Construction job sites can be bustling and hectic places to be at, with workers, equipment, deliveries all needing access. In managing construction operations, traffic management plays a huge role in preventing severe accidents or fatal injuries from taking place.
In construction sites, people and machinery are often needed to work hand-in-hand for a task to be done. However, while construction machinery can assist workers in activities such as moving heavy materials and deep excavations, they also pose potential hazards to their surroundings. If a person is struck with a 5+ tonne machine on site, the outcome is something we don’t want to think of. According to 2020 HSE Statistics, over 30 construction workers were killed on-site, and over 4,000 were injured, either through contact with moving machinery or being struck by a moving vehicle.
While construction is not the only workplace where people and traffic must work together, transport management can be more of a problem in construction than in any other industry. The dilemma in construction is that no job site is ever the same— different requirements, different site layout, different tasks, different access points, different types of machinery and equipment, different workers… the list goes on. Apart from this, the same construction projects still need various layout arrangements in the different stages of the project.
Now, the question is— how can we use traffic management to our advantage in managing construction?
What are the Key Points to Consider in Managing Traffic in Construction Job Sites?
Managing traffic in construction is a critical part of making sure that the job site does not pose a potential risk to the health and safety of its workers. Construction vehicles such as a mobile plant moving around the workplace, loading, unloading, and reversing are often associated with injuries and even death to workers and the people surrounding the job site.
Traffic management not only involves managing cars, tractors, and powered mobile plants such as forklifts and pedestrians such as workers and visitors.
In construction, the best way to protect people on site is to eliminate any possible traffic hazards. This can be accomplished by designing the site layout to eliminate interactions between vehicles and pedestrians. Some of the strategies to implement this include prohibiting vehicles in pedestrian spaces or providing separate routes so that pedestrians won’t be able to enter areas where vehicles are operating.
The major points that should be considered in managing traffic in construction job sites include:
- Developing and implementing a good traffic management plan
- Keeping vehicles and pedestrians apart and scheduling when and where vehicles enter and exit the job site
- Minimizing and reducing vehicle movements
- Not allowing reversing of vehicles or eliminating related risks
- Ensuring that pedestrians and vehicles are always visible to each other
- Implementing traffic signals and signages on site
A project manager or a construction manager is responsible for ensuring, so far as it is reasonably practicable, that workers and other employees are not exposed to any health and safety risks that can arise on site. Implementing control measures to prevent people from injuries from vehicles or machinery is one of their duties.
Ten Practices of Effective Construction Traffic Management
1. Keep Workers Away from Machinery
The majority of the construction traffic accidents resulted from the inadequate boundaries and separation of pedestrians and vehicles.
The easiest and most obvious way to stop workers from getting injured on-site is by keeping the pedestrian and vehicles as far from possible. This might sound easier said than done, but you should consider the places in the construction site where machinery and people move around, getting to and from the areas where they work.
No worker is expecting to come in contact with a bulldozer when they are heading to their barracks. Visitors might not even be familiar with the types of vehicles you have on your site. Moreover, vehicles are likely to come into contact with pedestrians when they are moving or maneuvering or on or off the job site. Knowing this, traffic routes are high-risk areas and places where people and machines need to be separated.
Use separate vehicle and pedestrian entrances, access routes, and exit points to keep people and site traffic apart. Provide clear and crossing places at all times.
2. Keep Plant Away from Hazards
It’s not just pedestrians that machine and vehicle operators on your site need to be aware of. While you should ensure that your traffic plan allows for good and level routes for smooth traffic on the site, construction sites don’t have the luxury of a finished pavement or traffic route until the last phases of the project. Excavations, unstable or uneven ground can create a hazard of overturning vehicles.
And that’s not the only problem; many dangers on a construction site can create significant headaches for plants and machinery. Overhead cables, watercourses, services, temporary works and facilities, waste materials— did we mention that construction job sites are busy places? When envisioning your vehicle access routes, avert obstacles such as excavations, overhead cables, structures, uneven ground, and watercourses.
3. Minimize Movements
While construction site traffic is usually unavoidable, it should be reduced whenever possible. Do workers and vehicles always need to be on the site at the same time? Probably no. Would plan the construction site layout so that the warehouse is close to the entrance help reduce the traffic crossing the site? Probably yes.
Any vehicle on-site should learn to maneuver as little as possible. Vehicle reversing is frequently where fatal accidents and visibility issues can occur in job sites, so incorporating one-way systems and planning to turn rotundas to avoid reversing can be a helpful way to improve safety. Keep the parking lot, and where possible, deliveries take place away from the work area.
4. Visibility is Critical
Remember all those construction job site obstacles we discussed above? Pedestrians, excavations, uneven ground, other plant and machinery, other watercourses, and materials? We need to be able to SEE them. Good visibility is critical for safe traffic movement on a construction site.
Mirrors, alarms cameras, and banksmen can all help with maneuvering and moving on the site. People on your site should wear high-visibility clothing and PPE. Additional lighting may also be needed, especially at night.
5. Take it Slowly But Surely
The faster vehicles and plants are moving, the l time operators have to react, and the fewer risks pedestrians have of getting out the way. While keeping construction traffic and pedestrians separate should be a top priority, there will still be unavoidable crossing points and areas where vehicles and people need to come into contact.
Assess your construction site layout and decide on a reasonable speed limit that will be strictly implemented. Use inductions and signages to communicate the speed limit at all times, which should also be enforced and monitored.
6. Hire Experienced Drivers and Operators
All plant operators need to be competent and fit. Accidents might occur when inexperienced people try to operate vehicles without the proper training or knowledge. The authority to operate machinery and vehicles on site should only be given when competence has been verified and proper training has been provided.
Also, it’s not just the vehicle drivers and machinery operators on the site that need to be trained. Those that are directing and assisting movements, such as signalers and banksmen (aka traffic marshals), must also be competent for the job. Every single worker on your site needs to be aware of the possible dangers that can happen.
7. Communicate With Your Team
You have a speed limit, have access routes, and you have a plan of action. Ensure that everyone on the constructions site knows about it! Both pedestrians and drivers should understand the site rules and the traffic plan.
Toolbox talks, Inductions, and safety briefings can be used as instruments to communicate your traffic rules. You can also incorporate road and speed limit signs, speed checks, and traffic light systems around the site to remind and show obvious instructions.
8. Always Be Prepared for Change
On construction sites, because of the nature of the work, the site layout is more likely to change and evolve throughout the different phases and developments in the project. Failing to keep your traffic management plan in check or not having one in place at all could lead to hazardous situations involving plant and vehicles on site.
Don’t forget to keep your traffic management arrangements updated as the site plan layout changes throughout the project.
9. Keep Calendar and Schedules Clear
Keep your access routes clear and free of obstruction to prevent drivers and operators from looking for an alternative way around.
One way to streamline this process is by using construction scheduling software, such as Pro Crew Schedule, that allows you to plan and schedule vehicle movements and deliveries so they can be managed safely. The fewer vehicles are on-site at once, the less crowded and safer the construction site will be.
10. Regularly Inspect
All plant and vehicles on-site need to be safe. Built-in on-site controls such as guards and alarm systems need to work to be effective for everyone. There are legal requirements provided to maintain construction equipment and in good condition, and it’s crucial for the safe operation and movement of vehicles on site.