The motorway work zone is dangerous for motorists as well as for the workers who repair, build and maintain the streets, highways and bridges. Working in the roadway can be very dangerous and it brings different risks than it would working on car parks, secondary roadways or driveways.

Why is working on the highway so dangerous?

One of the main reasons why working on the highway is so dangerous is because of the speed of the traffic moving around the highway work zone. The vehicles are travelling so quickly that they are very likely to cause serious damage or injury as a result. Also, it is not possible to control the driving habits of the massing motorists. There are a number of factors such as speeding, driver fatigue, driving under the influence, limited visibility, bad weather and large trucks or trailers. The combination of these factors makes it even more dangerous to work on the highways.

Implement the Necessary Precautions

When you are working on the highways, it is essential to implement all of the necessary precautions that you can in order to protect workers from dangers – as well as any members of the public around the work crew. It is also necessary for the on-site supervisor to vigilantly monitor the changing conditions of the highway. Working during inclement weather conditions increases the risk of hazards, because visibility for drivers is reduced and roadways are slippery so it is more difficult for a vehicle to come to a complete stop.

What can you do to work safely on the highways? There are a number of things that you can do to improve the safety of your employees when you are working on the roadways. Here are some important things to keep in mind:

Slowing Down Drivers

Speed is one of the major causes of accidents and injuries related to those working on highways. It is impossible to control the personal habits of each driver on the road, but there are ways to encourage motorists to slow down as they are passing your crew.

Depending on where you are working, there are usually procedures for closing lanes so make sure that you comply with the minimum requirements. There are also other safeguards that you can use to protect your employees, such as arrow boards, shadow vehicles, trunk-mounted attenuators, slow moving vehicle signs and much more. These will help to alert motorists to the road work that is being done, so that they will know that they need to slow down and drive more carefully.

Regular Vehicle and Equipment Maintenance and Training

There are many different types of vehicles and large equipment that are used in road works, such as hydraulic excavators, backhoe loaders, ride on roller/compactors and much more. Working with these types of large equipment brings its own risks. It is crucial to ensure that all employees working on these vehicles and machines are fully trained and certified to operate them. Read our post on vehicle operator safety for more information.

Also, it is important for this equipment to be tested regularly and maintained to a high standard. A malfunction due to wear and tear on the equipment can be very dangerous and can result in a serious injury or accident. Make a schedule for maintaining your equipment and make sure that it is followed correctly; making a written record of any maintenance that is performed on the equipment which is signed off by the person carrying out the maintenance.

Effective Night Lighting

If workers are on the roadways during the dusk, dawn or night time hours, the lack of light can greatly increase the chance of danger. Low light decreases visibility and makes it much easier for a vehicle to fail to see the worker or if the worker cannot see what they are doing both of which could be potentially very hazardous.

Pay attention to how your worksite is lit in order to ensure safety. The working environment should be illuminated so that the workers can see properly to carry out their work tasks. The worksite should be lit up in a way that makes it completely visible to approaching motorists. There should be no dark areas or confusing lighting that could potentially cause motorists not to see the workers clearly.

Obtain the Relevant Health and Safety Training

When you are working on a highway, it is important to make sure that you and all of your employees have the right training for this situation. There are health and safety courses that are specifically suited to working on the highways, giving you the knowledge and skills that you need to work safely in this potentially hazardous environment.

The NRSWA stands for the New Roads and Street Works Act and the NRSWA training courses are designed for anyone who is involved in working on the public highway. There are two different versions of this course; NRSWA for operatives and NRSWA for supervisors. The supervisor course is designed for any supervisor that is in charge of a team of workers carrying out their tasks on the highway and the operative’s course is for anyone who is involved with work on the highway.

These are very hands on and practical courses and they contain a lot of in depth training as well as practical assessments. The courses will cover a lot of content relevant to working on the highways, such as signing, guarding and lighting, how to avoid underground services, techniques for excavation in the highway, reinstatement of modular surfaces, laying practices of road-base materials and much more.

These health and safety courses will give you all the information you need to work safely on the highways, whether you are an operative or a supervisor. They are a crucial step to safe working procedures.

These are just a few of the ways that you can improve your safety when you are working on highways. Highway safety in the workplace is absolutely essential and it doesn’t only save lives, it also offers a number of great benefits to the employer. When you commit to a proper highway safety program, you will be able to enjoy lower insurance costs as well as minimising your loss potential.