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June 7, 2000

Updated safety rules improve safety for highway flaggers

TUMWATER - As directed by the state Legislature, the Department of Labor & Industries has updated safety rules protecting traffic control flaggers from hazards at construction sites.

The updated requirements were contained in the "Kim Vendl" bill, named for the 45-year-old Marysville woman who was struck from behind and killed while flagging at a construction project in Mill Creek last October.

The new rules, which took effect in late May, were adopted under emergency authority. Permanent rules must be adopted by March 1, 2001, according to the legislative bill.

The emergency rules were adopted with the assistance of the state Traffic Control Oversight Committee, the state Utilities and Transportation Commission as well as workers, employers, contractors and representatives from city government and other interested parties. The new regulation contains several new requirements intended to protect flaggers from roadside hazards.

A significant new requirement is that employers must prevent flaggers from being struck from behind. Although the emergency rule suggests some methods that employers may use to meet this requirement, employers will have discretion in determining how best to comply. Possible solutions include the use of mirrors or motion detectors.

Other new provisions include:

  • On-site orientation - The employer must conduct an on-site orientation when flaggers start a new job.
  • Additional warning sign - On roads allowing speeds in excess of 45 miles per hour, the employer must provide an additional warning sign marked "Be Prepared to Stop" or "Flagger Ahead." (This is in addition to advanced warning required by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices.)
  • Highly visible clothing during daylight hours - While flagging during the day, a flagger must wear high-visibility warning garments in accordance with nationally recognized standards, and a high-visibility hard hat.
  • Highly visible clothing during nighttime hours - While flagging at night, a flagger must wear a high-visibility warning garment in accordance with national standards over white coveralls or other coveralls or trousers designed in accordance with nationally recognized standards. In addition, a high-visibility hard hat that is iridescent or marked with reflectorized material must be worn. (During inclement weather, yellow rain gear may be substituted for white coveralls.)

Employers also must ensure that:

  • Flagger workstations are illuminated at night.
  • Warning signs reflect the actual condition of the work zone.
  • Flaggers are not assigned other duties while flagging.
  • Flaggers do not use devices (for instance, cell phones, pagers, radio headphones, etc.) that can distract their attention, vision or hearing. Devices such as two-way radios used by flaggers for communication, directing or ensuring flagger safety are acceptable.

A PowerPoint presentation giving an overview of the rule can be viewed on the WISHA (Washington Industrial Safety and Health Act) web site at http:/www.lni.wa.gov/wisha/

Employers with questions about the new requirements and flagger safety can contact local L&I service centers for information. Ask to speak with someone in WISHA consultation services. The telephone numbers of L&I service centers are listed in the government pages of local telephone directories under Washington, State of.

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