The Two Sides of Distracted Driving – Part II

Written by Eric Waidelich, Risk Management Professional, Rizikon Inc.
As we discussed last month, as with anything in life there are always two sides of any situation. For the second part of the series we are focusing on you, as the working bystander who might be the recipient of someone else texting and driving. Keep in mind that all of the information we are about to cover is not just for your safety, but is also an expectation of OSHA.
Understand the hazards
Working close to traffic is dangerous, whether it involves construction related activities, maintaining property or vegetation. Each work site has its own unique set of hazards. Make sure all of the affected staff are informed of the known hazards at the work site before beginning work.

Be aware that the types of hazards can change over the course of your work shift. For example, traffic volumes can increase, a large number of 16 year old “first year drivers” leaving the local high school parking lot may not know how to properly operate the vehicle in a congested area where people are working near the road, or simply may not be paying attention.

From a defensive position, automatically assume that every person who is driving a vehicle near your work area is texting and driving. Taking this mental approach will assist you in establishing a work area that will help protect you from incidents involving a distracted driver.

As we learned from the first section of this article, people under the age of 20 are involved in more fatal crashes due to distractions than any other age group.

Potential hazards around the work site

  • Consider if work vehicles will be entering or exiting the work site over the day.
  • Store your equipment and supplies in an area where they won’t get hit and you can safely access them.

Potential hazards on the road

  • Be aware if you are working near an intersection with traffic coming from multiple directions.
  • Measure how much space you have between your work site and the roadway. Be aware of your location vis-à-vis traffic, cyclists and pedestrians as you work.
  • Be aware of the visibility of approaching drivers. Check to see if there are any curves, crests of hills, trees and bushes, or parked vehicles.
Potential traffic hazards
  • Be aware of the type of traffic that is passing by – passenger vehicles, buses, large trucks.
  • Large vehicles such as commercial trucks are often wider than normal vehicles and may have protruding side mirrors.
  • Be aware of vehicles travelling faster than the speed limit.
Look at the local area
  • Identify any traffic entering or exiting nearby commercial premises that could block signage or obstruct visibility of you or your co-workers.
  • Consider any police, ambulance or fire stations you should be aware of.
  • Look at the environment
  • Consider if the weather may impact visibility of drivers (e.g., fog, heavy rain).
  • Be aware of the condition of the roads. Are they slick or slippery?
  • Be aware of any light conditions or location of the sun that may affect the drivers’ visibility.
  • Consider how the above hazards may change over the course of your work. For example:
    > Rush-hour traffic flows
    > School run traffic and parking
    > Special events
    > Weather, amount of daylight, and road surface conditions
Review this checklist before beginning your roadside work.
  • Are you aware of the hazards associated with your work site?
  • Have you had a safety briefing to review work site hazards and address safety concerns?
  • Do you understand your organization’s procedures for working safely around work vehicles and mobile equipment?
  • Are you wearing high-visibility garments? Is it clean and usable – not torn or faded?
  • Do you know your escape route in case a vehicle crosses into the work zone?
  • If you don’t know where your work site will be in advance, do you know how to identify and address site-specific hazards once you arrive at your work site?
  • Where possible, work facing traffic. This is especially important if the area is noisy or you’re wearing hearing protection.
  • Be careful not to inadvertently move closer to traffic as you work. Keep your focus; stay aware of your position.
  • Be aware of changing conditions over the course of your work shift. Traffic volumes, road surface conditions and visibility can change quickly and increase your risk.
  • Be aware of work vehicles, especially as they enter and exit the work zone. If you have any concerns about your safety – or the safety of co-workers, motorists, or pedestrians near your work site – alert your supervisor or employer. 
Information provided by Eric Waidelich of Rizikon Inc. Office: (877) 591-0300; Mobile: (313) 530-8251; Email:
Source material and statistics are from OSHA, NHTSA, and ConeZoneBC.
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