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Flaggers at high risk for roadway injury, death

Controlling traffic flow in work zones can be a dangerous occupation. Flaggers in New Jersey should know that there were 132 people who died in roadway work zones in 2017. They were all killed in car crashes, usually involving a driver who was speeding or being aggressive.

The Center for Construction Research and Training has provided some tips for flaggers so that they can remain safe in these zones. First of all, flaggers should wear high-visibility clothing. To protect themselves from adverse weather, they should wear long-sleeved shirts, long pants and hard hats, among other things. When working at night, it's wise to wear a reflective vest.

Flaggers must always be aware of their surroundings and make sure never to stand in a lane that allows traffic through. Neither should they stand where they cannot be seen, such as in a shady spot, around a sharp curve or over the crest of a hill. Turning one's back to traffic and drowning out sounds with earphones are never a good idea.

Flaggers should agree on a set of hand signals for communication with each other, and these signals should be different from traffic signals so as to prevent confusion. They should also adhere to a plan of escape in case of emergencies.

Injured flaggers may be able to file a workers' compensation claim like any other injured employee, provided that the employer has workers' comp insurance. If the employer does not oppose the claim, victims can receive wage replacement and be covered for medical expenses and, if applicable, short- or long-term disability leave. Still, the fact that victims may be denied workers' comp benefits may persuade some to hire an attorney for the filing process. An attorney might even assist those who opt for a settlement.

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