Reader Opinion: Wireless Construction and Traffic Control

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This section allows others to contribute their opinions. The content does not necessarily represent the views of, or endorsement by Inside Towers.

In the world of wireless and broadcast construction, lifesaving innovations have changed the way we approach day-to-day life. The advent of the full-body harness and the tower rescue certification process are just two of many developments in the last 30 years that have changed how we do business for the better. Many of us learned very early on in our careers that coming home safely is the main goal of each workday. 

As 5G densification needs continue to evolve, so does our industry. Safety has always been at the pinnacle of conversations among industry leaders, and once again it will become the focus of our contractors, but this time for a different reason all together. Apart from urban rooftop installations over the years, maintaining safety in a roadside work zone has been a rarity in wireless construction. Many of us have built rooftop macro sites that required road closures for crane lifts or man basket access, but it has traditionally been the responsibility of the crane contractor to provide permits and traffic control for this work. 

Now that installations are taking place in the right-of-way, many wireless contractors are having to educate themselves and their crews on proper work zone safety in the public right-of-way (ROW). 

Small cell installations on utility poles and on municipal structures are becoming more and more common across the U.S. Vendors who traditionally perform installations in this space such as fiber/cable TV and power company contractors are very familiar with applying for lane closure permits and producing Engineered Traffic Control Plans. Most wireless carriers are not familiar with the process and they lean on their vendor pool to provide support with the governing jurisdictions to ensure these permits are obtained properly and executed in a lawful manner. 

5 Steps to Executing a Proper Traffic Control Plan: 

  1. Utilize a DOT Certified Agency to prepare your TCP 
  2. Deploy proper equipment placement in the roadway using a DOT Certified Vendor 
  3. Train all employees to understand the risks associated with working in the public ROW 
  4. Provide employees with proper PPE 
  5. Review TCP with all employees on site as part of a well-rounded Job Hazard Analysis 

Now that wireless contractors are moving into the world of small cell installations along America’s roadways, they too will have a need to provide this service and in turn provide a safe work environment for their employees. 

Applying for and establishing a Traffic Control Permit (TCP) does not ensure the safety of the workers. Each jobsite must maintain a strict adherence to the TCP and each employee must be trained and made aware of the hazards faced when working in an area exposed to moving vehicular traffic. All employees in an active work zone should wear proper PPE which should consist of a hard hat and a reflective vest/shirt. Employees must be aware of the direction of travel for vehicles in the area and must always maintain spatial awareness. It is also important to understand where traffic cones and other similar channelizing devices are placed in the roadway and how to utilize barriers to protect themselves and the public from all hazards. 

Traffic control is not as simple as placing a cone in front of and behind your work truck. It is carefully thought out and engineered to provide proper stopping distance depending upon the posted speed limit. It is designed to both protect the worker and the driver by providing as much advance notice as possible for lane shifts and closures. Flaggers are often utilized to increase the efficiency of the work zone by allowing traffic to move freely in one direction at a time. 

Many times, advanced traffic control measures are utilized in certain areas where the speed limit exceeds 35 mph. Arrow boards or message boards are deployed to signal drivers of an impending hazard often hundreds of feet before the work zone. In areas where the speed limit exceeds 55 miles per hour, many jurisdictions require crash barrier trucks which are equipped with special impact absorbing equipment. 

Traffic control is not only about vehicular traffic, but also about foot traffic on sidewalks. Most jurisdictions require sidewalk access to be closed and a safe alternative to be provided for pedestrians in the work zone. We use channelizing devices and barriers like the ones used in the roadway to reroute foot traffic as well. 

All these measures must be considered when working in the right-of-way on a small cell installation. Most wireless contractors will pursue an outside authority to request, design, and implement their traffic control plan, which must be certified by the Local or State DOT. It is important to remember that just implementing a TCP is not all we must be aware of. 

We must also understand that other hazards exist including operations of a bucket truck in the work zone. Understanding the swing zone of the bucket truck arm and the hazard it presents to passing traffic or fellow workers. Using proper warning lighting for vehicles parked in and around the work zone. Both items, while not specifically a part of the specified traffic control plan, contribute directly to the safety of passing motorists, which affects the risk for employees in the work zone. 

While traffic control may be new to many contractors looking to branch out into small cell deployment, it should be treated as top priority in the Job Safety Analysis or Job Hazard Analysis that each crew implements on site. It is also strongly encouraged that contractors seek an understanding of state and local traffic control laws in the area where they are working. An improperly executed traffic control plan can literally mean life or death. For an industry that prides itself for its safety innovation, this one is a no-brainer.

Corey Manus is a member of the NATE Small Cell and DAS Committee and the Program Director for B+T Group in Coppell, Texas. He can be reached at: [email protected]

By Corey Manus, Program Director for B+T Group

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