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On the Road to Improving Work Zone Safety

Mar 27, 2024

During the OSHA Construction Alliance roundtable on Thursday March 21, a panel of industry experts presented updates from OSHA, NIOSH, CPWR and other organizations that focused on current data and best practices for preventing struck-by incidents and fatalities in work zones.

Struck-by incidents are a serious concern in the industry, particularly because they have caused many fatalities to both workers and the public. Some of the trends are disturbing. Paul Esposito, CSP, CIH, attended as ASSP’s federal government affairs representative; he shares a brief recap of data discussed and highlights resources available to help any organization improve work zone safety.

Industry Data, Regulations and Available Guidance

Much recent data confirms that work zones at construction sites, both internal (work area and external (public interface) contribute to fatalities and serious incidents.

CPWR (The Center for Construction Research and Training) reported the following 2022 statistics from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS):

  • At least 71% of the fatal injuries in a construction work zone are vehicle related
    • 44% of these fatal injuries are pedestrians struck by a vehicle in the work zone
    • 67% of fatal injuries involving pedestrians (works and public) are struck by forward-moving vehicles in the work zone
  • Non-fatal struck by injuries are predominantly struck-by an object or construction equipment.

NIOSH reports that 55% of work zone fatalities it investigates (75 reports of 78 roadway work zone fatalities) were directly related to the construction work area, including equipment running or backing over victims and victims being caught in or between equipment. 

Work zone safety is addressed by several federal agencies and industry consensus standards.

For example, the Federal Highway Administration publishes the “Manual on Uniformed Traffic Control Devices” (MUTCD), which addresses external TCPs, but does not cover internal TCPs.

OSHA uses the General Duty Clause, as well as 29 CFR 1910.269 (Electric power generation, transmission and distribution) and 29 CFR 1926.200 (Accident prevention signs and tags) to help regulate work zone safety. Specifically, 29 CFR 1926.201(a) states that signaling by flaggers and the use of flaggers, including warning garments worn by flaggers, shall conform to Part 6 of the MUTCD (incorporated by reference).

In addition, ASSP has a series of more than 50 standards (ANSI/ASSP A10) that address construction and demolition operations:

  • A10.47-2021, “Work Zone Safety for Roadway Construction,” specifically topics such as the expectations of traffic control plans (TCPs) for both external (public areas) and internal (work areas) locations.
  • A10.100-2018, “Prevention Through Design in Construction,” is considered a leading resource to help employers anticipate and design out hazards in tools equipment, processes, materials, structures and the organization of work.

Prevention Resources

This year, National Work Zone Awareness Week, which is sponsored by the American Traffic Safety Services Association, is April 15-19. Several organizations provide a range of free resources you can use to focus on work zone safety during this annual observance and throughout the year.

  • NIOSH offers blind spot diagrams for certain construction vehicles.
  • Laborers’ Health and Safety Fund of North America has various articles covering topics such as internal TCPs and preventing intrusion.
  • National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse compiles a wide range of work zone data and related content.
  • CPWR resources include a worksheet to help users create a plan to prevent struck-by incidents.
  • Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration also offers a range of work zone safety posters designed to remind commercial motor vehicle and passenger vehicle drivers to take proper precautions when traveling through work zones.

Best Practices

The expert panel identified six key best practices that employers can implement to create safer construction work zones:

  1. Focus on the hierarchy of controls (risk treatments) to design a workplace where pedestrian employees do not encounter moving vehicles, materials and similar hazards.
  2. Learn how to design both internal and external TCPs.
  3. Prepare for emergencies by considering factors such as logistics and response pathways.
  4. Minimize the backing of vehicles.
  5. Plan a Safe System that accounts for pedestrians, vehicles, roads, speed and emergencies.
  6. Use proximity devices on vehicles such as back-up cameras, alarms when objects are nearby and similar technology.


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