Whether sweeping a busy freeway or patching potholes on a side street, mobile work zones carry their own types of problems. Roadway construction on its own is a uniquely dangerous job, and trying to stay safe is even harder when the site itself keeps moving.
Traffic exposure is the most dangerous issue facing a mobile work zone. Working within the everyday flow of traffic is challenging and doesn't offer the protection that a fully-closed or barricaded roadway work site does. Workers and equipment are doubly exposed to impatient commuters and inattentive drivers.
Mobile work zones rarely have the opportunity to provide the public with advance notice that they will be operating in a certain area. A temporary or shifting work site also means that the safety buffer zones are prepared on the move, leaving limited notice to traffic of their presence. On roads, particularly those with higher speed limits or poor visibility, it is easy to surprise a driver with a construction site or slow-moving sweeper.
The addition of multiple vehicles to limited notice increases the chances of an accident. A vehicle may swerve around the buffer zone and the last vehicle in a convoy, and then attempt to maneuver back into the lane they were in -- only to find themselves in the center of the work zone. More construction vehicles on the site also means that there are more moving parts to account for, which can pose hazards to any workers on foot. The employees out working are the most vulnerable, and mobile work sites often need more manpower to get the job done.
Heavier manpower requirements are necessary to finish the job as quickly and as safely as possible. Some work zones may need extra workers just to set up and take down signage or cones, flag traffic, and create safety buffers. To speed up the work, it makes sense in some cases to turn a one-man job into a three-man job. These workers all have to maintain heightened awareness of traffic, vehicles within their convoy, and changing hazards while working within tight time constraints.
Mobile work zones are expected to have a high speed of job completion. Because of the safety hazards and unexpected traffic interruptions, high priority is given to working fast. Unfortunately, fast is not safe. A work zone that is heavy on manpower, using multiple vehicles, and/or exposed to traffic with very limited notice becomes an issue when speed takes priority over safety.
For more information on mobile work zones and construction safety tips, rules and regulations, click here.
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