The Safety Standards for Signs, Signals, and Barricades as required by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) offers extensively detailed guidance on best practice for traffic signs and safety at work zones. This is essential information that doesn’t just keep crews, equipment, materials, and drivers safer, but also keeps you in compliance.
But beyond the standard, here are some tips on taking your safety precautions up to the highest possible level of peace of mind.
- 1 1. Get Close to the Maximum Taper Length
- 2 2. Utilize Taper Zone Signs
- 3 3. Try Not to Take Advantage of Buffer Zones Being “Optional”
- 4 4. Read “No More Than” As “Much Less Than”
- 5 5. Every Driver Should Have “More Than Enough” Advance Warning
- 6 6. Optimize Site Safety Signage
- 7 7. Sketch the Workzone – Or Consider Using Modeling and Simulator Tools
- 8 Traffic Signs And Safety: Conclusion
1. Get Close to the Maximum Taper Length
When vehicles need to merge into a single lane, it’s intuitive to create a long merging taper. In fact, it’s common for contractors to stay closer to the maximum than the minimum.
However, when traffic doesn’t need to merge, it’s tempting to stay close to the minimum. But even for a shifting taper, it’s safest to stay closer to the maximum length than the minimum.
Cutting corners in traffic safety can be deadly. If you think the extra time and equipment is costly, just imagine the cost of an otherwise preventable accident.
2. Utilize Taper Zone Signs
A large, flashing sign with an arrow pointing to where the vehicles are being delineated is an incredibly effective complement to drums and cones.
If the work area is in flux, a truck-mounted attenuator can be an especially good choice. That way, you can reposition the signage quickly and easily where it’s needed most.
The same goes for the direction of rush hour traffic. For example, in the morning, extra signage may be best for westbound traffic. Then the extra signage can shift toward eastbound traffic closer to the evening.
Read Too: 10 Tips for Your Road Construction Site
3. Try Not to Take Advantage of Buffer Zones Being “Optional”
It can be tempting to forgo the buffer zone between the road and the work activity. Since it’s optional in many cases—and best practice says not to use buffer zones for storage of any kind—some think it’s more often unnecessary than necessary.
Our recommendation is to rethink buffer zones as optional. From a “better safe than sorry” perspective, it might be best to think of them as required with some exceptions. The more separation from vehicles, the safer your crew and property. It’s as simple as that.
Sure, sometimes buffer zones are unfeasible. Traffic could very well be moving slow enough to make them downright unnecessary. But seeing those instances as exceptions rather than buffer zones as optional as a whole can simply give you a more safety-oriented perspective overall.
4. Read “No More Than” As “Much Less Than”
When channelizer products need to be “no more than X number of feet,” make sure they’re markedly below that minimum requirement. The more cones, delineators, and drums, the lower the chances of a driver not noticing.
Have you ever seen a careless driver thread two channelizer drums spaced too far apart? Let’s just say you absolutely never want to. Instead, you want a drum to bounce off the windshield or bump beneath the car so that they immediately slam on the brakes.
5. Every Driver Should Have “More Than Enough” Advance Warning
Imagine someone complaining that your construction site seemed to come out of nowhere. If you can’t confidently say, “You had more than enough advance warning!” then you need to rethink your advance warning areas.
Advance warning areas are great opportunities to provide drivers with the most information possible without overwhelming them.
The first sign can say that construction is upcoming. The second can say which lane is closing down. The third can let vehicles know to reduce their speed.
Then workers with handheld signage or flags—as well as vehicular attenuators—can be utilized to reinforce instructions.
Check Out The Article: A Guide to Barricading in Construction
6. Optimize Site Safety Signage
While we’re on the subject of effective signage, your site’s safety can be optimized in a few unique ways. The easiest is by consolidating all standard safety messaging into one clean, unmissable fence screen with all the symbols and messages presented together.
A collage of tin ads are hard to look at. They’re also difficult to keep track of and set up every time there’s a new project. An OSHA fence screen is easily rolled up and stored when you don’t need it, and lasts for years of constant outdoor use when you do.
At Sonco, we also offer COVID-19 and other custom signage options specific to your site and needs, including bilingual messaging. Click here to learn more.
7. Sketch the Workzone – Or Consider Using Modeling and Simulator Tools
It’s always a good idea to sketch the road and all the equipment needed based on the typical application. Another good strategy is printing out the map of the roadway, and you can print multiple copies to allow for mistakes without needing to sketch the road from scratch.
But it also may be worth investing in modeling and simulation tools. That investment includes both the cost of the software and the time to familiarize yourself with it. These not only cut down on time in the long-run, they encourage ongoing optimization.
Learn more with this helpful article from the FHWA.
Traffic Signs And Safety: Conclusion
The goal should always be to cover all your bases to the extent that your precautions are beyond question. While it’s possible to go overboard with the safety equipment, it’s never a bad idea to tweak the approach to be at least 25 percent over every minimum requirement.
Otherwise, you could find yourself looking back and wondering what you could have done differently.
At the end of the day, going above the minimum requirements puts you in the best position in terms of health, safety, and legality. If anything goes wrong beyond that, you can point to the safety guidelines as the problem, not your project management.