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Tuesday , 21 May 2024

Making Construction Work Zones safer

Amandeep Singh, Senior Regional Business Manager

Many construction work zones miss the installation of critical advance warning signs and traffic management devices designed to improve road safety. Signage and delineation devices used are often made of substandard reflective sheeting which is not effective in safely guiding road users through work zones, says Amandeep Singh, Senior Regional Business Manager, Reflective Solutions/ South Asia, ASEAN & East Africa

The road construction in India is witnessing an all-time peak considering the enormous investment and focus on the development of road infrastructure in the country. Various government initiatives and programs like Bharatmala Pariyojana, Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) etc. are promoting the construction of new roads and maintaining the existing ones to ensure smooth and fast flow of traffic. With this increase in road construction in India, there is a corresponding increase in the number of road crashes and work zone fatalities.

A Work Zone/ Construction Work Zone (CWZ) is an area where road construction work takes place and may involve lane closures, detours and moving equipment. These work zones are a safety hazard for motorists, pedestrians, and construction workers alike. The complications of changing work conditions that affect traffic flow, demand effective traffic control to safely alert motorists during day and night, and under all weather conditions.

Nighttime road construction presents new safety challenges that road users do not encounter during traditional working hours as more impaired and fatigued drivers are on the roads at night than during the day increasing the risk of accidents. Adding to the higher risk is the decreased level of visibility on the roads at night. Lack of appropriately guiding traffic signs and their visibility is one of the primary reasons for road accidents in these construction work zones. All traffic control equipment, including traffic signs, drums and cones must use superior quality reflective material conforming to IRC/ MORTH/ ASTM standards to alert the road user that they are approaching a construction zone. The construction zones require more signs than are currently being used to convey site conditions.

Shape and color pattern of signs in WTMP

There are strict guidelines on Traffic Management in Work Zones (IRC: SP: 55) in place with detailed specifications and designs for Work Zone Traffic Management Plans (WTMP). The retro reflective sheeting for ground mounted signs to be used in WTMPs shall be of CLASS B sheeting, i.e. High Intensity Prismatic grade sheeting as per ASTM D 4956-09 Type III and IV, as given in IRC: 67-012, whereas for access controlled highway it shall be of CLASS C sheeting, i.e. Micro Prismatic grade sheeting as per ASTM D 4956-09 Type VIII and IX as given in IRC: 67-2012.

The guidelines have spelled out advance warning zone, approach transition zone, activity zone, terminal transition zone and work zone end, the key elements of temporary traffic control zone and the length of temporary traffic zones.

When a construction work zone is set up, proper temporary traffic signs should be placed to give advanced warning to drivers and pedestrians. These advanced warning signs alert the drivers that the traffic patterns and conditions will change and that they should take extra caution and reduce speeds. The retro reflective sheeting used to make these signs should be of superior quality and meeting the relevant standards so that it is visible at day and night. Not only can these standards protect lives by providing adequate warning, they can also protect the workers working in these zones.

Different rigid and portable roll-up signs in highly visible fluorescent colors can be used to guide road users of work in progress. The ease to set up and use these portable roll-up signs make them a preferred choice for work zone application.

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