How Internal Traffic Control Plans Help Save Lives

These 2018 highway work zone fatalities occurred within less than two months of each other:

• A 68-year-old roller machine operator at a Tampa, Florida, highway construction project died in mid-September when his equipment toppled on a dirt embankment and trapped him underneath.

• In late October, a 43-year-old worker was killed on I-64 in Virginia Beach, Virginia, when he fell from the cargo area of a truck as he collected safety cones and it backed over him.

• A 32-year-old highway worker was killed in early November on US 31 near Indianapolis, Indiana, when the driver of a big rig didn’t see the arrow boards indicating merging traffic and rear-ended a parked construction vehicle, driving it into the worker.

Sadly, there are far too many other examples.

Each year, 50 to 60 highway construction workers are killed, and thousands more are injured, when struck by vehicles or equipment, according to U.S. Department of Labor data. These incidents are caused when inattentive, reckless, or impaired motorists intrude into the work zone, or when construction equipment and vehicle operators mishandle machinery or fail to notice their fellow workers within the site, as in the examples above.

Construction contractors and transportation agencies face the twin challenges of providing a safe workplace for their employees while also protecting the public as it travels through the work zones. The challenge is even more daunting because highway, street, and bridge construction projects are complex environments that are always changing.


Internal Traffic Control Plan
To reduce risk, an Internal Traffic Control Plan (ITCP) coordinates construction traffic inside the work zone. The purpose of the ITCP is to separate—to the extent possible—construction vehicles and equipment from workers on foot. An ITCP coordinates the movement of workers, vehicles, and other construction equipment; informs all parties operating within the work area about the locations of others; and helps to minimize backing and other maneuvering by large trucks in the activity area.

The movement of workers, vehicles, and equipment within the work space should be planned much like the way that signs, pavement markings, cones, and barrels guide road users through the work zone traffic space. Traffic control devices and ITCPs are similar in that they both:

• provide clear direction about the proper travel path to follow;
• separate moving vehicles from workers on foot;
• use temporary traffic control (TTC) devices to mark traffic path; and
• maintain a smooth traffic flow.

ITCPs help accomplish these functions by:
• designating safe areas for workers and appropriate routes for work vehicles and equipment;
• establishing “no go” zones for workers as well as for work vehicles and equipment; and
• defining specific operating procedures for trucks delivering materials in the work area.


How ITCPs Work

In simple terms, ITCPs are a protocol to inform all parties operating within the work space about the location of others. ITCPs create “zones” designed to minimize interaction between workers on foot and construction vehicles by designating routes and operating procedures for large trucks delivering materials.

An effective plan enables communication among all work zone parties prior to arrival at the construction site, making sure all parties know the location of access points and the proper path for truck and equipment movement, including pickup trucks and other work vehicles.

The movement of workers and equipment within the work space should be planned with a focus on keeping workers on foot from being struck by construction equipment and large trucks.

The ITCP is implemented during the construction phase and is part of the project’s safety plan. It should be reviewed and modified daily before the beginning of each shift, and as conditions change. The site supervisor or foreman should develop and oversee implementation of the plan.

Because workers on foot often must work close to large vehicles and equipment, the movements of workers, equipment, and vehicles must be well coordinated. Blind spots compound the hazard of working close to equipment and vehicles. A blind spot (or blind area) is the area around a vehicle or equipment that is not visible to the operator, either by direct line-of-sight or indirectly by use of internal and external mirrors. Each vehicle has its own unique blind spots. Workers on foot are virtually invisible to the operator in a cab if they are in a blind spot.


Implementing the ITCP

While some ITCPs can be informal and quickly implemented as part of the daily work shift safety briefing, others may need to be more extensive and involve several hours of staff time to develop and implement.

The method of informing workers should be covered in a communications plan. The level of detail included in an ITCP should be consistent with the size of the project and the number and frequency of worker safety risks. For example, items that may be included in the ITCP notes and diagrams for a more complex jobsite include:

• contact information for the general contractor and all subcontractors;
• designated worker and visitor parking areas;
• procedures for orienting independent truck drivers to the activity area/work space and ITCP;
• delineated areas around specific equipment and operations where workers on foot are prohibited;
• designated locations for storing materials and servicing equipment;
• schematic diagrams depicting the movement of workers on foot, work vehicles, and equipment within the activity area;
• descriptions of internal signs and other internal traffic control devices that will be used;
• speed limit for operating vehicles and equipment within the activity area;
• specifications for any lighting that will be required in the activity area;
• description or drawing of how the ITCP relates to the TTC plan;
• a training plan about the ITCP for all site personnel; and
• an operations communications plan including how the ITCP will be monitored and enforced.

Well planned and coordinated ITCPs not only make jobsites much safer for workers on foot, but also increase efficiency. Deliveries , equipment movements, and worker paths are coordinated and executed so the project runs smoothly and efficiently.

Most importantly, ITCPs save lives.

Brad Sant is senior vice president of education and safety at ARTBA.

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