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The Analysis Of Flagger and Signaler Deaths
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.
MATERIALS AND METHODS
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.
RESULTS AND DISCUSSIONS
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
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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