Written by Daniel Aday, CompOne Administrators Safety & Loss Prevention Specialist
Regardless of your exact scope of work, at some point in nearly everyone’s job they may find themselves working near a road. Roadways pose serious hazards, not only for motorists, but for pedestrians, cyclists, and workers. Whether collecting the mail, picking up trash, cutting the grass, shoveling sidewalks, or even pouring concrete, all of these could mean standing near or on the road. It is important to know where the hazards occur, how to recognize hazardous work situations, and how to keep yourself safe while working near a roadway.
According to the CDC, for every 5 motorist that are killed in crashes, 1 pedestrian’s life is also taken. While speed is always a large factor, it is not the best gauge used to measure your risk; most vehicle/pedestrian fatal accidents occur in urban areas, away from intersections, and at night. If you find yourself being in this area or category, ensure you take extra precaution when working. Even if you are not in this category, you still may not be completely safe while working near the roadway. Accidents can occur almost anywhere, especially with motorists distracted now more than ever with cell phones, infotainment controls, and everything else.
Plan your work around traffic, if at all possible. If you just have a simple task that involves walking or working near the road for a short period of time, plan on doing these tasks between 10 AM and 11 AM or in the afternoon between 2 PM and 3 PM. Absolutely avoid, if at all possible, work during rush hours. The typical rush hour starts around 7 AM to 10 AM and occurs in the afternoon again from 4 PM to 7 PM. While all these times may change depending on your location, it is best to observe and record when the traffic is the slowest in your areas. Sometimes work schedules should be changed up to avoid the busiest traffic times. You see this with highway construction. Highways tend to have more work at night, not only due to less heat, but also because there is significantly less traffic. Just be aware of your local laws as there may be ordnances that do not allow certain work to be performed before certain times.
If you find yourself working heavily near roadways, you may find yourself in the category of having to comply with OSHA’s (or MIOSHA’s) PPE regulations on high visibility apparel and general duty clause. If you do, then all employees performing work on or exposed to vehicles or construction equipment must have safety vest worn (referencing MIOSHA’s PPE Standard). Safety vest or shirts must meet ANSI 107 Class 2 (sometimes written as ANSI Class II) or Class 3 (III). The difference of vest requirements would be the speed of traffic or the amount of traffic or hazards present. Even if you do not meet the full requirement to mandate high visibility apparel, as a general rule of thumb it is always a good idea to wear bright colors or even high visibility whenever working near vehicles in areas such as parking lots, driveways, areas where industrial vehicles are present, and especially near traffic and roadways.
General safety should be taught for all, as safety is not as common sense as most people think. Some general safety tips for working near traffic are: never turn your back to traffic, ever; never walk between 2 parked vehicles immediately next to a roadway, if one is hit then it will pin you between the vehicles; never use earbuds or look at your phone while walking or working near a roadway; do not assume a car can see you, always wait until the vehicle comes to a complete stop before entering a roadway; and lastly, the best way to make all pedestrians safer is to make all of us drivers safer behind the wheel.