Flagging Traffic

Do you feel that the motoring public is out to get you? That if you don’t hop out of the way quickly enough, they will run you down? It is probably because many drivers take the attitude that we should see them and keep out of their path, just one of the hazards of flagging traffic. When f lagging traffic, we want to do everything we can to prevent an accident. Because when an accident occurs, everyone suffers: the motorist, our Company, and us. An accident can mean damaged vehicles and equipment, personal injury, and fatalities.



Signs normally do a good job of giving messages or direction. But they have one disadvantage. They can’t think. And if a situation changes suddenly, our signs can’t automatically adjust. That is where we come in. A flag person is used where conditions are constantly changing and traffic instructions must change, too. For traffic control to be effective, the job has to beset up properly. We put out the necessary signs in advance to warn motorists they are entering a construction area, and to let them know that a flag person will be giving directions.



Motorists will be looking for the promised flag person, and should be able to spot you quickly. That is one reason you wear a fluorescent vest. So you will stand out. But let’s not defeat its purpose. Don’t let a bunch of other employees gather around you, so that you can’t be seen at all. Or what do you suppose motorists think when they come upon a whole group of us waving our arms, all of us directing various pieces of construction equipment and no one directing the driver? Sometimes motorists find two persons giving them conflicting directions. We can avoid such situations by following these few basic rules:

  1. As a flag person, you should understand what our operation involves, so that you know what to anticipate when directing traffic.
  2. You should be properly dressed and neat in appearance. Foot wear is important. Remember that pavement can get mighty hot or cold, depending on the weather. Sturdy shoes or boots are advisable.
  3. Depending on state requirements, paddles or flags of the correct size must be used. Flags should be at least 24″ square.
  4. There is only one right way to signal traffic, while there are many wrong ways. We all should be using one standardized set of signals.
  5. Only designated flag persons should be directing traffic, except in emergency situations. These individuals must be alert to traffic conditions and the construction operations at all times.
  6. Never turn your back on traffic. Many a flag person has been knocked for a loop.
  7. Flag persons should be firm but courteous with the public at all times. The general public could well form an opinion of the construction industry as a whole by the impression they receive from you.


Always remember that it’s the public’s high-way, not the Company’s. So, we do want to be courteous. But at the same time, we want to make sure that an accident doesn’t happen. We may have to be especially firm with some motorists to keep them from hurting themselves or others. Being a flag person is a very important job, because you have the responsibility of protecting the public, your fellow workers, and yourself.



Heavy Construction/ Flaggers

A flagger is a person who provides temporary traffic control when permanent traffic controls (signs, signals, and barricades) do not provide the necessary protection for operations on highways or streets. Because flaggers are responsible for public safety and make more public contacts than any other highway worker, they should meet the following minimum qualifications:

  • Sense of responsibility for safety of public and workers
  • Adequately trained in safe traffic control practices
  • Average or higher intelligence
  • Good physical condition, including sight and hearing
  • Mental alertness and ability to react in an emergency
  • Courteous but a firm manner
  • Neat appearance.

Flaggers must use red flags (at least 18 inches square) or sign paddles, and in periods of darkness, red lights. In addition to signals, flaggers must be provided with and wear red or orange warning clothing while flagging. Warning clothes worn at night must be reflectorized material.


Traffic Control – Take Care

Even when all traffic control measures are taken, a confused or unaware driver can crash through a work site, or a daydreaming worker can step into the path of a speeding vehicle. Some drivers take reckless chances by running stop signs or changing lanes without signaling. These unsafe acts jeopardize other drivers who may lose control of their vehicle while avoiding a collision. We must all prepare for the unexpected on the road, both during and after work hours. When our worksite involves moving traffic, safety awareness should be at its peak, to protect both the public and the crew. Let’s all follow these safety procedures:


Planning: All traffic control must be carefully planned and approved by governing authorities before work begins. The person responsible for this planning should drive through the traffic pattern before any work starts to insure that the public will understand how to control their vehicles appropriately. If there is any possibility of driver confusion in the pattern, change it.


Signage: The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices and local or state regulations should be followed for proper signage and barricading. Place initial warning signs a minimum of 1,000 feet from traffic revisions. All signs and related equipment should be in good condition and highly visible. In some cases, independent traffic safety contractors handle warning signs and barricades.


Barricades: Devices which guide traffic such as cones, barrels, etc., should be highly visible and spaced relatively close together, so drivers will not deviate from an assigned traffic flow. All such barriers should be made of material that will cause little or no damage if a vehicle contacts it.


Safety Gear: All employees should wear hard hats and must wear high-visibility orange or day-glow vests. When working at night, the vest should have light-reflective strips.


Flaggers: Roadside construction sites must have at least one individual assigned to traffic control. A highly visible sign paddle should be used during daylight hours. It should be octagonal in shape, at least 18 inches across, and have letters at least six inches high that say STOP on one side and SLOW on the other. Flaggers should have two-way radios. When flaggers are present, a sign indicating this must be placed a minimum of 500 feet from the beginning of the detour.


Vehicles: All construction vehicles should be equipped with backing alarms, two-way radios, and Slow Moving Vehicle signs when appropriate. Ideally, they should be painted a highly visible color and many jurisdictions also require flashing yellow beacons. All operators must be qualified and trained to operate the equipment they are using. If a vehicle will be parked along-side the road, orange safety cones should be placed around it to alert drivers.


Night Work: If work is done at night, the entire site must be illuminated. Increase warning distances in areas of fast-moving traffic as light fails. Flaggers should have orange-cone flashlights and barricades should be equipped with flashing lights. Any excavations or utility accesses should be taped off and barricaded with flashing warning lights.


Training: All company employees and subcontractors involved in the project must receive an initial safety orientation, informing them of the potential hazards of the project, including traffic safety. Changes or unusual conditions should be communicated to workers immediately. Above all, keep your brain turned on and stay alert–don’t get hurt!