In the late 1990\’92s I was working along with my crew planting large pine trees on an off ramp from the Route 20 Bradley connecter in Windsor Ct.  We were working 50-75 feet off the road in a relatively large area. Our plan was to plant the right side of the ramp first and when completed to switch over and plant the area on the left side of the ramp. By lunch we had the right side planting completed and just before we took our lunch break we re-mobilized all of our equipment over to the left side so after lunch we could get a good start on that side.

We sat on our trailer as we ate lunch and we were admiring the great job we did in the a.m. on the other side of the ramp.  While we were looking a lone car veered off the ramp and while traveling at approximately 50 mph proceeded to drive right through and over several of the pine trees that our crews, just hours earlier, were working on. The driver apparently was distracted and then lost control. Had it occurred even 1 hour earlier I can\’92t imagine the potentially horrifying ending. Needless to say, from that day forward  I have looked at highway safety with a considerable amount more of attention.

We have been performing highway plantings for countless years now and our crews have seen firsthand almost every imaginable form of careless driving, distracted drivers, inexplicable single car accidents and downright stupidity. What we get from this is that you can never be too cautious when working alongside or in the proximity of highways or for that matter any street work.

Highway Safety Precautions

Our crews are instructed to be constantly vigilant of their surroundings. Trucks are to slow down at very long distance ahead of where they plan on actually stopping. Whenever possible, we strategically place the trucks and trailers between the path of traffic and where our workers are located to serve as a makeshift barrier in the event of a runaway vehicle. Crews are instructed to work as far away from the road as possible. Drivers are without exception instructed to exit vehicles using the door farthest away from traffic. Yes, this does mean that frequently the driver must crawl over the seat to exit out the passenger door but if it saves one life, it\’92s worth the effort.

Traffic patterns should be placed as far in advance of the work areas as is reasonably possible and you can never layout too many cones or signs. All workers wear highly reflective vests. Loading or unloading is always done on the side of the vehicle farthest from traffic and crews are instructed to pay special attention that materials or equipment never extend past the vehicle into the path of traffic. Our drivers know to be patient when entering the highway and will always wait for ample space before entering the highway.  Whenever possible we will perform lane or shoulder closings. Maintenance and protection of traffic is always a number one priority.

Key Takeaways

    • Companies should place workers safety as an absolute top priority
    • Any contractor who works in the proximity of highways or roads is working in one of the most dangerous occupations
    • Workers need to be constantly vigilant and safety minded
    • All available safety tools and practices should continuously be implemented
    • Supervisors need to constantly reaffirm these practices