Sweating profusely beneath her orange vest, Jane held up a stop sign. Jane was controlling traffic during a road-widening project; she wasn’t aware that every year motorists were killing approximately 20 flaggers like her. She also wasn’t aware that heat stress could be a killer, too.
The heat was almost unbearable, and Jane began to feel dizzy. Before the world suddenly went black, she remembered a dump truck rumbling past her. It was the first time she ever fainted.
Besides heat stress and mobile equipment, flaggers must be aware of traffic near the work zone, including motorists who don’t slow down. Did you know that a motorist traveling 60 mph (94 km/h) needs about 400 feet (122 meters) to stop?
To stay out of harm’s way, flaggers should:
Wear high visibility clothing, including a reflective vest.
Never hitch a ride on heavy equipment.
Wear a hardhat, sunscreen and long-sleeved shirt and pants.
Plan an escape route for emergencies.
Communicate constantly with other flaggers.
Report erratic driving.
Use proper hand signals.
Not react to angry motorists.
Flaggers, should not:
Rely on vehicle backup alarms to keep them safe.
Position themselves where they can be struck by moving equipment.
Turn their back to traffic.
Listen to music or use earphones.
Read a book on duty.
Leave their post without a replacement.
Perform duties without proper training.
What Drivers Can Do
We all know that safety is everyone’s responsibility. So when you’re driving in a work zone area, be mindful that flaggers are in a dangerous profession. Pay attention, don’t tailgate, don’t speed and be patient.
Whatever Happened to Flagger Jane? Fortunately, Jane’s coworkers recognized the signs of heat exhaustion. They moved her to a shaded area, gave her plenty of fluids and let her rest for a while.
The Heat Hazards of Flagging
In the summer, flaggers must keep well hydrated and as cool as possible. It’s important to know and recognize the signs of heat exhaustion. They include heavy sweating, fatigue and dizziness. To treat these symptoms, move to a cool, shaded area, loosen clothing, apply a cold cloth and hydrate with water.
Heat stroke is the most serious heat illness. It can lead to unconsciousness, convulsions and death.
To treat heat stroke:
Remove from heat and loosen clothing
Immerse in cool water
Position the person lying down with feet slightly elevated