Flagger Respect Begins with Training

Dec. 28, 2000
Like Rodney Dangerfield, many flaggers may feel they just don't get any respect. Certainly not from motorists, who take out their frustrations on the most convenient person available: the flagger. Respect is even hard-earned within the industry, as many companies look at the flaggers as the low end of the totem pole. New hires and unskilled or unmotivated workers often are relegated to flagging.

This lack of respect is unfortunate, and even dangerous. An effective and courteous flagger also is a company's or agency's best public relations tool. With so much importance and so many lives being placed in a flagger's hands, it is critical that flaggers are respected by road users. So why does the profession continue to hold so little esteem?

Unfortunately, this lack of regard often is earned. There are an estimated half-million flaggers in the U.S. Some do an exceptional job. Others, however, are so fond of flag waving that they seem to be auditioning for the Indy 500. Nonstandard devices and procedures at best confuse motorists. At worst, the wrong equipment and improper techniques can cost lives.

The key to proper flagging lies in following the standard guidelines set forth in Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which outlines the qualifications for flaggers, flagger clothing and devices, hand signaling procedures, and flagger stations. Following proper procedures begins with training. In fact, training in safe traffic-control practices is listed in the MUTCD as one of the requirements of a good flagger.

A course is created

Recognizing this strong need for flagger training, the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA) Education Committee, with input from the American Association of State Highway & Transportation Officials (AASHTO) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), created a flagger training program based on MUTCD standards. Based on input from the industry and state agencies, it was decided that the most affordable, effective and convenient manner to deliver flagger training is on a train-the-trainer basis.

Basically, ATSSA trains master trainers, who in turn train flagger instructors, who in turn train flaggers at their convenience. ATSSA administers the program, which includes an easily accessible national database of flagging information. The database is divided into sections including lists of qualified flagging instructors and trained flaggers by state. The flagging database can be accessed by telephone or on-line at http://www.flagger.com.

The train-the-trainer approach has unique benefits for companies training their own flaggers, who can now offer training for small groups or for one person at a time. Companies no longer have to wait for training to come to them. They can train a new hire immediately and in their facility. The program offers great convenience and affordability to anyone training their own people.

Independent instructors

The ATSSA program has several unique advantages for independent flagging instructors, who can use the program as they see fit. Who, where and when to teach is up to the instructor, as is the rate to charge. Additional benefits for instructors include:

-- Two days of intense training from the most qualified master instructors in the business. Instructors will receive all of the instructional materials they will need to provide the best possible flagger training.

-- Their business will be listed to potential flaggers and organizations seeking training in their state and around the country.

-- The ability to post free course announcements in the Upcoming Courses by State section of the flagger homepage.

-- Password access to up-to-date federal and state specifications and standards posted on the Internet.

-- Password access to training and marketing tips and techniques.

-- Training flaggers who will have their names accessible to all agencies and organizations searching for a certified/registered flagger.

-- Training flaggers who will be able to immediately prove registration even if they lose their card.

Qualifications to become an ATSSA flagger instructor include being currently ATSSA WTS certified or equivalent, and passing the two-day course. Additional requirements and course details are included in the application, which you can receive by calling ATSSA at 800/272-8772.

Agencies that choose to participate in the program also stand to reap significant benefits. First, ATSSA will handle all administrative efforts, taking that financial and labor-intensive burden away from the agency. However, an agency will still be able to quickly access flagger and flagger trainer information. States may choose to download portions of ATSSA's program on their own database if they choose to retain some or all administrative functions. States, also can use this program to train their own personnel.

A state may elect to train their own master trainer, or it may elect to train a series of flagger instructors. It may even elect to let an outside vendor provide training to agency personnel.

Finally, as ATSSA is now doing with its successful worksite traffic supervisor course, the course can be custom-tailored to meet agency standards and specifications.

The main beneficiary of this program will be the road user.

Trained flaggers, using standard equipment and techniques will mean drivers will become more accustomed to what is required of them and how to respond. That increases safety and kindles respect for the flagger. The flagging profession actually will appear and become more professional. Borrowing from Aretha Franklin, flaggers may finally get a little more R-E-S-P-E-C-T.

About the Author

Mike Ireland