Traffic accidents are one of the biggest sources of occupational injuries. Jim discusses the hazards related to distracted driving and describes the hazards related to doing construction work in traffic.
- Let's spend a few minutes, and talk about traffic. Traffic is everywhere, both onsite and offsite. In fact, one of the bigger occupational risks comes from driving. Sometimes we don't think about driving and traffic accidents as being an occupational hazard, but in reality, it's where many on the job injuries occur. If you drive for work, or you supervise people who drive company vehicles, the name of the game here is to be aware, drive defensively, and don't drive distracted.
Just like any other activity, employees should be properly trained before they take the wheel of a company vehicle. They should understand the company's expectations and policies, and they absolutely need to be prohibited from one of today's most hazardous habits, texting and driving. There's no room for discussion here. You just cannot text while you drive. Statistics from many different sources show that you're at least 20 times more likely to be in a traffic accident if you text and drive. Using your brain to form that thought, then using your brain and your sight to find and guide your fingers to that keypad, even to send a one word reply, just uses too many of the faculties that you need to drive safely and respond quickly to changing road conditions.
At the management level, you need to incorporate policies to support this, and help your drivers not drive distracted. For example, does your office send texts to your drivers while you know they're on the road, and then get upset if they don't respond immediately? It's an easy trap to fall into, and the best way to avoid this is to formulate policies that work for your company and it's activities, when it comes to communicating from the road. Do you have them find a spot to pull over? Do you have them wait until they reach their destination? Use apps that store incoming texts until they're not driving, or even use systems that read incoming messages so the driver can decide what's best in a given situation? It all depends on your company's circumstances.
But take the time to figure it out in advance, and don't leave this up to the individual drivers. Driving is bad enough, and traffic can make it worse. But what about when you actually work in traffic? You know, those projects that include street improvement work. These can be tough. And if you've ever worked next to speeding cars and trucks with only a traffic cone to separate you, you know what I mean. Planning and following the local rules for lane closures and traffic control is imperative. Your directions to motorists need to be clear.
And lane closures and detours need to be obvious. Leave buffer zones between the lane closure taper, and your actual work area, in case someone's not paying attention. Stay aware of traffic, and use a spotter or flagger if the situation warrants it. Ideally, you want that traffic slowed down before they get to your actual work zone. These situations also call for high visibility clothing, so that drivers can see you, day or night. Speaking of that high visibility clothing, if you've been in the construction industry, you might have noticed a trend towards requiring those safety vests, or high visibility shirts on all job sites.
This is because there's so much activity on many sites, that it pays to be highly visible. Equipment tends to move fast on a construction site, particularly all of that large earth moving equipment. These operators are trained to use these large pieces of machinery, to move dirt fast. And I can tell you that, right or wrong, they generally assume that you will stay out of their way. The big hazard here comes from the fact that these equipment operators generally can't see people walking on the ground.
They can stop, they can turn on a dime, and they cannot hear you. So, mixing people walking around with heavy earth moving equipment, is just generally a recipe for disaster, but it does happen. And in this case, there just needs to be a buffer zone, or a meeting with the equipment operators to make sure that they're aware of the presence of people on the ground. And if you're one of those people, give that equipment a very wide berth. Last thing on watching out for traffic: a common situation that I see on projects, particularly when the project has different areas at various stages of completion, is the scenario where someone has to drive the company truck with the tools and supplies, to their work area, and they have to go through an area where that heavy equipment's running.
Again, the key here is to remember that those equipment operators probably cannot see you. They will not hear you honk your horn. Right or wrong, if you don't give them the right of way, you're bound to lose if you collide. One of the things that we see people do in this situation, is to use those tall flags on smaller trucks that will be allowed on the site, to give the equipment operators that higher level visual warning that something may be on the ground below them. Traffic's tough. Stay visible, stay aware, and don't drive distracted.
Throughout this course, Jim highlights some of the most notable safety and health hazards in the industry—including fall hazards, traffic accidents, and respiratory hazards—and shares strategies for integrating safety, quality, and productivity. He also explains how to leverage technological advancements such as digital drawings to help your team work safer and smarter.
- Recognizing health hazards in the industry
- Integrating safety, quality, and productivity
- Creating a culture of learning
- Recognizing leading indicators
- Using digital solutions to improve safety
- Using BIM to identify hazards early