Working Near Roadways

Safety considerations associated with handheld landscaping equipment are numerous, including personal protective equipment, ergonomics, electrical safety, fuel-handling safety, proper equipment guarding and maintenance, correct application and workers’ awareness of their surroundings.

Failure to operate equipment safety can result in cuts, lacerations and punctures which OSHA sites as the second leading injury type in the landscape and horticultural industry. Proper safety training is necessary to reduce the risk of injury.

The checklist, dos and don’ts and resources below can help managers and crew members significantly reduce injury risks.

Checklist for Supervisors

  • Conduct safety meetings daily and as needed. At every jobsite near a roadway, require a crew leader to conduct a safety session before work begins. Do this every day and whenever hazards or conditions change. In subsequent meetings, the crew leader could point out previous safety mistakes and successes.

  • Ensure crew members where the right PPE. Provide flaggers and crew members working near roadways with, and make sure they wear: high-visibility safety apparel; hard hats; safety glasses; and other necessary personal protective equipment.

  • Follow federal, state and local regulations. Your company is required to follow federal OSHA standards for signs, signals and barricades and the Federal Highway Administration Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), along with any state and local regulations.

  • Create a traffic-control plan. This is required when crew members will be working in or alongside roadways.
    • The plan should include a strategy for alerting motorists to the presence of workers (use cones, signs, possibly flaggers, etc.). Evaluate the situation from the perspective of drivers, cyclists and pedestrians and take necessary precautions. For instance, if there is a blind corner or curve, place a sign or flagger in advance of it. Also ask yourself: At what time of day will the work start and end? How might timing affect traffic patterns? Will the sun be in drivers’ eyes? Do cones force drivers into unsafe lane changes?

    • You might need to obtain a permit. Check with appropriate city/county/state/federal agencies and follow all applicable regulations.

  • Ensure all traffic-control devices and your traffic-control plan comply with the MUTCD. Per U.S. Department of Transportation regulations, the MUTCD is the national standard for all traffic-control devices on streets, highways and bicycle trails. State DOTs also adopt the manual as their standards. Federal OSHA’s construction-industry safety standards (which often apply to the landscape industry) require that traffic-control signs, signals, barricades or devices protecting workers conform to Part 6 of the MUTCD, which covers temporary traffic control. All aspects of your traffic-control plan and traffic-control zone must adhere to Part 6 of the manual as well. See the most recent edition of the manual at

  • Choose the proper temporary-traffic-control devices for each situation. There is not a “one-size-fits-all” option. Some areas require barricades while orange cones could work in others. Make sure the devices and the methods in which you use them convey clear, concise messages.

  • Use appropriately trained flaggers when needed. Many states require traffic flaggers to be certified and/or trained. See for your state’s requirements.

  • Know the four segments of temporary-traffic-control zones:
    • The advance-warning area (used to inform road users about upcoming hazards such as worker presence)

    • The transition area (where road users transition to a path different from normally set patterns)

    • The activity area (where work is completed or an obstacle is located)

    • The termination area (where traffic patterns transition back to normally designated paths)

Employee Dos and Dont's


  • Wear the PPE your company provides. When you work near roadways, this should include a hard hat, eye protection and a high-visibility, reflective vest made of fluorescent orange, yellow or yellow-green material. Hearing protection and other PPE could be required, depending on your work tasks.

  • Understand and follow your employer’s policies regarding working near roadways. This should be part of your training. Ask a supervisor or crew leader if you are uncertain about anything.

  • Learn all the elements of traffic-control plans at jobsites where you work. Follow all related training.

  • Scout the work area for hazards such as slippery slopes and objects that could become projectiles. You should do this before any job, but it’s particularly important when working near roadways since flying debris could strike vehicles and slippery slopes could result in you or the equipment you’re using moving into traffic paths.

  • Know requirements for those working as flaggers. Many states require traffic flaggers to be certified. See for your state ’s requirements.

  • Walk facing oncoming traffic and pay close attention to your work surroundings. Do this when serving as a flagger, setting traffic-control devices and anytime you work near a roadway.

  • Watch for out-of-control vehicles. TDriver inattention is often a cause of accidents.


  • Stand in a roadway if you can complete a task without doing so. When working alongside a road, stay back as far as possible from the roadway’s edge.

  • Turn your back to oncoming traffic. Since equipment noise and the hearing protection you might be wearing could prevent you from hearing approaching vehicles, always face oncoming traffic. If you must stand in the road (to clear leaves, debris, etc.) and vehicles are approaching around a curve or motorists’ visibility is otherwise compromised, have a co-worker stand where he/she can see oncoming traffic and alert you to move.

  • Angle equipment such as line trimmers and lawn mowers so they shoot material toward traffic.

  • Place tools or equipment on the ground near traffic lanes.