For roadside workers
- Your rights and responsibilities
- Work zone hazards
- What roadside workers need to know
- For traffic control persons
- For truck and van drivers
- For emergency workers
- High-visibility apparel
If you work along the road and close to traffic for any reason, you’re a roadside worker. And you’ve got a dangerous, high-risk job, whether you’re in a roadside work zone for 5 minutes or an entire shift. Use our resources to help keep yourself safe before, during, and after working at the roadside.
Your rights and responsibilities
You may not think of yourself as a roadside worker. But you are one when you do any type of work along the road as part of your job. Hundreds of activities involve roadside work, whether it’s full time, part time, or only occasionally.
Road construction crews, tow operators, movers, waste collectors, and landscapers spend many hours on the side of the road. First responders enforce traffic laws and provide life-saving emergency services. Truck drivers may pull over to adjust a load or make a repair. They’re all roadside workers.
Whatever your work is, doing it near vehicles or mobile equipment puts you and your coworkers at high risk of being struck. You, your employer, and your supervisor have responsibilities for your safety in roadside work zones.
- Educating you about potential work zone hazards and about your occupational health and safety rights and responsibilities
- Training you in safe work procedures, such as how to correctly set up and take down a work zone, and the Dos and Don’ts of a critical task, such as single-lane alternating traffic
- Providing you with high-visibility apparel and other required personal protective equipment (PPE)
- Making sure that you know the work zone layout and your position in it
If you haven’t received the required training and education, or are uncertain about what you’re supposed to do, talk with your employer or supervisor before starting work.
- Knowing how to correctly set up and take down roadside work zones
- Following safe work procedures
- Knowing how to identify hazards and assess risks
- Wearing appropriate high-visibility apparel at all times
- Inspecting high-visibility apparel and requesting replacements if it’s worn or defective
You have the right to refuse unsafe work—in fact, you are obligated to refuse unsafe work and to report it to your supervisor. Trust your gut and talk with your supervisor whenever you have a question about safety.
Learn more about employer, supervisor, and worker safety responsibilities in the workplace.
Test your knowledge of work zone safety with our Roadside Worker Safety Quiz.
Work zone hazards
Everyone in a work zone is at risk of being struck by traffic or mobile equipment. Over the last decade in BC, 12 workers were killed in work zones and 221 were injured seriously enough to be off work.
Every site is different. Each one has its own hazards, and they can change over the course of your shift. Traffic volumes can increase, for example, or changing light levels can reduce driver visibility.
Here are some of the many hazards you need to understand:
Depending on where the work zone is, you need to be aware of:
- Any nearby intersection with traffic coming from multiple directions
- How much space you have between your work site and the roadway
- Driver visibility issues, such as curves, crests of hills, trees and bushes, or parked vehicles
- Overhead cables, railway crossings, or rights-of-way
- Other roadside work or traffic control nearby
- Police, ambulance, or fire stations nearby
What type of traffic passes by the work zone? You need to be aware of:
- Large vehicles such as commercial trucks that may be wider than normal vehicles and have side mirrors that stick out
- Vehicles travelling faster than the speed limit
- Delivery vehicles, buses, or other vehicles that may block signage or reduce road width
- Mobile equipment moving within the work zone
- Surges of rush hour traffic
- Pedestrians, especially children from nearby schools, parks, playgrounds, etc.
Road and weather conditions can be hazardous and change quickly. Driver visibility and stopping distances may be affected. You need to be aware of:
- Weather such as fog or rain
- Slick or slippery roads
- Lighting, including whether the sun is directly overhead, on the horizon, etc.
What roadside workers need to know
Staying safe in a work zone requires you to be prepared.
If you’re a traffic control person or road builder, you may need to have a documented work zone layout and follow a traffic control plan. If you’re a tow truck operator or first responder, you need to follow safe work procedures wherever you do your job.
Here are steps you can follow to help yourself, your coworkers, and drivers stay safe.
It doesn’t matter if your work zone stays in one place or is mobile. You still need to review the hazards, the work plan and the associated safe work procedures with your supervisor and co-workers before heading to the site. Ask yourself the following questions.
- Do you understand your organization’s procedures for working safely at the roadside?
- Have you reviewed the work zone layout, if one is required?
- Have you reviewed the written risk assessment or safe work procedures for the duration of work you’re doing?
- Are you aware of the hazards associated with your work site and have you had a safety briefing to review them?
- Do you understand how to correctly place traffic warning signs and other devices?
- Are you familiar with the movements of mobile equipment or work vehicles at your work site, and do you understand procedures for working safely around them?
- Are you wearing your high-visibility garment and required personal protective equipment (PPE)?
- Do you know what to do in case of an emergency, and do you know your escape route if a vehicle crosses into the work zone?
- Do you know how to report near misses and other safety concerns?
- Have you discussed any and all safety concerns with your supervisor?
Always make sure your vehicle is stocked with the equipment you need to stay safe, including high-visibility vests or garments, signs, cones, and other traffic control devices you may need. Make sure they’re all in good working order. You may also want to carry rain gear, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
If you’ll be using radios on site, test them before heading out and again when you reach the work zone.
You should not be sent to a work site where your employer or supervisor has not assessed and controlled risk.
Sometimes, though, you won’t know where your work site will be. A utility worker, for example, could be called to many locations in a day. Your employer needs to have procedures for those instances. You need to follow them and know how to identify and address site-specific hazards once you get there. Ask your supervisor or employer for training and instruction if you’re unsure about anything.
Before heading out, make sure:
- Your vehicle is stocked with the signs, cones and other traffic control devices you may need
- You know how to set up a safe work zone, including how to place traffic warning signs and other devices
- You know how to identify and address vehicle and traffic hazards
Proper setup of work zones is critical for your safety, as well as for co-workers, motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians. Setup is often one of the most dangerous parts of roadside work.
Depending on the job, your work zone may require a traffic control plan. If so, review it with your supervisor. The plan will tell you where signs, cones, and other devices are to be placed. Don’t modify anything without your supervisor’s approval.
Always face traffic as you set up. Place traffic control devices in the order that drivers will encounter them. Begin with the sign or device farthest away from the work area. Check to make sure lighting equipment doesn’t blind drivers.
Once the work zone is in place, travel through it to view it from a driver’s perspective. Do signs, cones, and other devices provide clear guidance to drivers and other road users? Could they find anything confusing? Are signs and workers clearly visible in all light and weather conditions?
Check signs, cones, and other devices regularly during your shift to make sure they are still in position. Wind can move them, or vehicles can bump them.
Whenever possible, work facing traffic. This is especially important if the area is noisy or you’re wearing hearing protection. If you must turn your back to traffic, consider having a spotter to warn you of approaching vehicles.
Be careful not to work on the edge or outside of the work zone. For example, avoid loading or unloading a vehicle on the traffic side.
Be aware of your surroundings at all times. Mobile equipment and work vehicles may enter and exit the work zone. Make eye contact with the operator before approaching the vehicle. Don’t assume they can see you. If possible, use a spotter if work vehicles and equipment will be moving behind or beside you.
Also be aware of changing conditions over the course of your shift. Traffic volumes, road surface conditions, and visibility can change quickly and increase your risk.
In dry conditions, spray the work zone with water regularly to reduce dust that can affect visibility.
Inspect the site daily to ensure signs, cones, and other traffic control devices are in the right position. They can be moved by people, cars, or wind gusts. Check to make sure they’re still in good condition.
Cover, turn off or remove traffic control devices when they’re no longer needed.
Effective communication with coworkers is essential for your safety. Review and follow Parts 18.12 and 18.3 in the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation.
Some tips include:
- Be aware of, and track, each other’s location at all times.
- Listen for horns and back-up alarms.
- Maintain eye contact before walking in front of or behind active equipment.
- Always inform coworkers before leaving the area and when you return.
To prevent striking a co-worker or being struck by a vehicle or other mobile equipment, follow these tips:
- Check blind spots before moving.
- Reverse into parking spots so you can drive forward to leave instead of backing up.
- Use the back-up alarm or beep your horn twice before reversing.
- Make sure mirrors are clean and positioned properly.
- Obey posted signs and follow designated travel routes and traffic control directions.
- Turn off distracting devices.
- Keep windows open so you can see and hear workers and others nearby.
This can also be one of the most dangerous things you do in a work zone because it normally happens at the end of a shift when you’re tired and it puts you closer to traffic. Don’t let your guard down.
Dismantle the work zone as soon as the work is completed and signs and devices are no longer needed. In general, devices should be removed in the opposite order of installation. Remove cones and other devices first.
Advance signs should be removed only after all other devices have been removed.
Remember to face traffic as you do it.
For traffic control persons
Being in harm’s way is not part of your job. In fact, occupational health and safety regulations prohibit the use of traffic control persons (TCP) in certain situations, such as when speed limits are greater than 70 km/h.
Your position in the work zone helps to protect you from being struck by vehicles moving past or through the job site. Follow the regulatory requirements at all times. If you’re unsure about where to stand, ask your supervisor. Don’t get in front of any vehicle.
Your training, knowledge, and experience are invaluable when planning work zone layouts. Share your ideas with your employer and supervisor and report any safety concerns to them immediately.
Put away your phone so you’re not distracted.
If you’re interested in becoming a TCP, learn more about traffic control person training.
For truck and van drivers
All of your roadside stops or work require a risk evaluation.
If your work is planned (like a scheduled move or pickup/delivery in a known location), the risk assessment needs to be conducted in advance. This tells you the appropriate traffic control devices you’ll need or whether a formal traffic control plan will be required.
In the case of unplanned work such as a vehicle breakdown or a stop to adjust a load, you need to do a risk assessment before exiting your vehicle. The level of risk determines the measures you need to put in place to create a safe work zone around your vehicle and carry out your work safely.
Review our What Truck and Van Drivers Need to Know to Be Safe at the Roadside guide (PDF 516 KB) for more information.
For emergency workers
Make sure you understand and follow Part 18.6.1 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation. It covers emergency scene management.
The BC Municipal Safety Association offers an Emergency Scene Traffic Control course for fire departments.
When you’re exposed to the hazard of moving vehicles or mobile equipment, you need to wear appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) including high-visibility garments.
It’s your employer’s responsibility to provide them and train you to use them properly. It’s also your employer’s responsibility to ensure you’re using the correct ones for the work zone you’ll be in and to meet safety regulations.
Worker responsibilities for wearing PPE include keeping it clean and well-maintained. Tell your supervisor if your garment is worn or damaged. Dirty or worn fluorescent or retro-reflective materials compromise the level of visibility.
Make sure your high-visibility garment is correctly fastened, with no hanging parts. It should be fitted to your body and appropriate for the environmental conditions. Clothing worn underneath to help keep you warm or dry can affect the fit.