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30 Universal Work Zone Safety Tips

30 Universal Work Zone Safety Tips

Road construction zone with orange warning sign.

By Bryan Christiansen

Most sites are looking to continuously evolve and improve their safety program.  To help with this, new ideas need to be brought in.  Fortunately, there are a number of safety tips that can be applied to almost any work zone.  This article presents 30 small tips that could lead to big safety improvement at any construction site.

#1-#6 The Backbone of a Safety Program

1. Train Employees Effectively

Safety training is not only necessary for spreading safety awareness through an organization, it is required by law.  As it forms the base of any good safety program, it must not be taken lightly.  OSHA establishes training requirements for many industries and tasks, and the employer must provide adequate training.  Thus, it is beneficial to maximize the effectiveness of the training.

OSHA also provides guidance on training effectiveness.  To highlight:

  • Ensure trainers are subject matter experts and thoroughly understand the material.
  • Training material should be accurate, clear, and practical to the trainees.
  • The bulk of the training should be activity based, rather than lecture based.
  • The training environment should be suitable – enough room and    materials, and a good instructor to trainee ratio.
  • Include methods to check whether trainees understand the material.
  • Involve workers in the training development.

Different OSHA guides clearly state that when workers have a voice in the workplace and input about how training is developed, training programs are more accurately focused on specific workplace hazards. By following these strategies, the training effectiveness can

significantly improved.   

2. Train Visitors

Training must also be provided to contractors and site visitors.  This ensures that everyone onsite understands all the relevant dangers and risks.   This training should be a part of a comprehensive visitor policy, which will include other aspects (included in the next few tips).

3. Use a Badge System

An identification badge policy can help protect everyone at the facility.  By establishing a badge system, a business can:

  • Ensure mandated safety training is complete before issuing badges,
  • Identify visitors and contractors who may be more prone to risk,
  • Control access to more dangerous areas of the facility, and
  • Track location of personnel.

A badge is a rapid identifier in the facility and helps provide a quick reference to experienced site employees.

4. Use a Sign-in System

Ensure all people are entering the site at one specified location and track their entrance and exit from the site.  Furthermore, contractors and visitors should use a sign-in system, where they gain permission to enter the work area.

This process is needed in case of emergencies.  The site team will need to locate all personnel and report for their well-being.

5. PPE

The site policy on wearing PPE should be mandatory and clear to all.  Individuals not adhering to policy should not be allowed to perform work – no exceptions.

Contractors working onsite should get PPE recommendations from the site staff as part of their work permit process.  Both groups should work together to keep the work as safe as possible.

6. Encourage a Culture of All-In Safety Ownership

Foster a culture where employees are encouraged to take ownership of everyone’s safety.  Build a trusting environment and a sense that all oversee the safety of others.  This starts with leadership setting the tone.  Thus, the burden does not fall on one Health & Safety employee.

#7-#13 Moving About the Worksite

7. Set & Mark Designated Walking Paths

Clearly mark designated walking paths for pedestrians onsite.  This practice helps everyone to know where to expect pedestrian traffic and adjust accordingly.  It also reduces the chance of a person walking in an unsafe location.

8. Require Safety Vests/Jackets

When everyone onsite is required to wear a high visibility vest, it makes pedestrians more distinguishable and less prone to incidents.

9. Paint Stairs and Trip Hazards

The majority of falls result from slips and trips at the same height.  To help reduce trips and falls, stairs and trip hazards should be painted with a distinguishing color (typically yellow).  This helps to draw the eye to the potential hazard, alerting the individual to watch their step.

10. Require Handrail Usage

To further help reduce trips and falls, require handrail usage on stairs.  Prohibit the carrying of materials with more than one hand, which restricts vision and can lead to accidents.

11. Watch for Moving Equipment

Employees, visitors and contractors onsite should be aware of moving equipment (such as fork trucks).  Use safety convex mirrors in travel paths so that people can easily check if something is coming around a corner.  Affix safety lights to moving equipment to give a visual warning ahead in the pathway.  Finally, equipment should give a audible cue (fork trunk “honk”) before it crosses an intersection.

12. Visitor Escorts

Consider requiring all visitors (or perhaps certain visitors) to be escorted onsite by experienced employees.  If possible, this practice greatly reduces the chance of incidents.

13. Colored Hard Hats as Differentiators

One of the most immediate identifiers is a colored hard hat.  Besides using badges to identify visitors and contractors, consider categorizing them by hard hat color.

#14-#18 Employee Engagement

14. Report Unsafe Issues (Without Retaliation)

Encourage employees to report all incidents, including near misses or potential hazards.  By encouraging a transparent and open safety reporting environment, more safety gaps will be closed.

15. Investigate Incidents Thoroughly

All safety incidents should be investigated for root cause.  Actions should be developed and tracked that will address the root cause.  With a culture of continuous improvement, the safety of the site will improve through these activities.

16. Authorize All Employees to Stop Work

All personnel onsite should be empowered to call a halt to work if it seems unsafe.  This policy gives everyone a sense that they have some voice in the safety of the site.

17. Adopt a Safety Suggestion Program

An official safety suggestion program is often a great way to drive participation and improvement.  Formal tracking of the suggestions can help increase visibility and get them enacted.  Of course, following through on some of the suggestions is important to keep people engaged.

18. Enact a Safety Committee

Form a site safety committee with representatives from all major work functions.  By gathering diverse opinions and experiences, the site safety team will benefit.

#19-#23 Equipment

19. Keep Equipment in Good Condition

When equipment is not running properly, it can lead to non-standard working conditions.  In turn, this can lead to safety issues.  Keeping equipment properly maintained and running smoothly can help avoid many risky situations.  Adopting preventive maintenance measures in conjunction with a capable CMMS is the most straightforward way to ensure machine health.

20. Use Remote Inspections When Possible

Inspecting equipment and structures is often a part of preventative maintenance procedures.  Traditionally, inspectors have had to enter confined spaces in unsafe atmospheres to perform some of these inspections.  Today these can be done remotely via modern technology, eliminating these hazardous tasks.

21. Maintain Good Housekeeping

Maintaining a clean and organized worksite will go a long way in reducing incident risk.  Besides fostering a culture of ownership, using techniques like 5S can improve worker safety.

22. Guard Machines

All machines with nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks need to be properly guarded – preventing personnel from placing their body in the danger zone during the operating cycle.

23. Install Emergency Stops

Emergency Stops should be readily available to operation team.  They should be design to safely and rapidly stop the process in case of safety emergency.  These may be emergency interlocks that automatically shut down the line when certain conditions are met.

#23-#25 – Materials

24. Store Materials Properly

Materials should be stored properly.  For example, flammables must be in flammable rated storage cabinets or rated rooms with adequate fire protection.  Incompatible materials (such as acids and bases) should not be stored together to reduce the chance of mixing.

25. Label Appropriately

Label all chemicals at the work site clearly and properly, so that all onsite can quickly identify the contents of each container.  If an incident occurs, proper labeling will help the response team to identify the hazards quickly.  The site team should understand the basic hazards

26. Fire Protection

Ensure suitable fire protection is available and adequate for the operation.  This includes an overhead fire suppression system and extinguishers.  Both should be inspected and maintained periodically to certify they are in good working order.

#27-#30 Procedures

27. Make Procedures Easily Understandable and Accessible

To help the operations team work successfully and safely, make sure that they can be straightforwardly found and not overly confusing.  If procedures are complex or difficult to locate, they are less likely to be followed correctly.  As businesses are adapting to younger workforces, they are starting to move procedure guidance to more visual means, such as online video.

28. Perform Proper LOTO

Before working on potentially energized equipment, confirm it is safely locked out and tagged out.  Develop procedures and/or visual checklists for commonly serviced equipment so that all parties agree before work begins.  Use a permit system to track and approve maintenance work.

29. Follow Confined Space Entry Guidelines

Confined space entries can be extremely dangerous, so it is critical that policies are in place if needed.  Use atmosphere monitoring equipment, require at least one person on “hole watch”, and do not immediately rush in after a downed worker.

30. Audit

Procedures should be routinely audited for accuracy.  Inaccurate procedures can lead to a lack of understanding and unsafe situations.  Lastly, audit the safety program to determine gaps, and develop action plans to correct the gaps.

Bryan Christiansen is the founder and CEO at Limble CMMS. Limble is a modern, easy to use mobile CMMS software that takes the stress and chaos out of maintenance by helping managers organize, automate, and streamline their maintenance operations.