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Traffic Control (Flagger)

Learning objectives

  • Identify the importance of proper work methods, physical fitness, professionalism, and clothing regulations.

  • Identify the signs, barriers, flags, STOP/SLOW paddle, and lights employees use at the work site.

  • Recognize where to position himself/herself for optimum safety, how to judge traffic speed and congestion, and regulate it accordingly.

  • State common methods to communicate with other flaggers and the public.

  • Recognize the various types of warning signs, channeling devices, and tapers and how they are set up.

  • Identify the special equipment and precautions associated with night and freeway flagging.

Course overview

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “Transportation incidents accounted for 76 percent of roadway work zone fatal occupational injuries in 2012. In 67 percent of these transportation incidents, a pedestrian worker was stuck by a vehicle.”

“Flaggers”, or traffic control specialists, are exposed each day to one of the most hazardous, high-risk work environments—the American transportation infrastructure.

Major road work is frequently performed in the warm seasons, to account for snow and winter moisture that makes completing road projects difficult, but also at night, so as to inconvenience as few motorists as possible. These factors create a natural dangerous environment for flaggers, but there are many other unpredictable elements that are cause for heightened awareness and concern for personal safety.

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 in frequently changing situations.

  • Understand and apply safe traffic control practices, sometimes in stressful or emergency situations.

  • Recognize dangerous traffic situations and warn workers in 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 on-coming traffic and that you stay out of the way of construction workers. Flagger 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 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, avoiding shaded areas.

  • 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 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.

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Mobile Ready

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45 min

Course Outline

Course Outline

  • Introduction

  • General Guidelines

  • Barriers, Signs, and Lights

  • Regulating Traffic

  • Flagger Communication

  • Setting Up

  • Special Cases



  • OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1926.201

  • OSHA Standard 29 CFR 1926.20>

  • Federal Highway Administration (FHA) Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, Section 6


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