Work Zone Planning
- Planning a work zone
- Work zone risk assessment
- Traffic management and control
- Work zone preparation
Employers, prime contractors, and supervisors need to plan ahead and supervise employees to help keep them safe in work zones. Your duties include hazard identification, risk assessment, and traffic planning and control. Use our tool kit and other resources to complete your traffic management and/or control plans.
Planning a work zone
Every work zone has its own unique set of hazards associated with roads, traffic, vehicles, weather, and work activities.
Keeping employees safe requires a well-planned work zone layout and traffic management. You need to ensure that workers know and follow safe procedures to reduce their risk. They need to understand the hazards, use high-visibility apparel and other personal protective equipment (PPE) properly, and communicate with co-workers effectively.
You also need to create a traffic control plan to guide drivers through the work zone efficiently.
Before you start, review what employers and prime contractors need to know about work zone safety and your responsibilities.
Review our information for roadside workers so you know what to emphasize in their training and education.
Work zone risk assessment
When you know the duration of the work, do a risk assessment. You’ll use it to develop and implement a traffic management plan and/or a traffic control plan that is based on the identified risks.
Your plan needs to follow the risk assessment set out in Part 18 of the Occupational Health and Safety Regulation (the Regulation) and the Hierarchy of Controls. Review the 2020 Traffic Management Manual for Work on Roadways (the TMM) for guidelines and diagrams to help you.
An effective risk assessment has 3 steps:
Vehicles and mobile equipment are the most obvious hazards. Workers could be hit by traffic passing through the zone and equipment being operated in the work area.
You need to consider many other factors, including work duration, nature of the work, traffic volume, lines of sight, speed limits, visibility, weather, and road conditions.
Make a list of all the hazards at your proposed work zone. Use the hazard identification checklist in our Roadside Work Preparation Guide (PDF 1MB) to get started. Ask workers to help you.
You need to assess how likely it is that a worker would be harmed by a hazard, and how serious the resulting injury would be.
Review our Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment Tool Kit for more information.
Keeping traffic away from your roadside workers is one of your main goals. The Hierarchy of Controls suggests steps you can take to help protect workers. It lists them in order of effectiveness. You need to start at the top of the hierarchy and work your way down through the controls.
Most jobs require a mix of options.
Temporary traffic controls such as detours and barriers remove work zone risk so they’re the most effective choice. Automated flagger assistance devices (AFADs) are highly recommended. Consider using crash cushions.
You can only use traffic control persons as a last resort, and even then, they need to be used with other controls.
Review WorkSafeBC’s guide for reducing the risk of workers being struck by vehicles and mobile equipment.
The information in your risk assessment will form the core of your traffic control plan.
Traffic management and control
Traffic management requires strategies and actions for reducing safety risks.
Part 18.3.2 of the Regulation focuses on a traffic control plan based on a risk assessment and the Hierarchy of Controls. This requirement takes precedence over the guidelines found in the TMM.
The basic components include:
- The work zone layout, including provisions for changes as the work progresses
- Identification of vehicle traffic hazards
- Written procedures and roles/responsibilities for setting up, maintaining, and removing the work zone
- A traffic control plan that includes a layout, speed limits, and traffic control devices and their location
- A communication strategy to inform the public in advance (where possible) about road work and temporary traffic diversion
- Emergency procedures and what to do in case of an incident
- A schedule for implementation and review of the plan
In the TMM, a traffic control plan is part of the overall traffic management plan. The information in a traffic management plan will depend on the nature and complexity (category) of your work zone. The information helps your team plan, implement, and maintain a work zone that’s safe for workers and drivers.
Most plans need to include a site-specific traffic control plan. But for emergent or brief duration work, the TMM requires you to assess the risk to determine which traffic control measures are needed. WorkSafeBC requirements are laid out in Part 18.3.1 of the Regulation. They include having policies and procedures for this work.
Answer the following questions before the work begins:
1. Will the work take longer than 15 minutes?
2. Is the minimum sight distance (the distance from parked location to the furthest point that can be seen on the road) less than:
- 100 metres in an area with a posted speed limit of 50 to 70 km/h
- 170 metres in an area with a posted speed limit of 80 to 90 km/h
- 250 metres in an area with a posted speed limit of 100 to 110 km/h
- 300 metres in an area with a posted speed limit of 120 km/h
3. Is the estimated traffic volume in the lane(s) you’ll be entering more than 4 vehicles per lane per minute?
4. Is visibility restricted (fog, heavy rain, blowing snow, etc.) and/or are road conditions slippery?
If you or the workers answer No to all 4 questions, you need at a minimum to turn on flashing lights..
If Yes is the answer to any question, additional traffic control measures are needed. For more information, call WorkSafeBC’s Prevention Information Line at 1-888-621-7233.
Your plan needs to document the traffic control layout you will use in your work zone. The zone extends to all areas where workers are exposed to traffic.
A typical layout for a temporary work zone has the following sections:
- Advanced warning area to alert drivers
- Approach area to alert drivers of traffic changes and allow them time to slow down or change lanes
- Transition area to channel the traffic
- Buffer area to provide recovery space in the event of an errant vehicle
- Work area
- Termination area to allow traffic to return to normal path of the road
Depending on the extent of the work and the road type, the requirements for each area will vary. Review the order of control requirement in Part 18.3.3 of the Regulation.
In the TMM, review Section 6: Traffic Control Layouts – General Instructions (PDF 13.8MB). Then review Sections 7 to 19 for traffic control layouts. They cover 2-lane/2-way roadways, multi-lane undivided roadways, multi-lane divided roadways, and other scenarios.
Schedule regular inspections to ensure work zone setup follows the planned layout. Ensure that any changes are documented.
The BC Municipal Safety Association offers a 4-hour Traffic Control Planning and Layout course for workers and supervisors in public works, maintenance, engineering, and special events. The course is open to others as space permits.
Part 18 of the Regulation calls for concrete barriers where practicable to isolate the work zone and reduce the risk to workers. Detours and alternate routes should also be considered before using temporary traffic control devices.
Your traffic control plan needs to explain how you will use temporary traffic control devices such as barriers, automated flagger assistance devices (AFADs), signs, signals, mobile strips, markings, and other devices.
Review our information on temporary traffic control device options. Whichever ones you use, you need to ensure they are in good working condition.
Review Section 4: Temporary Traffic Control Devices (PDF 3.3MB) in the TMM for more information.
Work zone preparation
Once traffic management and control plans are in place, you need to make sure workers are prepared and understand work zone procedures.
If you’re using traffic control persons, you’ll need to provide site-specific training and orientation, and document that it was completed.
Before workers begin the job, review our Roadside Work Preparation Guide (PDF 1MB) with them. It gives you a checklist and form to record your information. The guide covers:
- Key questions you need to answer as an employer, supervisor, or prime contractor
- Requirements for a safe work zone
- What workers need to know and do
- Hazard identification and assessment
- Other important things to do
As part of your preparation, make sure you’ve trained workers to properly set up and take down a work zone. Use our Set Up and Take Down of Roadside Work Zones Tailgate Meeting Guide (PDF 675KB) to help educate them.
If your workers handle towing or recovery jobs, review our When is Traffic Control Required for Towing and Recovery? Tailgate Meeting Guide (PDF 501KB) with them at a safety meeting.
If it applies, review our What Truck and Van Drivers Need to Know to be Safe at the Roadside guide (PDF 516KB) with your employees.