Way back in February 2019 I published an article identifying the 10 most common reasons for ‘failure’ I found when undertaking Compliance Audits or Inspections of Temporary Traffic Management Schemes for roadworks. A lot has happened since then, including the adoption of the Austroads Guides to Temporary Traffic Management (AGTTM) and unfortunately, a number of serious injuries and deaths within roadwork sites.
At the time of publication of my 2019 article, I had undertaken 37 Roadwork Traffic Management Audits or Inspections and noted that only one of these had passed with flying colours. Since then, I have undertaken a further 138 audits or inspections of roadwork sites. Unfortunately, once again, only one of these sites passed with flying colours.
What do I mean when I say passed with flying colours? It’s quite simple. It means that the site was set up exactly as per the approved Traffic Guidance Schemes(TGSs) taking into account the permitted variances in sign spacings and the inclusion of approved variations. It’s not difficult, so why doesn’t it happen? I suspect it might be the tender process that awards work to those who can do it using the least amount of resources or the belief of a few traffic management personnel that they know how to manage traffic on-site better than the instructions they have received via the approved TMP and TGSs. Or it may just be that the personnel on site have not been provided with the approved TMP or the correct number of devices to set it up.
Whatever the reasons, the fact remains that the vast majority of traffic management sites that I have inspected do not comply with the approved TMP and TGS. Some in the industry have suggested that if they knew what the key failures were, this would assist in addressing the issue, so here goes:
1 Site not set-up as per the approved TGS.
This requires you to have the correct type and number of signs and devices on site (refer Issue 2). The designer of the TGS is required to have inspected the site beforehand (refer Issue 3) so there should not be a problem installing the signs and devices due to road safety barriers, embankments, paths, or trees. If there is a problem, then a variation should be sought, approved, and included in the Daily Diary.
2 No list of required signs and devices on TGS or in TMP.
Section 3.4.1 (Plan and design selected risk treatment) and Section 4.7.3 of AGTTM02 (Traffic Management Planning) requires that each TGS “includes an itemised list of all required signs and devices, including type, size and quantity of devices”.
The use of an itemised list of signs and devices should ensure that the correct number, size and type of signs and devices (including sign legs and sign coverings) are available and used on site to permit the site to be set up as per the approved TGS.
3 The designer of the TGS has not inspected the site.
Section 3.2.1 AGTTM02 requires the designer of the TGS to inspect the site at least once prior to preparation of the TMP and TGSs. As such, each TGS should show all existing signs along with notes indicating whether or not they are to be retained, removed, or covered. If the TGSs do not show these, and instead rely on an overall comment to the effect that existing signs that conflict with the temporary traffic management signs shall be covered, it’s highly likely that the inspection was not undertaken in accordance with the guidance provided in AGTTM02.
Main Roads WA has recently developed an application called Road View that allows designers to drive through the site with dash cams and then view the video and associated GPS files in Road View along with relevant road data and SLKs, as shown in the example below. Auditors such as myself make use of this tool during the audits and inspections and there is no reason why designers of the TMP cannot also use this tool to ensure that signs can be placed where they will be visible at all times.
4 Risk Assessment.
It’s interesting that designers accept that no two roadwork sites are the same, but they keep pasting the same old risk assessment table in the TMP.
Yes, we need to include ‘generic risks’ but we also need to include risks that are unique to the TMP and unique to each TGS. Quite a few designers are including two risk tables in the TMP, one for generic risks and the other for site specific risks. Fantastic. However, many of the risks have identified treatments that are not in the TMP and/ or TGSs. If the remedial treatment is not included then the initial risk remains and quite often this places the entire project in the “Unacceptable risk. HOLD POINT. Work cannot proceed until risk has been reduced” category.
The solution? Add another column to the right of the Risk Table with a ‘TMP Ref’ heading. That way you can check and ensure that each remedial treatment is clearly communicated in the TMP or TGS.
And most importantly, don’t forget to include the risk associated with the decision to work close to traffic instead of simply closing the road and detouring traffic around the site.
It is rare to have a ‘standard worksite.’ I get this and so does Main Roads WA. Both the Code of Practice and the Standard allow for Variations.
The front cover of the TMP Template uses bold text to highlight this in its Declaration, i.e.:
If your TMP and/ or TGSs contain anything that does not comply with the requirements of the Code of Practice, AGTTM or Standard then you must follow the directions in Section 4.5 of the Code of Practice. If you don’t, then the TMP does not comply and should never have been signed or approved and all those that signed it or approved it are placing their accreditation at risk as well as themselves should there be an event resulting in coronial or legal procedures.
It is quite common to observe variations on site to those on the approved TMP and TGSs and there are often good reasons for this. There are also procedures within the Code of Practice to accommodate this. Basically, if there are differences on site to that in the TMP and the TGSs there are two options:
Designers should be aware that traffic management personnel on-site have a particularly good understanding of how drivers are reacting to, and behaving within, the roadworks site. Visiting the site and talking to personnel after implementation will allow designers to continuously improve roadwork sites as well as stimulate changes in the requirements of the Code of Practice through the Main Roads Traffic Management for Works on Roads Advisory Group, as occurs on a regular basis.
6 Excavations not shown or managed in the TMP and TGS.
There seems to be a misconception that an excavation less than 250 mm deep is not a hazard. Let’s debunk this myth.
Section 6.8 of AGTTM03-21 defines an excavation as “a longitudinal depression with a side slope of 1.5 horizontal to 1 vertical or steeper adjacent to traffic.”
Excavations are deemed to be particularly hazardous when they are readily accessible to any person, likely to collect or retain water of such a depth as to constitute a danger or are left unattended. In these instances, AGTTM03-21 requires that they are fully covered, fenced, or backfilled when left unattended or protected by road safety barriers. Most construction activities on roads include excavations, e.g., boxing out and drainage or service works. The failure to include identification of these excavations, risk assessment and control methods constitutes a significant failure in the design of the TMP and TGSs.
7 Barrier boards not used at road closures
Clause 4.10.1 (Signs) of AS 1742.3-19 states “The ROAD CLOSED sign shall be used where a roadway is closed to traffic. Barrier boards completely barring access to the roadway shall be used in conjunction with the sign.”
8 Assess traffic volumes and queue length.
In recent years, a number of incidents have occurred at roadwork sites with end of queue collisions. Many of these have resulted in fatalities and serious injuries due to them occurring on high-speed rural highways. To avoid these types of incidents occurring, it is imperative that the calculation of predicted end of queue lengths is as robust as possible as moving the required warning signs during the works to reflect substantially different queue lengths involves additional risk for traffic management personnel.
In WA, the Code of Practice and Standard provide clear guidance on acceptable traffic volumes per lane per hour for both mid-block and intersection roadwork sites as well as the method for calculating end-of-queue lengths.
Main Roads WA provides easy access to traffic volume and traffic signal (SCATS) data on their online Traffic Map.
Instead of copying this data and pasting it into the document, the designer of the TMP needs to show an assessment of the data and the implications of this at various times of the day. This allows for workers on site to have a clear indication of whether or not they can extend the time if this is required to finish works on a particular day.
9 Panels within MMS obscured due to slippage.
The sign panels within an MMS have been observed to slip behind other panels resulting in partial obscurity of the required sign.
Section 6.2.3 of the Main Roads WA Code of Practice attempts to address this issue by requiring that ‘there shall be at least two (2) 5 mm thick core flute signs back-to-back in the multi-message frame to help prevent the sign from sliding across’ whenever signs are left unattended.
Inserting additional panels in the MMS behind the required panels has not always addressed sign slippage, as shown below.
As a Roadworks Traffic Manager that regularly audits and inspects roadwork sites, I knew there must be a simpler and cheaper way of addressing the sign slippage problem. As a result of this, I developed and trialled a simple device called a SBLOKIT (Sign Blocker) that has been approved by Main Roads WA for use across the road network in Western Australia. Furthermore, as it is clear that non-compliance is more likely to occur when service providers attempt to save costs, care was also undertaken to ensure that SBLOKIT reduces operating costs compared to the current approved method, providing a robust method for enhancing road safety and allowing providers to allocate cost-critical resources in a more efficient manner. More details regarding this device can be found at https://leglesssigns.com.au/.
10 ‘Handmade’ signs.
The use of handmade signs on-site demonstrates a failure to adequately plan and prepare for the works. The list of required signs and devices (refer Issue 2) should clearly identify the need for special signs to be prepared prior to going out on site and setting it up.
Section 2.5.3 of AGTTM03-21 clearly states, “Sign messages must not be permitted to be formed with tape, for example, Lane Status signs and mocking speed numerals in tape”.
PESDESTRIAN and DETOUR direction sign panels are also often observed to have been modified on site, usually because the panel with the arrow in the required direction is not available.
The recent approval by Main Roads WA to use a SBLOKIT to prevent signs from moving within an MMS frame allows for the correct Lane Status and PEDESTRIAN and DETOUR direction signs to be provided on site using a combination of panels, as shown below.
Once again, more details regarding the SBLOKIT device can be found at https://leglesssigns.com.au/.
Additionally, if have any questions about SBLOKIT or how it can be integrated into your workflow then you can also reach me via email at email@example.com.
David Wilkins, Principal & Senior Traffic Engineer.