Traffic Management: A Return to the Basics
There’s a lot to learn when first starting out as a traffic flagger. When you’re in charge of directing fast-moving traffic on busy roads, it’s important to know what you’re doing to avoid accidents, injuries, and even fatalities. Every traffic flagger needs to have a solid foundation of the basics of traffic control work. Keep reading to find out what every traffic management company teaches their new flaggers.
Working for a traffic management company can be a dangerous job. You’re in close contact with many different vehicles and drivers. If a driver can’t see you or isn’t paying attention, they may ignore your directions, placing you and others in harm’s way. Because of this reality, it’s important for our traffic flaggers to be aware of their surroundings.
Pay attention to where you’re standing at all times! Flaggers must always be visible to traffic. Be aware if your position is blocked by a nearby message board, sign, or construction equipment. If you think oncoming traffic can’t see you, then it’s time to find a new location.
Wearing the proper safety equipment can greatly decrease your risk of injury. Make sure you’re wearing high visibility gear with at least one horizontal stripe around the torso. At Directional Traffic, we require our flaggers to wear Class 3 gear. PennDOT also requires all flaggers in Pennsylvania to wear a hard hat. Keep your apparel clean and free of rips or tears. Safety glasses and gloves are also recommended safety equipment.
Every traffic flagger must understand how to properly use hand-signaling devices. Whether you’re using a flag or a paddle, all hand-signaling devices must be visible to drivers at all times. You’ll find it very hard to direct oncoming traffic if drivers cannot see the signaling device.
Before heading out to the work zone for the first time, new traffic control flaggers must have significant practice time in a safe environment. This includes practicing with a partner in a realistic stimulation.
Use of Stop/Slow Paddle
Almost every driver has come across a Stop/Slow Paddle in their time behind the wheel. These octagonal signs are two-sided with “Stop” on one side and “Slow” on the other. Properly using these paddles isn’t as simple as just rotating it from one side to the other to signal traffic. Each signal is actually made up of three parts: the message shown on the paddle, the flagger’s gesture, and the flagger’s position in relation to the paddle.
For example, in order to stop traffic the flagger must first communicate with team members to coordinate all traffic control personnel in the work zone. Next, the flagger rotates the paddle so “STOP” is clearly readable and facing the drivers. The flagger should extend the arm holding the paddle horizontally and a little ways away from the body, perpendicular to the flow of traffic. Then hold the palm of the free hand out and facing traffic at about shoulder height. All parts of the signal clearly tell traffic to stop.
The first step to telling traffic it’s safe to proceed is the same as the first step to stopping traffic: communication! After communicating clearly with other members of your traffic management company and ascertaining that it’s safe for drivers to proceed, the flagger turns the paddle so “SLOW” is facing the stopped traffic. Next, the flagger must stand with their body parallel to the motion of traffic and facing the road. Finally, the flagger uses their free hand to create a “come forward” motion by moving it back and forth slightly away from the body.
Understanding exactly how to stop and start traffic in a clear and efficient manner is crucial to the success of a project.
Use of Flags
Flags should only be used in the event of an emergency and only until a Stop/Slow paddle is available for use. They are inherently less clear than a paddle because of the lack of writing on the material. However, you are able to communicate clearly with a flag, it just takes a little more effort.
To stop traffic using a flag, stand in the same position as with a paddle. Extend the arm horizontally from the body, like the bar that drops down at a railroad crossing or parking garage. Ensure that the largest surface area of the flag is hanging down and facing traffic. On windy days this may be difficult. The flagger should use their free hand to reinforce the signal. Face your palm out towards oncoming traffic at about shoulder height.
To signal traffic to proceed, lower the arm holding the flag until it is out of sight of traffic. Stand parallel to the flow of traffic and move the empty hand back and forth horizontally in the direction of traffic flow. Don’t forget to communicate with your team from your traffic management company first!
Never Stop Learning
There’s always more to learn! The best traffic management companies provide continuous training for all employees. At Directional Traffic, we have two in-house ATSSA Certified Instructors to provide our employees with the continuing education that they need. We ensure that all employees are up to date on the latest changes to traffic codes and understand how to react in case of emergency.
We believe that working as a team (ownership, employees, customers, and community) is the best way to meet the goals of each project. Ensuring that all team members have a good foundation builds a strong team. If you’re interested in becoming part of our traffic management team, fill out an application today.