic and stay alert, or station a lookout to watch oncoming traffic. The workers should have an escape route or a plan of action in place for any emergencies. Watch for backing vehicles because the driver often has a limited view. Practice good communication and make sure all vehicles have backup alarms. If you are flagging, acting as a lookout or traffic director you must remain alert, do not drink, smoke, or have a conversation while performing these duties. Road work is a physical job requiring strength and endurance, worker must stay fit so that their bodies can do the work. Road work occurs in all types of weather and throughout the year. They should wear appropriate clothing for the climate. Light coloured layers and sunscreen protect them during the hot months while layers of moisture-wicking clothing protect you in the cold. The road workers must get plenty of rest, eat right, and drink no-alcoholic drinks enough to stay healthy and alert on the job.
From the Road Workers Perspective, there are few jobs more important than highway maintenance. It may go largely unappreciated by the end customer – the motorist, but road workers are looking after some of the busiest roads in the world in the face of continued growth in Britain’s vehicle fleet, and the inevitable consequences of that growth for wear-and-tear on the network. And by helping to tackle congestion, road workers are directly supporting the British economy. And they do this despite working in some of the most difficult conditions that anyone has to tolerate. The risk of death or injury at work, faced daily by the workers who maintain England’s motorways and trunk roads, is highlighted by the results of a recent industry survey. Almost one in five workers suffers some injury caused by passing vehicles in the course of their careers while working on our road network. More than three-quarters suffer verbal abuse from drivers, and many have reported having objects thrown at them by motorists. Road Workers even change the light bulbs in the central reservation. Surveys have been previously contacted and road workers were asked if they had experienced near miss, verbal abuse, slight personal injury, major personal injury caused by road user’s vehicle and the responses were:
13% of road workers surveyed had sustained slight injuries;
3% had sustained major injuries;
77% had suffered verbal abuse from passing drivers
54% had a near miss with a vehicle
40% had experienced missiles deliberately thrown at them
From these studies road workers felt most at risk during the morning and evening peak travel periods and in the early hours of the morning.
There are believes that there is a vital need to educate drivers to start taking the problem of speeding and the outcomes of speeding more seriously. The habitual speeders know that other people don’t necessarily disapprove of their actions – in the same way as they disapprove of drink-driving syndrome. It took a long time to change attitudes to drink-driving, but by communicating the message at every opportunity, with intelligent advertising and marketing, the Government can and has eventually succeeded in most countries, likewise today, drink-driving is socially unacceptable in the community. Therefore a similar change is required with speeding and people’s attitude to road works.
In UK, Highway Traffic Management Agency was launched in 2005 and since it was launched issues that dominated are the road maintenance safeties. Its goal is to have zero road injuries and zero fatalities by getting a reasonable balance between the needs of the road user and the safety of road workers using a risk based approach as a short term. The long-term aim was to plan future improvements that make the working environment safer, including: design for maintenance/operation, which has the added benefits of whole-life cost savings, less interventions and less congestion; reduce road workers exposure to live traffic and lessen the risks to road workers when on the network; highlight the importance of road workers and their safety to the public by raising awareness and the industry consistently maintaining the highest standards. Finally it was to improve road user awareness and responses by improving driver education. At a general level, the government has taken the Road Safety Bill through Parliament, including new drink-driving legislation, driver training schemes, and a revised penalty system and is looking at improvements to the speed camera network and working with the police to fight back against anti-social use of roads.
The Highways Agency Road Worker Safety Action Plan was unveiled at the conference held in 2006, with some of potential solutions listed in the including a review of procedures to reduce the exposure of road workers to live traffic and cut the risks of working on the highway. A review of maintenance priorities so workers don’t have to be on the network so often more targeted speed limits at road works – which can be altered to match safety requirements. Improving of the accuracy and content of variable message signs to give road users more warning of works and the presence of road workers also improving the training of workers on high-speed roads, the promotion of better driver awareness and improved driver education, also finally the development of an incident and near-miss reporting centre.
The Importance of Traffic Management
When considering the traffic management plan for any major scheme the safety and security of both the travelling public and the workforce is the primary aim. By the very nature of road works operations, the element of risk is introduced when managing traffic on high speed roads. The first essential element is to reduce the risk by reducing the speed. This can be achieved to a certain extent through the use of traffic management measures but experience has proven that the only reliable way of achieving consistently reduced speeds is through the use of safety cameras. The introduction of a temporary speed limit and safety cameras is done in conjunction with the respective Safety Camera Partnership, who follow a risk assessment process which considers the level of exposure to risk of the public and the workforce. This is the reason that a variety of different traffic management measures can often be found at road works sites. However, the biggest single risk to road workers occurs not in major schemes but during routine maintenance operations and emergency lane closures. During these operations it is often only a line of cones that separates the workforce from high speed traffic. During these operations there is a clear need for motorists to act responsibly and respect the rights of road workers.
Planning Road works
Traditionally, if there is one thing that causes motorists more frustration than any other, it is the overnight appearance of a ‘forest’ of cones with little or no warning or information as to the reason. Hopefully, this aspect is largely becoming a thing of the past as a significant amount of planning is now undertaken prior to any major road works scheme. Such projects are now often planned several years ahead taking cognisance of issues such as the optimum time and the likelihood of reliable weather where this is a requirement. The substantial rise in traffic volumes over the past decade has significantly impacted on road works planning, through not just the increased maintenance requirements brought about by the additional volume, but through the challenges to keep congestion at a minimum as any reduction in available road space can have significant consequences for journey times. While safety and security are the primary drivers when planning road works, contractors also incorporate extensive consultation with affected local communities and a targeted media campaign designed to advise drivers who use the affected route of the proposed works and levels of disruption. This forward planning and awareness through the media allows for drivers to plan their journey accordingly.
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Engineering technology on road worker`s risk.
This can be achieved both through measures at the construction stage and through the use of new and improved technology for maintenance operations. New construction processes and standards mean a much longer design life can be achieved at the outset, significantly reducing the amount of routine maintenance operations required. In addition, where a maintenance requirement is identified during construction, the facility to achieve this without significantly impacting on traffic flow is considered carefully and where appropriate, additional engineering measures are introduced. In respect to maintenance operations on existing structures and highways the Highway Traffic Management Agency has been actively involved in developing technology in association with the Highways Agency, and over the past few years a number of innovative solutions which have had a positive impact on safety have been introduced. New techniques to improve safety and reduce congestion at road works on high-speed roads, for example, are now undergoing trials. Automated cone laying machines, fixed to the rear of a traffic management vehicles, can place and collect standard road cones without the need for road workers to stand in a live carriageway next to fast moving traffic. The machines accurately positions cones on the road surface at 15mph – laying up to 40 cones per minute and reducing the time taken to establish and remove temporary traffic management. Road users will benefit from the shorter period of time taken to change from normal carriageway to a coned-off area. Using the new machines, traffic cones will be laid and taken up more quickly, removing manual handling and enabling more routine maintenance work to be undertaken during each closure so reducing the frequency of road works and congestion. A new barrier transfer machine, which can lift 12 tons of concrete safety barriers for motorway road works into place at a speed of 7 mph, is also now in operation, offering a higher level of barrier protection to motorway road workers. The mechanical broom which are now mostly used have improved the road worker`s safety and compared to manual sweeping.
In June 2006, a new revised Chapter 8 of the Traffic Signs Manual was launched that gives guidance on best practice for temporary signing and management of traffic on the highway. Also it was designed to make traffic management for road works safer and less stressful for both workers and drivers. It talks about new measures like flashing cones on the approach to works; mobile carriageway closures; and improved incident management. It also encourages more effective use of speed limits at road works. Drivers should expect consistent limits to be set depending on the work being carried out, without confusing variations. That should be combined with speed detection equipment and other methods of persuading people to reduce speed.
Changing the behaviour of risk-taking drivers tends to require hard interventions, which require the involvement of police or other law enforcement organisations. For complying drivers, soft interventions such as the Respect campaign can be used; other interventions that could be applied to the issue of road worker safety and driver behaviour can include:
Training road workers
By training road workers through the use of seminars and workshops can make them aware of their risks and conscientious those involved on how best they can be aware of the job related risks.
Improving driver skills
There is a need for further training of professional drivers and specific training of all drivers to raise their awareness of the issues of driving through road works.
Better self knowledge
The public are an important partner in improving safety through road works. There is a need for greater awareness of personal skill levels and abilities to encourage better “self pacing” and improved behaviour when driving. This can be achieved through a high profile advertising campaign to raise the public profile of road worker safety. Such an approach aims to demonstrate the risk to drivers and road workers from speeding through road works.
Improving the task
It is important to ensure that the driving task when approaching and driving through road works is made as simple as possible to prevent overloading drivers with information. All those involved in applying the principles contained in the Traffic Signs Manual: Chapter 8 need to review their road works layouts in order to make the driving task as easy possible for an uninformed driver
It can be concluded that the behaviour of drivers towards road workers indicates that there is little respect for road works and road workers. At best the works and workers are tolerated, at worst the works are ignored and workers are abused either verbally or physically. Changing the attitude of drivers to road works is essential to improve the safety of both road workers and the drivers passing through road work sites. The behaviour of road drivers is directly or indirectly the cause of most road accidents, including those at road works. Influencing driver`s behaviour to prevent accidents at road works will improve road worker safety as well as that of the road user.
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