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OSHA Regulations for Flagging Traffic

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Traffic flaggers’ primary responsibility is to ensure safe vehicle and pedestrian travel through or around temporary traffic control zones. Keeping safety workers and on-site equipment safe during operations is another responsibility. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration Safety Standards for Signs, Signals, and Barricades requires that, “flaggers and traffic control devices be provided when signs, signals and barricades are not enough to protect workers, equipment, pedestrians and vehicles.”


Traffic flaggers are effective in preventing accidents, though they expose themselves to the most hazardous road conditions. Flaggers trained in safe traffic control practices ensure the safety of everyone on the road, including themselves. They receive certification to use required signaling methods. Equipment operators, drivers and road workers familiarize themselves with construction vehicle routes, blind spots and visibility limits. Traffic flagging requires physical fitness, good vision, exceptional hearing and mental alertness.


Traffic flaggers must wear high-visibility clothing at all times. During daylight hours, flaggers wear orange, yellow, yellow-green or fluorescent attire. Nighttime hours require retro reflective orange, white, yellow, yellow-green, silver or fluorescent attire visible from at least 1,000 feet.


Drivers receive advance warning by signs stating flaggers are working ahead. Traffic flaggers use paddles with lights, STOP/SLOW paddles or flags. The STOP sign is octagonal with white letters, a red background and white border. The SLOW sign is located opposite the STOP sign with the same shape, black letters, orange background and black border. Flaggers use safety flags only in emergencies.

Flagger Stations

Either 5-foot candles or chemical lighting illuminates flagger stations. The flagger station is located far ahead of the work zone, allowing approaching vehicles ample time to stop. Flaggers take pavement type, road conditions, approach speed, friction factors and tire capabilities into consideration when determining this distance. The flagger station includes an escape route in case a vehicle disobeys traffic rules. Traffic flaggers never position themselves in the path of oncoming traffic; rather they stand either in the barricaded lane or on the adjacent shoulder. They only move into a lane of traffic after traffic has stopped; they make themselves visible to traffic and there is a need to communicate directly with a driver.

Special Situations

A traffic flagger never argues with occupants of a vehicle. When drivers refuse to obey instructions, the flagger informs his supervisor as soon as possible, preferably via two-way radio. Flaggers never leave their post. Flaggers report the driver’s identifying features, vehicle description, license plate number and circumstances involved in the incident. Flaggers never compromise safety, even when emergencies arise.


Karin Barga contributes to various online publications, specializing in topics related to canines, equines and business. She earned career diplomas in bridal consulting, business management and accounting essentials. Barga is a certified veterinary assistant, holds certification in natural health care for pets, and is a licensed realtor and property manager.