A driver spun out of control and crashed into a Trench-It Inc. (Union, Illinois) line truck. The lineman inside the truck walked away without an injury, but the accident drove home the importance of work-zone safety.

About one-third of Trench-It's work is on or around a roadway. To protect crews, the utility has implemented a safety program that focuses on five components.

  1. Increase visibility

    Despite a utility's best efforts, some drivers may decide to ignore signs and barricades. For that reason, utilities must do the best job they can to increase the visibility of their workers. Trench-It requires line trucks to have flashing lights in utility work zones, hires off-duty police officers to direct traffic and places trucks with large bumpers in work zones for an added layer of protection.

    Linemen working on roadways must also wear reflective, flame-retardant vests so they can be seen by motorists at night. To protect linemen even further, Trench-It makes it a practice to park an extra vehicle in front of the work zone. In the event of an accident, a driver would hit the vehicle rather than a worker if the vehicle were used as a type of barricade.

  2. Plan ahead

    Each crew has a safe job plan, so when the linemen arrive on the site with cones and barricades, they're not wasting time wondering how to set up a safe work zone. To make it easier for foremen to create a plan of attack, Trench-It equips each line truck with a pressure-sensitive white board that fits on the door. Foremen can visit the site, sketch out a plan for work-zone safety on the board and review the plan with the crew before they start the job. The crew members then sign the job briefing to show that they understand the hazards of working on the roadway.

  3. Equip crews with pocket guides

    To help line crews to properly set up a work zone, Trench-It equips its linemen with pocket reference guides for temporary traffic control. The Underground Contractors Association in Illinois equips Trench-It with booklets for all of its field crew members. If the linemen have any questions about how to set up a work zone, they can pull the booklets out of their pockets for reference.

  4. Offer training sessions

    Trench-It provides training three or four times a year on how to set up a safe work zone. During the four-hour session, linemen learn how to close off lanes, use different control devices and diagram a typical work zone. In addition to attending this detailed class on work-zone safety, employees can sign up for a two-hour flagging course. In that course, they learn how to flag traffic correctly, use the appropriate signaling devices and wear the right personal protective equipment, such as reflective vests. Insurance companies and rental companies have presented these seminars to Trench-It employees.

  5. Film work zones

    Trench-It's auditors have video cameras set up in their vehicles. On a regular basis, they drive through the work areas and videotape how they are set up. Trench-It can use these videos in training sessions or as documentation in the event of an accident. When the camera is mounted near the passenger-side seat and tilted at a right angle, it is possible to see both sides of the road.

With increasing traffic on the roadways of many metropolitan cities, setting up safe work zones has become more important than ever before. By securing work zones, Trench-It safeguards its linemen whether they're up in a bucket truck or on the ground pulling cable across a roadway.

Carl Griffith is the director of safety and quality for Trench-It in Union, Illinois. He has worked in the safety field for the past 40 years and has spent the last eight years with Trench-It. cgriffith@trench-it.com