Kelly Friel, from trade tool and equipment suppliers Zoro, has put together this guide to PPE that will help keep road workers safe at night.
Roads and motorways are never safe places to work, but they become even more dangerous when it's dark and therefore difficult to see or be seen. Plus, some road users may take advantage of the lack of traffic to drive dangerously over the speed limit. These conditions mean that night road workers operate in one of the most hazardous environments in the industry.
Fortunately, there are rules in place to protect road workers from harm. These include the legal requirement for personal protective equipment (PPE) and traffic control systems like signs and barriers. Modern technology, such as software and apps designed for use by highways businesses, also contribute to the safety of our road workers by helping overseers meet a standard of construction management. You can find more information about this tech, as well as industry insights and recommendations, by downloading the MyMobileWorkers report.
Below is my guide to PPE for road workers, why it's important, and how safety affects road users.
The importance of PPE for road workers
Being struck by a moving vehicle is the second biggest single cause of workplace fatalities, according to statistics from the Health and Safety Executive (HSE). Working at night adds another element of risk: low visibility. If a worker can't be seen, unsuspecting drivers or even their co-workers who are operating heavy machinery may accidentally collide with them in the dark. So, its important road workers have the right PPE to protect them and ensure the people around them can't lose track of their whereabouts.
Essential PPE for road worker safety
What kinds of PPE are required should be decided during the initial risk assessment performed by the project supervisors before work begins. Road workers should always wear appropriate clothing, as well as hard hats and steel-toed shoes, to minimise the risk of injury from falling objects. High visibility safety vests with reflective striping are legally required, as it's important for them to be as visible as possible. Depending on the outcome of the risk assessment, they might also need additional PPE like goggles, gloves, and respiratory or hearing protection.
In addition to PPE, all road workers should go through rigorous equipment, safety, and traffic control training. They should know how to perform hazard checks, stay visible around heavy machinery, manage noise levels, redirect traffic, and wear their PPE properly for their own safety and that of others.
Road users and traffic management
Roadworks often take place at night because the roads are less busy. However, it's still important to use traffic management such as temporary speed limits, so that vehicles pass the site safely, as well as temporary traffic signals and stop/go signs to reduce the volume of traffic driving by.
Road workers may also use temporary vehicle restraint systems (TVRS) to reduce the risk of road users entering work zones, accidentally or otherwise. If the work takes up too much space or is scheduled to take a long time, there will be restricted access and road closures leading to diversions, which can add to the length of a journey. However, these diversions are as much for the safety of road users as they are for workers.
These are just some of the ways that road workers stay safe at night. Through PPE, traffic control, and other health and safety practices, workers and road users are kept from harm while essential construction and maintenance takes place.