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Prioritizing Pedestrian Safety in Work Zones



If you’ve ever been walking through a city, only to be faced with a closed sidewalk and unclear directives, then you know firsthand how confusing work zones can be for pedestrians. Closed sidewalks and unclear traffic control devices can create dangerous situations. The last thing our flaggers want is for a pedestrian to be hurt in a work zone.


Unfortunately, pedestrian injuries are a real worry for construction workers and flaggers alike. A closed sidewalk can force some pedestrians into the street or in direct conflict with construction equipment. There’s a reason road workers and traffic control flaggers have specialized training-- work zones can be dangerous places. At Directional Traffic, we take pedestrian safety seriously in every one of our work zones.


The Goal


Every flagger has two goals: to inhibit pedestrian movements as little as possible and to keep pedestrians safe. Just as traffic control flaggers want to impede traffic as little as possible, they also have a responsibility to inconvenience pedestrians as little as possible in work zones. This can be complicated when it comes in direct conflict with our second goal of keeping pedestrians, drivers, and workers safe.


Added inconvenience may be necessary to keep pedestrians safe. For example, a closed sidewalk may be a greater inconvenience, but if it will keep citizens safe, then it’s worth it. However, if a sidewalk must be closed, a convenient alternative must be provided.


Incorporating Pedestrians into Work Zone Strategies


A work zone strategy is developed before construction ever starts. Flaggers develop these designs beforehand to evaluate traffic flow, where construction equipment will be placed, and how to safely re-route drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists in order to complete a project efficiently. Pedestrians must always be considered in these plans. Even in areas where pedestrians are not common, a strategy must be in place in case one enters the work zone.


Work zone strategies for pedestrian safety may include closed sidewalks, alternative routes, bypasses, and more. The best work zone strategies account for the community surrounding the work zone. For example, if there are schools or hospitals nearby, flaggers must be prepared to provide directions to large groups of children and use ramps to accommodate for wheelchairs.


No matter what the surrounding community looks like, these strategies are crucial for maintaining the safety of all involved in every work zone.


Interactions Between Flaggers & Pedestrians


We’ve all had experiences where an interaction with one person can make or break an entire day. Interactions between flaggers and pedestrians can greatly impact the efficiency of a work zone and create a positive or negative experience for the community.


Flaggers can create constructive interactions by maintaining a positive, but firm attitude. Providing clear directives keeps everyone safe, and is absolutely necessary when interacting with pedestrians. It’s rare for a flagger to be faced with someone who does not want to listen to directions and is aggressive, but it can happen. In these scenarios, flaggers must defuse the situation while remaining positive and redirecting the pedestrian to the appropriate route.

The Role of Traffic Control Devices


Traffic control devices play a big role in pedestrian work zone safety. These devices can be as high-tech as an AFAD or as simple as a hand-held sign. No matter the device, it’s crucial that it can be clearly and quickly understood by whoever reads it.


In a work zone that uses traffic control devices for pedestrian safety, flaggers must check the equipment regularly throughout the day to ensure that it is still functioning appropriately. Clear communication can be the difference between life and death in a work zone. A sign that has blown over or fallen down can misdirect pedestrians out into traffic or into the path of a large construction vehicle. It’s up to the flaggers to ensure that all is functioning as it should in order to keep drivers, workers, and pedestrians safe.


Accessibility for High-Risk Groups


The sidewalks are one of the few places in life where it is open to anyone, regardless of ethnicity, wealth, age, and ability. As a traffic control flagger, it’s a privilege to be able to serve and protect every member of our society. In order to do so, it’s important that work zone strategies have a plan in place to accommodate high-risk groups.


These populations can include children, the elderly, wheelchairs, strollers, and people with disabilities. One set of stairs can be the difference between a relaxing trip and a nightmare for those of us who use a wheelchair. Flaggers can consider using ramps instead of stairs to be more inclusive, as well as incorporating wide alternative routes to allow for wheelchairs and parents with children.


At Directional Traffic, we believe that a well-functioning work zone keeps everyone safe. Pedestrians are the lifeblood of any community. They provide business to local stores, patronize restaurants, and are a large part of the culture of a town or city. The best work zone should keep pedestrians safe while inconveniencing the local population as little as possible.


Our traffic control flaggers have the training they need to accommodate pedestrians and keep your community safe. Contact us today to see how we can work with you to get your construction project completed safely, and on time.


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