Traffic Control (Flagger)

Learning objectives

  • Identify a flagger’s responsibilities, rules, duties, clothing regulations, and equipment
  • Identify the channeling devices such as barriers, signs, and warning lights you will use in a temporary traffic control zone
  • Recognize where to position yourself for optimum safety, how to prepare for and respond to hazards, how to judge traffic speed and congestion, and how to stop, slow, or allow traffic to proceed appropriately
  • State common methods to communicate and coordinate with other flaggers and the public
  • Recognize how advance warning signs should be set up in different environments
  • Recognize taper length formulas for roads with speeds of 45 MPH (72.4 KPH) and higher and roads with speeds of 40 MPH (64.4 KPH) and lower

Course overview

While some might call it a simple job, a flagger’s responsibilities involve much more than just holding signs. Flaggers are responsible for ensuring public safety by properly regulating traffic at road construction projects. This work can be stressful and change frequently.

To be a flagger, workers should be able to satisfactorily demonstrate the ability to:

  • Receive and communicate specific instructions clearly, firmly, and courteously.
  • Move and maneuver quickly in order to avoid danger from errant vehicles.
  • Control signaling devices (such as paddles and flags) in order to provide clear and positive guidance to drivers approaching a temporary traffic control (TTC) zone.
  • Recognize dangerous traffic situations and warn workers with sufficient time to avoid injury.

General Flagger Clothing

  • Work boots
  • Shirts with sleeves
  • Long pants
  • Sun protection (such as sunglasses and sunscreen)

Company Supplied Protective Equipment

  • Retro-reflective red-orange/yellow-green warning garment.
  • Hard hats, white overalls, and reflective gloves at night (if required by state standards).

To reduce the risk of accidents, it is crucial you are visible to oncoming traffic and that you stay out of the way of construction workers. Flaggers should not allow motorists or other workers to congregate around, and should not sit, lean, or lie on or in a vehicle—these actions decrease the visibility of road workers.

Positioning Yourself for Maximum Visibility

  • Flagger stations are set up based on the speed of traffic and other factors affecting the visibility of the flagger.
  • Stand on the shoulder of the road or in the closed lane prior to stopping traffic.
  • Stand where there is a color contrast between you and your background.
  • Stand alone, without others congregating around the flagger station.
  • Follow any additional precautions determined by a competent person designated by the employer.

Ensuring Your Safety

  • Always post proper advance warning signs ahead of you before taking your post at the flagger station.
  • Keep the workspace clear.
  • Store personal belongings away from the work area.
  • Eliminate distractions such as chairs or stereos in the work area.

An overlooked concern for flaggers is that once workers report to each station, they will not be able to leave until properly relieved at set break times. So flaggers need to make sure all questions are answered before taking a post, and that basics, like water, are there.

Before a flagger leaves for a break or at the end of each workday, they must be sure they are properly relieved of their important duty. If no other flagger will be relieving, workers must be sure to cover, turn, or remove the "Flagger Ahead" signs.

If a vehicle failed to stop, drop your stop/slow paddle and get out of the way. Blow your whistle or somehow alert others. In most places, a series of short whistle blasts is the way to do this. Keep off the roadway until you get the traffic stopped.

Since being able to judge the speed, volume, and stopping distances of traffic in a variety of situations is so important, some methods have been developed to help you with these tasks. The first method for spacing the flow of traffic is the Two Second Rule. If this rule is followed, cars will have enough distance between them to safely stop if needed. The Two Second Rule is a general guideline for the average sedan in good driving conditions. Here’s how it works.

Choose a marker, such as a pole, fence post, or particular barrier. When the rear bumper of a car passes the marker, begin counting to yourself. If the front bumper of the next car reaches the marker before you are done counting, the cars are too close together and need to be slowed down.

  • 45 minutes
  • Format: Online Interactive
  • English , Spanish
Course Outline
  • General Guidelines
  • Barriers, Signs, and Lights
  • Regulating Traffic
  • Flagger Communication
  • Setting Up - Placing Signs
  • Setting Up - Tapering
  • Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. 2009 Edition, Including Revision 1 and 2, dated May 2012, Part 6
  • 29 CFR Subpart G - Signs, Signals, and Barricades - 1926.201 Signaling
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