The Analysis Of Flagger and Signaler Deaths

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The Analysis Of Flagger and Signaler Deaths
Perry, Alexis
Hinze, Jimmie ( Mentor )
Place of Publication:
Gainesville, Fla.
University of Florida
Publication Date:


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University of Florida
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University of Florida
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The Analysis Of Flagger and Signaler Deaths

Alexis Perry


This paper focuses on the analysis of flagger and signaler deaths, along roadways and on construction

sites, respectively. The flagger and signaler professions are safety based occupations which involve a great deal

of concentration and risk of bodily harm. Flaggers are responsible for directing motorists away from

roadside construction workers and potential roadside hazards. Signalers are responsible for directing

various construction equipment operators toward their intended site location and away from potential dangers.

And although flaggers and signalers are entrusted with the safety of everyone on site their own safety is

often nonexistent. Therefore, there has been an increase in the number of fatal accidents involving flaggers

and signalers. This paper presents and reviews possible solutions for decreasing the incidence of these

accidents among the flagger and signaler professions.


The safety of every employee on a construction site is essential to the project's success or failure. However,

what happens when those entrusted with the safety of the project become victims of the very circumstance that

they tried to prevent? Flaggers and signalers are entrusted everyday with the overall protection of their

fellow construction workers. They must ensure that if accidents occur, they can prevent injuries or death. That is

why the safety of the flaggers and signalers themselves is so important. If the safety of flaggers and signalers can

be guaranteed, there is no doubt that construction related deaths and injuries would decrease

dramatically. Therefore, analysis of the flagger and signaler profession could be the gateway to

preventing construction casualties.


Flaggers and signalers are integral members of the construction industry. They are the eyes and ears of

construction projects. These men and women ensure the safety of their fellow coworkers by watching for

potential hazards and warning of impending danger. Unfortunately, there was a time when flaggers and signalers

did not exist and construction workers were left to their own devices to protect themselves. It was a certainty that

for every story of a building at least one life would be lost. This standard was unacceptable and had to

change. Therefore, safety programs were enacted and the construction industry began the slow and steady

process of reducing workplace related injuries and deaths. Flaggers and signalers were finally put in place to end

the senseless trend of construction related deaths and injuries. The implementation of flaggers and

signalers significantly reduced the amount of deaths and injuries on construction sites and along roadways.

However, many times these individuals themselves were struck down by the very dangers that they tried to

prevent. Signalers, who most often work with crane operators, were commonly struck and killed by falling debris

that was being hoisted by the cranes they were directing. Flaggers were most often killed by senseless motorists

who failed to obey road signs. Unfortunately, this trend continues until this day without any prospect of stopping.


Data was collected from several OSHA accident reports and set in an Excel spreadsheet, for analysis. Each report

was read, approved or disapproved for relevance, and separated into various categories. Some of the

categories included the following: age, sex, work type, equipment type, date, time of day, project cost, location,

type of construction, nature of injury or death, part of body injured, occupation, source of accident, human

error, weather, noise, and vehicle speed. The information from each accident report was number-coded and

inputted into the spreadsheet to facilitate the analysis process. Using this quantitative approach allowed for an

easy calculation of accident commonalities and outliers.


The obvious solutions for preventing flagger and signaler deaths would be more extensive training of personnel,

more efficient warning devices, and stiffer penalties for those who choose to disobey safety protocol. There

probably will never be a fail-safe method of preventing flagger and signaler deaths; however, through analysis of

the data some possible solutions have been developed, including the following: mandatory reverse sirens on

all construction vehicles, removal of all non-work related radio devices, improved head protection,

mandatory installation of only underground power lines, and implementation of temporary speed bumps.

Mandatory reverse sirens will undoubtedly reduce the number of workers accidentally struck by construction

vehicles. If all vehicles, regardless of size or usage, entering a construction site are required to have reverse

sirens, the risk of being struck by any vehicle will obviously be greatly reduced. If workers are made aware

of possible danger, by a siren, they will take it upon themselves to leave the area. However, in some cases

where reverse sirens were used and fully operational, workers were still struck and killed. In one case a man

was struck and killed when he walked directly behind a reversing dump truck. It was later discovered that the

man did not hear the reverse siren because he was wearing a walkman. Although walkmans and similar devices

such as CD players serve to alleviate some of the boredom on the site, they have proven to be a great distraction

and potential hazard. Therefore a ban on all non-work related radio devices would prove to be very beneficial.

Another beneficial step would be the implementation of improved head protection. Although hard hats have

been used for several decades their protection capabilities are primitive at best. While hard hats may protect

workers from the occasional dropped hammer or wrench, they fail to protect them from the extreme dangers on

the site. In a few of the cases reviewed, the workers fell a couple of feet and died because of the head injuries

they sustained. If they had had adequate head protection they may have survived their falls. Therefore the

creation of a safer, more effective form of head protection would dramatically reduce the amount of

construction related deaths. Although preventing head related injuries is extremely important, preventing

accidental electrocution is equally as important. In several of the cases reviewed, workers were electrocuted

when the construction vehicles they were in or in close proximity to, struck overhead power lines. Unfortunately, it

is very common for cranes to come in contact with overhead power lines. Specifically, the boom, or extension part

of the crane, usually comes in contact with the power lines. Many times crane operators underestimate the height

of the boom and it comes in contact with the lines. When the boom touches the power line it electrifies every inch

of the crane and sometimes the surrounding area. Anyone in contact with the crane or close to it runs the risk

of being electrocuted. Therefore making all existing and new power lines underground lines would greatly reduce

the occurrence of accidental electrocutions. However, because making all existing power lines underground

power lines would be a tremendous and costly undertaking, making existing crane booms nonconductive would be

a more reasonable approach. This could possibly be achieved by coating all crane booms with a thick

nonconductive plastic. And until all power lines are reinstalled as underground lines this could serve as a

temporary solution.

The majority of construction related deaths and injuries occur on-site; however, many accidents occur along and/

or on roadways. For the most part these incidents involve flaggers. Flaggers are the men and women that

warn motorists of upcoming road construction and dangers. They alert motorists to reduce their speed and watch

for roadside construction workers. However, many times their warnings go unheeded and they ultimately pay

the price for the motorists' ignorance. Oftentimes flaggers are struck and killed by motorists that ignore or do not

pay attention to road signs. These careless motorists are responsible for the growing trend of roadside

casualties. One would think that the safety measures that are now in place for flaggers would be sufficient.

However, brightly colored safety vests, reduced speed limits, and workers-ahead-warning-signs have proven

their ineffectiveness. Therefore, the implementation of temporary speed bumps on roads where roadside

construction is taking place would greatly reduce the incidence of roadside construction deaths and injuries.

Rather than being coaxed by flaggers and road signs, motorists must be physically forced to slow down by the

speed bumps. If they do not heed or notice the flaggers or road signs, they will definitely hear the potential

impact that their speeding vehicle could possibly have on individuals.

Implementing these possible solutions will undoubtedly have a positive influence on the construction industry.

The incidence of flagger and signaler deaths will decrease and the productivity of every worker on the site

will increase. It is a proven fact that if people feel safe in their working environment, they work wisely and

efficiently. Not having to worry about personal safety puts everyone at ease on a construction site. And although it

is obvious that some of the solutions will be easier to execute in the field, I am certain that their eventual

application will impact the construction industry and pave the way for more positive changes in construction safety.



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