Road construction and maintenance work is hazardous for both the site workers and the road user. Engineering, Education and Enforcement are the three pillars to ensure a safer construction work zone says Amandeep Singh Business Head, South Asia and East Africa, Avery Dennison Reflective Solutions.
According to statistics, 4.64 lakh road accidents took place in 2017 of which 1.3 lakh were fatal taking away 1.47 lakh lives (Source: Road Accidents in India-2017). To put this in perspective – in the last one decade, the average annual road deaths stand at 1.3 lakhs per year- a figure that surpasses the population of many small cities in India. Many of these traffic injuries and fatalities happen in the construction work zones on all roads and highways.
As the road network in India is set to expand, the traffic situation on the roads with the increase in number of personal and commercial vehicles is likely to become complicated. Therefore, a paradigm shift in design, implementation and execution of practices is necessary to overcome the problems related to road safety.
At most of the construction work sites, high speed traffic is never more than 5-10 meters away. And non-uniformity in the methods of traffic control and placement of signs at various locations increase confusion for road users. In India, where the travel distances are hundreds of miles and the vehicle drivers are semiliterate, there is a need for adopting standardized methods and devices at construction zones to ensure the safety of both the road users as well as the construction workers.
To put it in perspective – Construction work zone is the area of the road which is affected by the ongoing works thereby affecting the movement and flow of traffic and the road users. This zone can be divided into four componentsthe Advance Warning Zone, the Transition Zone, the Working Zone and the Termination Zone. The advance warning zone is where the reduction in speed of vehicles should be notified and the drivers should be advised to reduce their speed so as to achieve the desired transition zone. The information in this zone is conveyed through a series of traffic signs along the entire length of the zone. The transition zone is the area in which the traffic is redirected out of its normal path. The working zone is where the actual construction takes place and includes the traffic space, the buffer spaces and the work space. The termination zone is the section where road users are redirected to their normal path. These signs and delineations should be easily visible and conspicuous especially during the night time. Most of the accidents at night involve collision between vehicles and objects rather than vehicle to vehicle collision. Reflective paints and retroreflective sheeting, meeting the requisite standards, must therefore be used for all the signs/barricades and road safety devices so that these are visible at all times. The path of the traffic must be very clearly delineated throughout the traffic control zone to avoid vehicle entering into the work area.
The construction work zone signs fall into three major categories – Mandatory/ Regulatory Signs, Cautionary/Warning Signs and Informatory/Guide Signs. Mandatory/Regulatory Signs impose legal restriction on all traffic. It is essential, therefore, that they are used only after consulting the local police and traffic authorities. The Cautionary/Warning Signs in the traffic control zone are utilized to warn the drivers of specific hazards that may be encountered. Drivers should be altered to potential hazards in sufficient time to adjust their movement and speed. Informatory/Guide Signs are required at traffic control zones to provide the necessary information and guidance for the alternative route and work being done.
The correct quality, positioning and size of these signs will ensure that it is observed and recognized, thereby providing the driver with more time to react and take action. To ensure that these signs are visible from a distance, they should be made as per specifications mentioned in the IRC: SP: 55 (Guidelines on Traffic Management in Work Zones) manual with respect to the ideal type and color of the retro reflective sheeting.
The visibility of the vehicles and equipment used at these construction work zones is equally imperative; therefore, application of a right quality of conspicuity tape should be strongly enforced for these vehicles. Roll up signs are used in construction work zones to guide the traffic and inform about the work in progress. These portable reflective signs are highly effective and have provisions for application on different projects depending on the need for temporary signs.
Standardization and benchmarking of traffic control devices and traffic management practices along with educating all the stake holders (contractors, consultants, road users, workers etc.) will be a step closer to achieving the mission. Thereafter, regular safety audits and practicing the prescribed standards should take us towards the goal of achieving safer work zones.