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Working together for safe road construction

Published 19.5.2022

The summer and the busiest road construction season are approaching. Motorists do not necessarily realise that a road construction site is a workplace. The work carried out at road construction sites is classified as dangerous and traffic is the greatest risk factor facing the construction crews. “Safety at road construction sites is based on legislation. The Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency has good guidelines for the work and there is extensive cooperation between parties in the sector,” explains Risto Lappalainen, Specialist, Occupational Safety at the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency.

A detailed safety plan and, if necessarily, a traffic direction plan are prepared for each road construction site and plans for other types of work may also be drawn up (such as plans for blasting or complex lifting operations).

“The purpose of the safety planning is to eliminate hazards. This work is carried out in cooperation with the client and the builder (the local ELY Centre or the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency). Before the start of the work, the contractor will check the documents to ensure safe work at the site,” Lappalainen adds.

Careful planning can eliminate many of the hazards caused by external factors but risks still remain. “Adhering to traffic rules is particularly important because the construction crews are working close to the traffic.”

Training is also a factor enhancing safety. To qualify as a road construction worker, you must complete the Road Safety 1 and/or 2 course offered by the Finnish Transport Infrastructure Agency free of charge. Last year, 26,000 employees completed course 1 and 2,600 persons course 2. “It might also be a good idea to take the course again to refresh your skills,” Lappalainen says.

Roads are built for all of us

For example, when setting out on a long car journey in summer, you should plan things in advance and take road construction sites into account. “Make sure to check relevant websites and map services in advance and consider alternative routes,” Lappalainen says.

Patience is the key when on the road. “You must always take into account the traffic arrangements and lower speed limits at the site. If the traffic has to be stopped, the delays will usually amount to a few minutes.”

There are many matters enhancing the safety of both the road users and the construction crews. Traffic may be directed by a traffic guard or by traffic lights. You may also have to drive behind an escort vehicle. The speed display at the start of the construction zone shows your speed and flashes a smiling face as a thankyou for driving considerately. Other road users are also taken into account in the planning of safety at road construction sites. “There are separate site plans and traffic direction plans for cyclists and pedestrians.”

A road construction site is a source of stress for motorists

We may become more stressed when noticing something abnormal in traffic. At road construction sites, we have to follow signs, directions and displays and drive between traffic poles. There may be construction crews and mobile machinery slowing down our progress. We may have to drive on a narrow lane on a bridge.

“Make sure to keep safe distance to the vehicle in front of you. Driving more slowly gives you more time to react to unexpected situations,” Lappalainen explains.

Sometimes it seems that there is nothing going on at the site. You may be tempted to press the throttle. “However, you should always adhere to the speed limits. The work may have been halted to allow paving work to proceed, the section in question may not yet have any road markings or edge fillings, or there may be obstacles on the road, such as mobile machinery.”

“A dangerous situation often arises when passing traffic and members of the construction crew are too close to each other or there is speeding at the site,” Lappalainen says. “You can always contact the Road User Line if you have any questions or notice hazards when on the road. Dangers to life or health must be reported to the emergency number 112.”

Smooth and safe mobility

“The purpose of the traffic arrangements at road construction sites is to ensure smooth and safe mobility despite the work. Everybody is doing their best,” Lappalainen notes. “We motorists can show flexibility and slow down.”

Risto has already arranged a number of visits to road construction sites during the summer. “Site safety tours are carried out in good cooperation with the contractors. These tours are good opportunities to learn.”

“I wish all construction crews a safe and successful work season. Make sure to take breaks and stay well-hydrated so that you can better cope with your work. See you at the work sites!”

Tips for road users

  • Make sure that you have rested and are in good spirits before

  • setting out on the journey.

  • Plan you route, check our website for roadworks (the information is in Finnish).

  • If you have to use a diversion, admire the beautiful scenery along the route.

  • When passing a road construction site, remember that everybody will benefit from the work. Next time, the work may already be ready.

  • Keep a safe distance to the vehicle driving in front of you.

  • You can thank the construction crew and the traffic guard by waving at them.

  • Would you like to give feedback? In non-urgent matters, you can contact our feedback channel, in dangerous situations, call the Road User Line, at 0200 2100 (open 24/7).