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Flaggers
  • Flaggers provide temporary traffic control when permanent traffic control is not applicable, but their use should be avoided because of the potential safety risks.
  • Flaggers need to be trained in safe traffic control practices and public contact techniques.
  • Flaggers need to wear high visibility apparel including a flagger vest, jacket, or shirt that is orange, yellow, yellow-green, or a fluorescent version of these colors while flagging.

A flagger is a person who provides temporary traffic control when permanent traffic control is not applicable. Because flagging exposes the flagger to traffic — the number one cause of death for highway construction sites — the use of flaggers is avoided.

Flagger abilities and training

When flaggers are deployed to safely move traffic through work zones, they are responsible for public safety and make the greatest number of contacts with the public of all highway workers. For these reasons they should be trained in safe traffic control practices and public contact techniques. Flaggers should also be able to satisfactorily demonstrate the following abilities:

  • Ability to receive and communicate specific instructions clearly, firmly, and courteously;
  • Ability to move and maneuver quickly in order to avoid danger from errant vehicles;
  • Ability to control signaling devices (such as paddles and flags) in order to provide clear and positive guidance to drivers approaching a temporary traffic control zone in frequently changing situations;
  • Ability to understand and apply safe traffic control practices, sometimes in stressful or emergency situations; and
  • Ability to recognize dangerous traffic situations and warn workers in sufficient time to avoid injury.

Flagger stations

Flagger stations shall be located such that approaching road users will have sufficient distance to stop at an intended stopping point. Except in emergency situations, flagger stations shall be preceded by an advance warning sign or signs. Except in emergency situations, flagger stations shall be illuminated at night.

Flagger apparel

High-visibility safety apparel is critical. At a minimum, OSHA requires that for daytime work flaggers wear a vest, shirt, or jacket that is orange, yellow, strong yellow green or fluorescent versions of these colors. For nighttime work, similar outside garments shall be retroreflective. The retroreflective material shall be orange, yellow, white, silver, strong yellow-green, or a fluorescent version of one of these colors and shall be visible at a minimum distance of 1,000 feet. Also, it is a best practice to also wear white pants and a white reflectorized hard hat at night.

Flagger signaling

29 CFR 1926.201 requires that flaggers conform to the signaling methods found in Part VI of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) (1988 Edition, Revision 3, or Millennium Edition):

DeviceSignalMethod
Sign paddleTo stop traffic The flagger shall face traffic and extend the STOP sign paddle in a stationary position with the arm extended horizontally away from the body. The free arm is raised with the palm of the hand toward approaching traffic.
To direct stopped traffic to proceedThe flagger shall face traffic with the SLOW paddle held in a stationary position with the arm extended horizontally away from the body. The flagger motions with the free hand for traffic to proceed.
To alert or slow traffic The flagger shall face traffic with the SLOW sign paddle held in a stationary position with the arm extended horizontally away from the body.
FlagTo stop trafficThe flagger shall face traffic and extend the flag staff horizontally across the traffic lane in a stationary position, so the full area of the flag is visible hanging below the staff. The free arm is raised with the palm of the hand toward approaching traffic.
To direct stopped traffic to proceedThe flagger shall stand parallel to the traffic movement and with flag and arm lowered from view of the driver, motion with the free hand for traffic to proceed. Flags shall not be used to signal traffic to proceed.
To alert or slow trafficThe flagger shall face traffic and slowly wave the flag in a sweeping motion of the extended arm from shoulder level to straight down without raising the arm above a horizontal position. Flagger keeps free arm down.

Flaggers must use red flags (at least 24 inches square) or sign paddles, and in periods of darkness, retro reflectorized. In addition to signals, 1926.201 calls for flaggers to be provided with and to wear a flagger vest, jacket, or shirt that is orange, yellow, yellow-green, or a fluorescent version of these colors while flagging. Warning garments worn at night must be of retroreflective.

Other flagger work practices

In addition to proper apparel and signaling, flaggers should:

  • Coordinate with other flaggers and communicate by radio if they have no visual contact;
  • Know how to combat both heat and cold exposure, dress appropriately, and know where shelter is available;
  • Be alert to symptoms associated with carbon monoxide poisoning from vehicular traffic (nausea and headache), and, if symptoms develop, get to fresh air;
  • Use proper traffic control devices such as barricades, cones, tubular markers, vertical panels, drums, and barriers to mark areas; and
  • Be aware of construction equipment that may approach from behind and use motion detectors, alarms, hard hat mounted mirrors, or a spotter to have adequate warning of such hazards.