The leading cause of highway construction worker injuries and fatalities is contact with construction vehicles, objects, and equipment. These injuries and deaths are preventable through a number of good practices.
As our highway infrastructure ages, many transportation agencies are focusing on rebuilding and improving existing roadways. This means more roadwork is being performed on roadways that are open to traffic. At the same time, traffic continues to grow and create more congestion, particularly in urban areas. To avoid major queues during peak travel periods, urban areas are seeing more night work. The combination of more work done alongside increasingly heavier traffic and greater use of night work can result in increased safety considerations for highway workers. However, there are regulations and available resources on good practices that can help workers perform their jobs safely.
- Worker Visibility
- Temporary Traffic Control
- Worker Safety for Highway Construction Standard
- Facts and Statistics
- National Work Zone Awareness Week
- Additional Resources
- MUTCD Part 6 Section 6D.03 - Requires the use of high-visibility safety apparel by workers who are working within the rights-of-way of Federal-aid highways.
- High Visibility Standard - Provides a guide for the design, performance specifications, and use of high-visibility and reflective apparel including vests, jackets, bib/jumpsuit coveralls, trousers and harnesses.
- Worker Safety and Visibility Brochure (HTML, PDF 160KB)
- NIOSH Recommendations to Prevent Backover Injuries and Fatalities (PDF 430KB)- Provides recommendations for employers and workers and includes topics such as equipment operation and servicing, communication, and training.
- NIOSH Construction Equipment Visibility Webpage - Discusses the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) efforts to reduce the number of workers struck by road construction equipment.
- "Know the Blind Spots" Poster - Illustrates hazards near construction vehicles, which can help workers avoid runovers/backovers, the leading cause of fatalities for workers in work zones.
- Preventing Backovers - Resources to help prevent runovers and backovers.
- Recordings and Presentations from September 4, 2008 Webinar on High Visibility Garments Regulation
- Increasing the Work Zone Worker's Visibility Through High-Visibility Safety Apparel Fact Sheet
- High Visibility Apparel in Work Zones Pocket Guide (PDF 2.7MB)
- High-Visibility Safety Apparel in Highway Work Zones Brochure (PDF 1.6MB)
Temporary Traffic Control
- Safely Implementing Rolling Roadblocks for Short-term Highway Construction, Maintenance, and Utility Work Zones (HTML, PDF 648KB) - This Fact Sheet summarizes best practices related to rolling roadblocks for short-term road work activities requiring a short-term full closure of the roadway.
- "Know Flagging" Poster - Illustrates six procedures for safe flagging in work zones.
- "Know the Signs" Poster - Illustrates the various work zone safety signs that drivers may encounter.
- Field Guide on Installation and Removal of Temporary Traffic Control (TTC) for Safe Maintenance and Work Zone Operations (PDF 845) - Provides field personnel with introductory guidance on proper setup and operation of TTC zones, which improves the safety of those working near traffic.
- Work Zone Safety: Temporary Traffic Control for Maintenance Operations (PDF 283KB) - Provides seven fundamental principles for setting up TTC Zones to protect workers and incident responders and allow for the safe and efficient movement of road users.
- Work Zone Positive Protection Toolbox (PDF 961KB) - Describes various types of positive protection devices and provides guidance on where and how each is typically used. These devices may be used to help protect road users from entering hazardous areas in work zones and to shield workers and pedestrians.
- Field Guide for the Use and Placement of Shadow Vehicles in Work Zones - Provides guidelines on the use of shadow vehicles and Truck Mounted Attenuators (TMAs) in highway work zones.
Worker Safety for Highway Construction Standard
ANSI/ASSE A10.47-2009: Work Zone Safety for Highway Construction became effective on February 24, 2010 and applies to workers engaged in construction, utility work, maintenance, or repair activities on any area of a highway. It covers practices including Flagger Safety, Runover/Backover Prevention, Equipment Operator Safety, Illumination, Personal Protective Equipment, and more.
- Purchase ANSI/ASSE A10.47-2009 from the American Society of Safety Engineers
- National Work Zone Safety Clearinghouse Webinar Recording and Presentation
- Work Zone Safety Grants - Training and guidelines to assist with improving highway work zone safety.
- Flagger Training and Certification Requirements - Information on flagger training and certification requirements by state.
- Roadway Safety Awareness Program - An overview of common hazards in roadway construction and simple prevention measures.
- Worker Safety Training - A section of the Work Zone Training Compendium that features information on available worker safety-related training and guides.
Facts and Statistics
The following facts and statistics were obtained using data from a presentation on Injury Hazards in Road and Bridge Construction (PDF 12.4MB), Fatal Occupational Injuries at Road Construction Sites (PDF 253KB), and Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries, unless otherwise noted.
- Injuries: Each year over 20,000 workers are injured in road construction work zones. Between 2003-2008, these injuries were caused by:
- Contact with objects or equipment (35%)
- Slips, trips, or falls (20%)
- Overexertion (15%)
- Transportation incidents (12%)
- Exposure to harmful substances or environments (5%).
- Fatalities: There were 106 workplace fatalities at road construction sites in 2010. Fatalities at road construction sites typically account for 1.5% to 3% of all workplace fatalities annually.
- Fatality Trends: Roadway construction worker fatalities reached a high point in 2005 with 165 fatalities. Between 2005 and 2008 the numbers declined, then rose slightly in 2009, and declined again in 2010.
Roadway Construction Worker Fatalities Trends Year # of fatalities % change from prior year % change from 2005 2010 106 −9% −36% 2009 116 +15% −30% 2008 101 −5% −39% 2007 106 −24% −36% 2006 139 −16% −16% 2005 165 — —
- Fatality Causes: The primary causes of worker fatalities in recent years were:
- Runovers/backovers (often by dump trucks): 48%
- Collision Between Vehicles/Mobile Equipment: 14%
- Caught in Between/Struck by Construction Equipment and Objects: 14%
- Runovers/Backovers: Nearly half of worker fatalities are caused when workers are run over or backed over by vehicles or mobile equipment. More than half of these fatalities were workers struck by construction vehicles.
- Between 2005 and 2010 runovers/backovers were the cause of an average of 48% of worker fatalities. In 2010 runovers/backovers were the cause of 43% of worker fatalities, a slight decline from 2009 (46%)
- For these types of fatalities, between 2003 and 2007, more workers were struck and killed by construction vehicles (38%) than by cars, vans, and tractor-trailers (33%).
- Vehicle Collisions: The second most common cause of worker fatalities are collisions between vehicles/mobile equipment.
- Between 2005 and 2010 this was the cause of an average of 14% of worker fatalities each year. In 2010 this was the cause of 19% of worker fatalities. This is a slight increase from 2009 (16%).
- Caught in Between or Struck by Object: The third most common cause of worker fatalities are workers caught between or struck by construction equipment and objects.
- Between 2005 and 2010 this was the cause of an average of 14% of worker fatalities. In 2010 this was the cause of 8% of worker fatalities. This is a decline from 2009 (16%) and the lowest reported number in recent years.
- Work Zone Safety: Physical and Behavioral Barriers in Accident Prevention (PDF 2.5MB) - Missouri DOT report that discusses the usefulness of creating a work zone traffic safety culture as a methodology to improve the overall safety of both work zone personnel and the traveling public in Missouri.
- Identifying and Reducing Worker, Inspector, and Manager Fatigue in Rapid Renewal Environments – Results from Second Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP 2) Project R03
- Fatigue Risk Management Guide (pre-publication version) (PDF 1.8MB) - Organizational practices guidance, technical reference materials, fatigue training materials, work scheduling aids.
- Research Report (pre-publication version) (PDF 1.6MB) - Results of research on worker fatigue impacts during rapid renewal operations in the highway construction industry.
- Road Safety at Work Zones (PDF 1.3MB) - Report, developed by the European Transport Safety Council, that discusses improving safety for motorists and workers in work zones. The report identifies the most significant risk factors and causes of collisions and incidents in European work zones, discusses key safety issues related to each stage of project development, and provides recommended approaches for addressing these safety issues.
- Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Directive on Inspection and Citation Guidance for Work Zones (PDF 581KB) - Provides guidance for the safe inspection of work sites where employees engaged in construction work on and near roadways or highways are exposed to struck-by hazards from vehicular traffic.
- Sensing Methodology for Intelligent and Reliable Work-Zone Hazard Awareness (PDF 1.4MB) - NCHRP report that presents a vision-based work zone hazard awareness methodology to intelligently and reliably detect intruding vehicles and missing control devices in work zones so early warnings can be activated to workers and drivers.
- High-Visibility Garments and Worker Safety on Roadways (PDF 1.0MB) - Summarizes the high-visibility safety apparel requirements and other safety mitigation strategies for U.S. Forest Service employees who work on public roadways.
- Use of Exposure Control Measures - Summarizes the various types of exposure control measures and discusses how each can improve the safety of workers and motorists in work zones.
- National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse - Promotes safety for workers, motorists, and facility owners and operators in roadway construction work zones.
- Colorado Work Zones Best Practices Safety Guide - Contains information and tools needed to enhance compliance with industry best practices.
- Worker Safety at the Colorado Department of Transportation - Results of a study investigating approaches to reduce the frequency and severity of work-related injuries.
- National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) Highway Work Zone Safety - Includes information on worker safety research funded by NIOSH, work zones fatality reports, and construction equipment visibility.
- Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) Highway Work Zones and Signs, Signals, and Barricades - Includes links to a number of worker safety resources.
- Data on Fatal Occupational Injuries in Work Zones - Includes data and information on fatal occupational injuries at road construction sites.
- Presentations and Videos from Traffic Management & Work Zone Safety Power Workshop - Addresses injury and health hazards in road and bridge construction, safety benefits from accelerated bridge construction, preventing falls, and safety during night work.
- Construction Project Administration and Management for Mitigating Work Zone Crashes and Fatalities: An Integrated Risk Management Model - Examines ways to mitigate the risk of highway accidents and fatalities in work zones by focusing on the interaction of the traveling public, workers, and work zone conditions. The report presents a formal risk management model, which takes the form of a 6-step process that can be used to identify, assess, and respond to risks across all stages of the project life-cycle of any highway construction project and includes mitigation strategies that can help increase worker safety during the contraction phase.
- Basic Spanish for Safety and Emergencies - This brochure provides Spanish translation of basic words and phrases that might be used in an emergency or safety situation.
You will need the Adobe Acrobat Reader to view the PDFs on this page.