News | April 16, 2001

Excellent workzone safety tips come from Iowa DOT engineer

Editor's note: Although the contest for the best workzone safety tip is over, we are still getting some excellent suggestions in. The following is one of them that deserves special attention.

"After a crash, motorists often say they never saw any work zone signs warning them of the zone," says Steve J. Gent, P.E., traffic and safety engineer, Iowa Department of Transportation. "Some of our shops have placed a single orange cone next to the sign, on the shoulder. A cone gets people's attention as it indicates a lane shift."

Gent's suggestions were among a number of workzone safety tips that have come in for the Workzone Safety Tip Contest that Public Works Online sponsored to celebrate Workzone Safety Week last week.

"Moving work zones can be hazardous because they have fewer advance warning devices and no buffer space for errant vehicles," Gent continues. "We use impact attenuators on our trucks and these have saved many lives-both DOT and motorists. However, on high-speed roadways, drivers do not perceive our truck (that is in an open lane) as ‘stopped' or ‘moving slow' because it goes against all driving assumptions/paradigms. A few shops have begun putting orange traffic cones on the impact attenuators to give the drivers the perception that the truck is not moving...again because cones indicate to a driver that a lane shift is ahead.

Orange safety fence on back of snow plows
"And finally, we are evaluating using orange safety fence attached to the back of snow plows. The reason is we have dozens of snow plow crashes because people drive into the back of our plows. They say they didn't realize how slow the plow was going or that they could not see it because of blowing snow and that the snow had stuck to the back of the truck. The plastic fence has three reflectorized stipes on it. As the truck drives down the road, the fence ‘flaps' in the wind which keeps the fence visible, provides movement for the motorist to see, and provides retroreflection for the motorists to see if during the night.

Edited by Joyce Everhart
Content Manager, Public Works Online

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