How To Use Flagger Safety To Prevent Work Zone Accidents

April 3-7 is Work Zone Safety Week, and there are several ways you and your crew can prevent accidents by using flagger safety.

There were 669 fatalities in work zones in the U.S. in 2014, according to, the last year data was available.

Flagger safety is one way to prevent work zone accidents and fatalities. The University of Wisconsin-Madison’s Transportation Information Center (TIC) in Madison, Wis., offers work zone safety courses each year for construction and road workers in the state.

There are six common flagging operations:

  • Single flagger. Standing on the shoulder directly opposite the work area, the flagger directs traffic with a STOP/SLOW paddle.
  • Two-flagger. In this case, flaggers are used on each end of the work zone to control traffic flow.
  • Pilot car. This vehicle is used to guide a train of vehicles through a work area or detour. This method is best for routes where it’s unclear to the motorist where the work zone changes.
  • Night flagging. Using a flashlight with a glowcone, reflective safety vest, and STOP/SLOW paddle, a flagger will direct traffic using the stop sign in the right hand and the glowcone in the left. The flagger will wave the flashlight in front of his or her body to stop vehicles.
  • One-direction control. Here, the flagger will control just one direction of traffic. Traffic is stopped in the usual manner, but released once the work vehicles have finished blocking the lane. The flagger will use a STOP/SLOW paddle, and turn the STOP side away from the driver when traffic is released.
  • Emergency flagging. Red flags can be used to control traffic until STOP/SLOW paddles can be obtained. To stop traffic, a flagger will stand on the shoulder of the road and extend the flag into the road, and raise the free hand to stop traffic. To release traffic, the flagger will drop the flag to the side and motion traffic to proceed with the free hand.

There are also a number of “do’s” and “don’ts” of safe flagging:


  • Stay alert at all times
  • Use clear and deliberate hand signals when directing traffic
  • Stand on the shoulder of the road out of the path of oncoming traffic
  • Have a good idea of the day’s work schedule to answer motorist’s questions
  • Treat motorists courteously
  • Use proper equipment and warning signs
  • Wear proper clothing
  • Stand alone
  • Plan an escape route, and report vehicles that violate the traffic controls
  • Consult your flagger’s handbook or your supervisor with any questions



  • Stand in an open lane
  • Make unnecessary conversation with workers, pedestrians, or motorists
  • Give flagging directions against a traffic signal
  • Stand in the shade, over the crest of a hill, or around a sharp curve
  • Leave your station until properly relieved
  • Leave flagger signs in place when done flagging
  • Stand near equipment
  • Stand with a group of people
  • Read while on duty


For more information about UW-Madison’s flagger safety training, click here.