It is understandable that pavement maintenance on highways poses much different – and in most cases greater – risks than does work on parking lots, driveways and even secondary roadways.
The purpose of this writing is to address some of the more common highway maintenance hazards and to offer some practical tips that will hopefully help to reduce the chance of having an accident and therefore keep your insurance premiums from increasing.
After all, a large part of premium determination is predicated on prior loss history. This holds true for all lines of insurance. Insurance companies that write policies for businesses engaged in highway operations – whether it’s sweeping, cracksealing, or paving – require that there be a formal set of safety guidelines in place for this type of work.
One of the main on-highway factors to be aware of is speed, primarily the speed of the traffic moving around your highway work zone. It should come as no surprise that research shows there is a direct relationship between the size, speed, and distance that an object travels at the point of impact and the resulting property damage and/or injury sustained as a result of this sometimes-deadly combination.
In addition other factors, such as the inability to control the driving habits of passing motorists, are probably the most frustrating. Factors such as driver fatigue, operating under the influence of alcohol and/or drugs, speeding, limited visibility during night operations or bad weather, volumes of large trucks and trailers, all are compounding issues.
Contractor safety actions
Unfortunately, highway work usually invites all of these components and could be ingredients for disaster.
What to do?
Outside of working on roadways that are closed to general traffic, which nowadays is rarely an option, the contractor must implement all of the necessary precautions he can to protect employees and equipment as well as others around the work crew.
So start with the things that are in your control. Insist on:
- Proper employee training
- Regular vehicle and equipment maintenance, and
- Effective night lighting.
Also, designate and train your on-site supervisor to be vigilant and to monitor the ever-changing conditions on the highway. Plus, authorize the on-site supervisor to direct the crew according to the conditions he sees.
These should be minimum in-house standards and are required by most insurance carriers.
Slowing drivers down
Now to address the larger problem: How to control the actions of passing motorists.
Accident investigations have traditionally determined that speed is the major cause of severe injury, property damage, and death.
Although it is next to impossible to control the personal habits of each motorist, you can at least attempt to control when, where, and how they pass your crew.
Because most pavement maintenance operations (sweeping, line striping, and repair) involve moving traffic patterns as opposed to fixed patterns for construction operations, the safety procedures can differ.
Depending on what entity owns and operates the highway, (state, local or federal DOTs) there are usually lane closure procedures included in scope of work specifications. These procedures can range from being very specific to very vague. But whatever procedures are specified, contractors should at the very least comply with the minimum requirements.
In addition, the contractor should implement other safeguards that will further protect his crew, equipment, and others. These additional procedures can include arrow boards, temporary lane closures, truck-mounted attenuators, and shadow vehicles. The easiest controls to implement are the use of arrow board, slow moving vehicle signs, and crash attenuator vehicles.
Each of these safety procedures provides another level of safety for your crew, protects your equipment, and also makes the jobsite safer for the driving public.