Most of the time, we see them, but don’t really see them. We see the signs they hold more so than them. They’re flaggers, and they help maintain construction site safety. First off, let’s take a look at a flagger’s primary responsibilities:
- Receive/communicate instructions clearly and firmly
- Control signaling devices to provide clear guidance to drivers
- Understand and apply safe traffic control practices in stressful or emergency instances
- Recognize dangerous traffic situations and warn workers to avoid injury
- Move quickly to avoid danger
Despite the name, flaggers don’t often use flags. They use stop signs and slow signs to help control traffic. They also have other tasks that go beyond the basic listing above, such as having short conversations with drivers to give directions, or knowing where to stand for various types of construction projects.
But flaggers do more than hold signs and stand in one area during their shift. They may also be responsible for helping check that traffic control devices are operating correctly, are in their proper places and whether they might need replacing. For traffic safety, and their own safety, flaggers should:
- Stand alone, away from other workers
- Stand in a clearly visible area, i.e. not in the shade or behind obstacles
- Do not stand in front of equipment or signs
- Park their vehicles away from the flagger station
Flaggers must be good at observation. For example, if they see drivers behaving unusually, it might be that the traffic control devices aren’t set up correctly, or that a particular driver is impaired in some way. Additionally, if a flagger sees skid marks on the road, it may mean drivers don’t understand how the construction zone is set up and adjustments might be needed.
There are also multiple configurations for flagging stations. Often, a one-flagger setup works, but in a project that closes one lane of a two-lane road, two flaggers will be needed, or even two flaggers with a pilot car. The same precautions listed above still should be followed, with the addition of constant communication between the flaggers as well as any pilot car driver.
It seems like a lot of information to keep in mind. That’s why each state has specific requirements for flaggers, with educational programs provided by the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), the International Municipal Signal Association (IMSA) and the National Safety Council (NSC), among others. You can see most state requirements by visiting the National Work Zone Safety Information Clearinghouse website.
In my next post, I plan to talk more about the overall transportation management plan process and its various parts. In the meantime, remember to watch for the flagger and help them stay safe as well.