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FHWA Home / Safety / Worker Safety And Visibility

Worker Safety And Visibility

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worker positioning a barricade: he is wearing a hardhat and vest with horizontal and vertical reflective stripes

As our highway infrastructure ages, many highway agencies are focusing on rebuilding existing roadways instead of building new ones. Highway improvement projects being performed on roadways that are open to traffic are increasing. At the same time, traffic continues to grow and creates more congestion. This combination of more work zones, heavier traffic, and greater reliance on night work results in increased risk for highway workers. The following methods can be used to minimize and control risks for workers:

Creating Safer Work Zones:
Improving Operations on Both Sides of the Barrel

workers wearing orange vests and hardhats beside a concrete traffic barrier

High-visibility Apparel:

example of orange safety clothing: vest with 2 horizontal and vertical reflective stripes, pants with 2 horizontal stripes

Worker Training:

workers on a paving machine

Activity Area Planning:

Barrels around utility poles of a small intersection

Speed Control:

Compliance with posted speed limits is important to protect workers and the traveling public. The following strategies can be used to control traffic speeds through work zones, whether or not the speed limit is reduced:

Radar activated changeable message signs

Positive Separation of Traffic and Work Activities:

Separating traffic from work activities by the use of temporary traffic barriers, shadow vehicles with truck-mounted attenuators, or similar devices minimizes risk for both workers and travelers. The need for positive separation should be based on work zone factors including:

Barrels in a row separating work zone from traffic


night scene of paving equipment with various powerful lighs illuminating the road surface and work vehicles

Temporary lighting should be used in night work zones to accomplish the following:

Worker Safety Planning:

Planning, implementation, and oversight of worker safety should be the responsibility of a competent safety specialist, and should adequately address the requirements of OSHA and MUTCD. In particular:

Special Devices:

Judicious use of special traffic control devices may be helpful in reducing worker risks in certain work zone situations. These include:


Page last modified on December 10, 2014
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