Those who work on road and highway crews face substantial risk every day at work, especially in times of inclement weather, such as the winter. Their jobs are physically demanding, involve dangerous large machines, and place them in close proximity to the rapid flow of traffic, making a vehicular collision a real threat. These brave, hardworking men and women deserve the best possible safety measures on their worksites to minimize the risk of injury or death on the job.
Road and highway construction is, in most states, a year-round industry. Roads become damaged throughout the year, requiring pothole repair, repaving, and repainting. Without ongoing care and maintenance of our roads and their attendant infrastructure, the lives of everyone who travel by motor vehicle would be placed at increased and unnecessary risk. As such, road repairs are generally handled by hard-working crews, many of which may work overnight to minimize the impact on the flow of traffic. Regardless of the time of day or the time of year, these construction workers who expand and maintain our roads deserve real protection.
During the winter, especially in snow storms or similar weather, the required reflective visibility vests worn by road construction workers can really save lives. The Occupational Healthy & Safety Administration (OSHA) also requires signage placed around sites where workers are actively present or road conditions are affected by construction or repairs at all times of the year. Additionally, speeds are typically reduced in construction zones, which are flanked by flag-waving workers, who direct traffic when congested by limited lane space. During the winter, this is especially helpful, as snow and ice can increase the distance required for a vehicle to come to a safe stop.
Protection from the Elements
Because of the cold and possibly wet conditions, it makes sense for road and highway construction crews to have access to portable structures, such as fabric buildings, which may or may not be equipped with space heaters or warm beverages in insulated containers, to help protect workers from the elements.
Those fabric buildings are also very useful in the spring, when they serve as protection from intermittent but frequent rain showers. They can also provide shade and cool on the hottest days of spring, which can sometimes rival summer in terms of temperatures and humidity. Portable shelters are useful to road crews, as they can serve double duty. In addition to being highly portable, meaning they are light, easy to transport, and easy to set up and tear down, fabric buildings are affordable and efficient, especially when compared with other mobile shelter options. Trailers and similar structures are expensive to move, difficult to maintain, and can obstruct visibility for drivers. Portable structuresmade from fabric, however, can be placed nearly anywhere and work in almost all climates and weathers.
Spring and winter conditions also make personal safety equipment, such as rain gear, non-slip safety boots, and protective eye gear, incredibly important. If these are not provided by employers, they should be subject to inspection annually to ensure they are able to perform adequately. Worn and damaged safety equipment may not be capable of performing life-saving tasks, or it could impair movement or visibility.
The summer presents another unique number of risks, not the least of which are heat illness and dehydration. Those who work outdoors, such as road and highway construction crews, can experience severe reactions to long days in the blistering summer sun. OSHA has, in some regions, put into place policies that require that employers provide, among other necessary safety equipment, access to cold water and a shaded location when temperatures reach eighty degrees Fahrenheit or warmer. Once again, in the summer, it makes sense for employers of road and highway construction crews to utilize portable structures that provide shade and thus a space for employees to cool down and minimize the health risks of working in the sun. Simple fabric buildings can be moved from site to site and provide shade and shelter from the elements for workers.
As in the winter, the fall can present visibility challenges, especially when leaves are accumulating on streets and highways. Thankfully, with protective gear, decreased speed zones, and plenty of signage, road and highway construction crews can generally ameliorate the potential danger caused by the annual leaf drop. Rain gear can also be important during the fall in some regions. The fall is also an excellent time to begin replacing worn or damaged safety equipment before the winter sets in again.
It is critical that those who employ and work with road and highway construction crews have a clear understandings of OSHA safety requirements for individual worker and job sites and that they use appropriate safety equipment to minimize the on-site risks experienced by workers who help keep our society moving.