Development of a Work Zone Safety Audit Risk Assessment Tool

Document Type


Journal/Book Title/Conference

Proceedings of the 91st Transportation Research Board Annual Meeting


National Academy of Sciences

Publication Date



Work zones limit capacity, create queues, and present distractions for motorists. As technology has improved, so have Temporary Traffic Control (TTC) devices in the attempts to make traffic flow smoother through work zones and increase the safety. New standards in the 2009 Manual for Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) identify the traffic control challenges associated with typical work zone set ups and provide guidance on how to address them. Changes in the 2009 MUTCD include guidelines for pedestrian safety, guidelines for incident management, and guidelines on the use of a range of devices for work zone specific traffic control. While the guidelines are a major step forward, there is a significant challenge ahead in implementation and compliance. A team of Utah State University researchers worked with the Utah Department of Transportation addressed eleven out of eighteen active high speed road work zones throughout the state. The purpose of the audits was to classify and begin to quantify the efforts that will be required as the state moves towards full implementation and compliance.

A key product of the research was a simple evaluation tool used to document, classify, and quantify the set up quality of the work zones. The tool, the Work Zone Safety Assessment Risk Analysis Tool (WZ-SARA) proved to be a valuable aid to identify work zone areas of concern on an individual site basis, on a similar site basis, and on a global basis. The output is an estimation of overall risk and the impact that individual or collective improvements will have on work zone safety. The simplicity of the tool and the standardization of audit parameters provide a cost-effective way for inspectors to effectively oversee multiple work zones.

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