Staying Safe On The Road

A Guide For Roadside & Recovery Professionals

Every day, over 3,000 highway workers across our region are out there, tackling breakdowns, assisting stranded motorists, and ensuring a smooth flow of traffic. It's important to remember that behind these impressive numbers are real people.

In this guide, as ambassadors of roadside safety, we discuss tips to empower our roadside heroes to get the job done safely and efficiently, ensuring they can return home safely at the end of each day.

We identify the key hazards facing roadside & recovery professionals today, before discussing how the risks posed can best be managed.

Hazards When Working By The Roadside

Recovery work faces constant threats: speeding vehicles, unpredictable drivers, and even the environment. Poor visibility (especially at night) and extreme weather raise the risk of falls and heatstroke. Uneven terrain and potential spills add to the dangers. Knowing these hazards is vital for a safe return home.

We break down hazards faced into 3 main categories.

The three key hazard types roadside and recovery professionals need to be aware of are: 

  • Traffic-related hazards
  • Environmental hazards
  • Worksite hazards

 

Traffic Hazards

Roadside professionals need to be aware of other vehicles that may strike them. The constant presence of cars, trucks, and motorcycles creates a risk of being struck, especially when roadside workers are working close to traffic lanes.

This issue is particularly amplified with larger  vehicles like trucks and trailers have significant blind spots. Roadside workers need to be aware of these blind spots and avoid positioning themselves where they could be unseen.

Roadside professionals also need to acknowledge that drivers may be unpredictable, and may be distracted, whether that be speeding, or distracted by phones. 

Environmental Hazards

Fog, a frequent visitor to UK roads, significantly reduces visibility. Heavy rain, snow showers, and dust storms can create similar white-out conditions, making roadside workers nearly invisible to drivers, especially during the shorter winter daylight hours. High-visibility clothing and reflective gear are crucial for mitigating this risk.

Roads can sometimes contain uneven surfaces, potholes, and drop-offs on road shoulders. These can create additional tripping hazards, especially when combined with poor visibility or loose gravel. 

Worksite hazards

The seemingly simple roadside environment can mask a multitude of worksite hazards.

Improper lifting techniques used to maneuver car parts, tires, or tow equipment can lead to serious back injuries, muscle strains, or even hernias. Roadside professionals must be trained in safe lifting practices and utilize equipment whenever possible to minimize strain.

Electrical hazards lurk even in seemingly routine tasks. Jump-starting a car requires proper training and the use of insulated gloves and tools to avoid potential shocks or burns.

 

Similarly, exposure to fumes and dust from vehicle exhaust and roadside debris can irritate the respiratory system. Wearing appropriate respiratory protection like masks is essential to maintain good lung health.

 

Beyond physical dangers, roadside professionals can also face unpredictable human behavior. Aggressive or irate drivers are a potential threat. De-escalation techniques and clear communication are crucial for diffusing these situations. However, knowing when to disengage and seek assistance from emergency services is equally important to ensure personal safety.

 

Falling objects pose another significant risk. Loose cargo from passing vehicles or unsecured items on recovery vehicles can cause serious injuries. Following proper cargo securement procedures and maintaining a safe distance from moving vehicles are essential for mitigating this danger.

Delegates undergoing Roadside & Recovery Training with AWARE Series By Network Training Partnership

Managing Roadside Hazards

Having discussed the range of hazards roadside and recovery workers face, we now discuss best practices to manage and mitigate them, to help ensure each and every professional can return home safely.

Best Practices to Manage Traffic Hazards

The constant presence of moving vehicles poses a significant threat to roadside and recovery professionals. Here's how they can tackle these hazards:

Maintaining Situational Awareness

Roadside workers must be constantly vigilant of their surroundings. This includes monitoring traffic flow, vehicle movements, and the actions of colleagues. Regular head-checks and utilizing mirrors are crucial to stay aware of approaching vehicles, especially larger ones with extensive blind spots.

High Visibility and Work Zone Protection

Wearing high-visibility clothing and reflective gear ensures workers are clearly visible to drivers, even during low-light conditions. Additionally, setting up appropriate traffic control measures like cones, signs, and flashing lights creates a designated work zone, alerting drivers and directing traffic flow to minimize interaction with the work area.

Predicting the Unpredictable

Unfortunately, not all drivers are attentive. Roadside professionals need to assume that some drivers may be speeding, distracted by phones, or under the influence. This means maintaining a safe distance from traffic lanes whenever possible, avoiding sudden movements that could startle drivers, and being prepared to react quickly to unexpected maneuvers. By anticipating unpredictable behavior, workers can significantly reduce the risk of accidents. 

Best Practices To Manage Environmental Hazards 

UK roads present a unique challenge for roadside recovery due to the ever-changing weather. Fog, rain, and dust storms can all drastically reduce visibility, making high-visibility clothing and reflective gear, along with worksite lighting for night hours, crucial for worker safety.

Additionally, clear communication with approaching drivers, whether through hand signals or radios, is essential in these low-visibility situations. Uneven surfaces, potholes, and drop-offs on road shoulders further complicate matters. Here, proper work boots with good tread and the use of headlamps for improved visibility are vital.

Ultimately, by being mindful of their footing and avoiding unnecessary risks when navigating uneven terrain, roadside professionals can effectively tackle the environmental challenges thrown their way.

Best Practices To Manage Worksite Hazards 

There are 2 key approaches roadside professionals can use to manage worksite hazards.

Firstly, following safe working procedures when working with vehicles by the roadside. And secondly, wearing personal protective equipment (PPE) as a last line of defence to potential worksite hazards. 

Implementing Safe Working Procedures

To ensure a safe work environment, roadside professionals adhere to a set of critical safe work procedures. Pre-work inspections are paramount. Examining tools and equipment for damage before use identifies potential hazards and minimizes the risk of malfunctions or accidents.

Enhanced lockout/tagout procedures go beyond simply isolating equipment. Verifying the isolation point and testing it before commencing work ensures accidental start-up is prevented. When dealing with live electrical systems, only qualified personnel following strict safety protocols and using appropriate insulated tools should perform the work.

For everyday tasks, safe lifting techniques are crucial. This includes proper form when lifting objects and utilizing lifting equipment whenever possible to minimize the risk of back injuries. Finally, roadside professionals play a vital role in environmental protection.

Following proper procedures for collecting, transporting, and disposing of hazardous materials like used oil, batteries, or spilled chemicals prevents both environmental contamination and worker exposure. These safe work procedures are the cornerstone of a safe and healthy work environment for roadside professionals.

Importance of PPE

To create a barrier between themselves and potential hazards, roadside professionals should use a suite of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). Safety glasses or goggles shield their eyes from flying debris, sparks, or dust that could be kicked up during repairs, from passing vehicles, or even from strong winds. Constant exposure to loud engine noise or construction equipment can damage hearing, so earplugs or earmuffs are crucial for protecting this vital sense.

Depending on the task at hand, work gloves come into play. These can protect hands from cuts, abrasions, or chemical exposure when handling tools, materials, or car fluids. Finally, for situations where roadside workers encounter exhaust fumes, dust, or hazardous materials, a respirator becomes essential to prevent the inhalation of harmful substances.

By using the appropriate PPE for each situation, roadside professionals can significantly reduce their risk of injuries and illnesses.

Equipping yourself with the right knowledge is paramount for navigating the complexities of roadside recovery.

The AWARE Series offers comprehensive roadside and recovery training programs designed and delivered by industry experts, putting you in control of your safety. Through hands-on demonstrations and simulated test scenarios, you'll gain the practical skills and ingrained knowledge to tackle both traffic hazards and worksite dangers with confidence. 

View our roadside and recovery training course offerings by clicking here.

Benefits of completing Roadside & Recovery Training with Network Training Partnership
 

EXPERT-LED TRAINING: All our Roadside & Recovery trainers are IMI-accredited, ensuring the highest quality instruction.

✓ COURSE FLEXIBILITY: We offer flexible training options, including weekends and on-site delivery at your workshop, to minimize impact on your operations

TAILORED SOLUTIONS: Need a specific training program? No problem! We can customize roadside and recovery training courses to meet your unique needs.

LEVEL UP YOUR TEAM: Our course portfolio caters to all skill levels, from beginner-friendly courses for new roadside and recovery professionals, to advanced courses certified to IMI at Level 3 for seasoned professionals, looking to accelerate their careeer

Gary Tucker, Managing Director of Network Training Partnership

Awarded the 'Outstanding Contribution to the Motor Industry' by the Institute of the Motor Industry at their 2020 Centenary Awards and a finalist in the Talent in Logistics Industry Ambassador Awards 2020.

A dynamic, entrepreneurial personality and strategic leader with a proactive attitude and history of proven success within the Military and Commercial sectors. Can be relied upon to always produce outstanding results in exceptionally high-pressure situations.