Roadside Safety for Utility Crews

Flaggers are responsible for everyone’s safety in work zones

Roadside Safety for Utility Crews

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Work zones on roads and highways can be dangerous places. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, over 100 workers are killed each year in work zones across America. Some of these fatalities are the result of vehicles striking workers. 

One of the most important jobs in a work zone is the flagger. While the task is often seen as the worst or most boring job in a work zone, the flagger position shoulders the responsibility of the work zone’s safety — ensuring the safety of not only themselves but also the work crew, the motorists, the equipment and any pedestrians that might be close by.

Flaggers have to be properly trained according to their state’s standards otherwise they are not officially qualified to act as the flagger in a work zone. Should someone from the Department of Transportation stop by the job site, one of the first things they are going to ask is if the flagger has had the appropriate training and if they have their flagger card on them. If not, they will likely shut the job down until a properly trained flagger can be brought in.

One of the key responsibilities of a flagger is safely stopping traffic as needed and maintaining a safe flow of traffic while they enter and exit the work zone. Flaggers need to have a professional appearance while providing guidance to the drivers, who are generally not used to driving through a work zone. Flaggers will need to be in good physical condition and be able to move quickly should a vehicle or some other hazards become an issue. Therefore, placing an injured worker in the flagger position is against regulations. 

Flaggers will need to communicate instructions clearly and firmly, and also maintain a courteous attitude even if a driver does not cooperate. A vital responsibility of a flagger is to recognize the potential dangers that might occur and have a plan in place to warn other workers at the site. The flagger also needs to be easily identified by motorists and cannot be standing in areas that can conceal him/her. Generally, the minimum personal protective equipment a flagger must wear is established by local, state or federal regulations and this is to help them be clearly seen by the motorists entering the zone. 

General safety tips for the flagger:

  • Wear the appropriate PPE that is reflective. Be seen!
  • Stand alone on the shoulder in clear view of traffic. Don’t mingle with other workers on site.
  • Never stand in the open traffic lane and do not turn your back to the traffic.
  • Plan an escape route just in case. Do not stand by objects such as trees, mailboxes and signs that might impede your escape route.
  • Stay alert and focused. Don’t allow distractions to catch you off guard. Leave the cellphone in the truck.
  • Always treat motorists with respect and courtesy even if they are being rude and disrespectful to you.
  • Make sure you have communicated proper signals to the other flagger.
  • Do not step in front of a moving vehicle even if it is slowing down. Don’t assume it will stop in time.
  • Maintain professionalism; do not sit down or lean on a tree or a vehicle. And dress appropriately.
  • Never leave your position unless you are relieved by another qualified flagger. You are allowed to have breaks and lunch, so no eating while flagging either.

Flagging at a work zone is a job with great responsibility and should never be taken lightly. Flaggers are key to the overall safety and success of a work zone. Motorists rely on the flagger to give them proper directions, and workers rely on the flagger to keep them safe so they can focus on the task at hand.


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