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10 Tips for Keeping Workers Safe on Highway Projects

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Over the past year, Florida has approved one of the largest highway projects to come to the state in decades. This initiative will see the creation of a new toll road extending from Naples to Interstate 4 near Orlando while extending both the Suncoast Parkway and Florida’s Turnpike. Construction begins in 2022 and is expected to last eight years. Throughout these projects, workers will be confronted with one of the most dangerous hazards facing the construction industry: struck-by hazards. 

Below, a Florida construction lawyer discusses the dangers of working on highway projects and how you can keep your workers from being struck by heavy machinery or passing vehicles. For assistance implementing these changes on your jobsite, partner with the Florida construction lawyers from Cotney Construction Law. 

1. Adopt a Traffic Control Plan 

Every state has its own laws regarding what traffic control plans should be adopted; however, contractors on public projects must abide by the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Keeping track of multiple sets of regulations can be challenging. Fortunately for you, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) has adopted the U.S. Department of Transportation’s MUTCD. “The MUTCD defines the standards used by road managers nationwide to install and maintain traffic control devices on all public streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel.” 

For contractors working out of The Sunshine State, the MUTCD is the end all be all of traffic control. The current version of the MUTCD is the 2009 Edition with Revision Numbers 1 and 2 incorporated. At 862 pages, it’s not exactly a light read. Consult a Florida construction lawyer for assistance adopting a traffic control plan and abiding by these regulations. 

2. Reach Out to Local Law Enforcement 

Local law enforcement is often more than willing to lend a hand by positioning their cruisers near worksites and helping to ensure that motorists obey traffic laws. But while they may be willing to help, they may be limited in manpower and unable to send someone out when needed. You shouldn’t hesitate to reach out for help, but you must have a traffic control plan that works regardless of police presence. 

3. Use Appropriate Equipment 

From high-visibility personal protective equipment (PPE) to robust lighting setups, you must employ every measure available to ensure that your workers can not only see but are seen, especially at night. This can be a challenge; your lighting setup has to be bright enough to illuminate the jobsite but not so bright that it blinds your workers or passing motorists. Cones, tubular markers, and drums are a small price to pay for safeguarding your site from a horrific and costly accident. 

4. Foster a Drug-Free Workplace 

As well-trained as your workers surely are, they are only human. You must not allow your personal ties to cloud your judgment, especially when the concern is their safety. We are, unfortunately, referring to the current opioid crisis that is plaguing the nation and the construction industry in particular. In order to keep your workers safe, it is imperative that you implement a zero-tolerance policy for illegal drugs. Our Florida construction attorneys can help update your employee manual to reflect this initiative. 

5. No Cell Phones

Of course, not all hazardous behaviors are illegal. Cell phones are creating numerous problems for construction companies that would have been unheard of in years past. Not only do they reduce productivity, but they are also a potentially dangerous distraction for construction workers. For this reason, we recommend prohibiting cell phone use outside of break areas. You want your workers focused and sharp, especially when they are around heavy machinery and speeding traffic. 

Related: The Dangers of Mobile Phones on Project Sites 

6. Separate Workers and Vehicles 

While there is only so much control you can exert over traffic, you do have control over your own jobsite. When possible, try to limit your workers’ exposure to vehicles by separating work areas. By keeping storage areas and heavy equipment away from workers, you can mitigate the risk of having a worker struck by a moving vehicle. The fewer vehicles on site, the better. 

7. Invest in the Proper Training

None of these measures are worth anything unless your crew is trained to work with and around vehicles. Heavy equipment operators are just as responsible for jobsite safety and must work in tandem with their equipment and trained spotters to ensure that any blindspot they back into doesn’t contain an unsuspecting worker.

Related: Tips for Training Adult Workers

8. Ensure That Your Workers Are Well Rested

Construction companies work around the clock, often into the early hours of the morning, to ensure that local communities and businesses aren’t disturbed during construction. But this sacrifice comes at a cost, and construction workers have to contend with long nighttime hours that can be draining. Remember, injuries happen when workers are not at 100 percent. An exhausted worker can be just as dangerous as one under the influence. Do your best to adjust shifts and provide time off to ensure that your workers are well rested and ready for their shifts. 

9. Always Account for the Weather

Fewer things stall a highway project quite like adverse weather. It can endanger workers, create an inferior product, and delay projects well past their deadline. When contractors are already working around peak traffic, it’s a tough ask to expect them to further alter their schedules. Always have an ear to weather advisories and never commit to a project without allowing extra time for unseen acts of God — a necessity considering how often Florida gets hit by hurricanes. 

Related: Safety Tips During Hurricane Season

10. Partner With an Attorney 

Despite their best efforts and honest intentions, contractors have to contend with dangerous hazards and unforeseen circumstances on a daily basis. Considering that large highway initiatives like those recently approved in Florida can last for years, it’s imperative that contractors obtain legal representation that can stick by them from project conception to completion. 

Partnering with a team of experienced attorneys has never been easier. With our subscription plan, you can have an on-demand attorney for an affordable monthly fee. For assistance adopting a traffic control plan, updating your employee manual, abiding by all state and federal laws, and protecting your company from legal threats, partner with the experienced Florida construction attorneys from Cotney Construction Law. 

If you would like to speak with a Florida construction attorney, please contact us today.

Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.