Construction Drums in Roadway Work Zones

Last updated on: May 25, 2021

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Construction drums in roadway work zones reflect the reality that highways and infrastructure generally need constant updating. These work zones are at best inconvenient for drivers and at worst dangerous to construction workers and motorists alike. Roadway work zone injuries happen more often than you might think.

It is possible to be injured by a construction drum in a roadway work zone. When that happens, the injured party will need to show that the driver or the construction company was negligent. It is helpful to become familiar with some of the regulations associated with work zones so that you can determine whether you should pursue your case.

If you or a loved one has been injured by a construction drum in a work zone, talk to the Zinda Law Group attorneys at (800) 863-5312. Our experienced construction zone injury attorneys will be able to give you a free case evaluation.

What makes construction drums dangerous?

Construction drums, sometimes called construction barrels, are meant to channel traffic a specific direction; they create a physical barrier between the traffic and the construction workers in the work zone. They are used as an alternative to traffic cones in construction sites because they are larger, heavier, and more visible to drivers.

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) has developed standards for construction drums that make them less dangerous than the drums of the past. The FHWA created the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD), which mandates that drums be no less than 36 inches tall and no thinner than 18 inches wide from any direction; they may not be made of metal and must have reflective stripes. These are the standards to which construction companies must adhere.

The MUTCD has additional guidelines that act as suggestions for construction companies to make the drums safer. It suggests that drums not be weighted with sand, water, or anything that makes them more hazardous when struck. Since this is only a suggestion, companies will often weight the barrels.

Traffic control device regulations

The MUTCD is the law governing traffic control devices, and construction companies must abide by its standards whether they are public or private. Since those standards are the law, failure to meet them can lead to not only a loss of federal funding for the construction project but also increased tort liability. Increased tort liability means that if an accident occurs because the standards were not met, the entity responsible for meeting the standards must pay out more to the victim than it would have if it had met the standards.

OSHA Standards for Roadway Work Zones

Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standards specific to roadway work zones are meant to protect both the construction workers at the site and the motorists driving through or past the site. Some of the categories of OSHA standards for roadway work zones include accident prevention signs and tags, signaling, and state standards for roadway work zones.

OSHA is a set of federal regulations, covering most private employers and workers either directly through its regulations or through state plans it has approved. In order for OSHA to approve a state plan, the state plan must be at least as effective as OSHA’s federal regulations.

Accident Prevention Signs and Tags

OSHA covers accident prevention signs and tags in 29 CFR § 1926.200. Part (g) of this statute governs traffic control signs and devices and incorporates the MUTCD. It adds that there must be signage and traffic control devices at points of hazard. The signage must be legible, and the traffic control devices must be visible to drivers.


29 CFR 1926.201 states that the use of flaggers and signaling by flaggers, including the type of clothing the flaggers must wear for their protection, must conform to the MUTCD.

State Standards for Roadway Work Zones

As mentioned earlier, there are also OSHA-approved state standards, and some of these also apply to roadway work zones. You should research or consult with a personal injury attorney to determine whether your state has more rigorous standards than the federal standards. This could greatly affect the kinds of issues you can argue for your case and the amount of compensation you could receive.

Am i at risk of being injured by a construction drum in a work zone?

There are a few ways to be injured by a construction drum, especially if the drum does not meet the standards set forth by OSHA and the FHWA. The exact circumstances and sequence of events surrounding the accident will determine whether you can recover for your injury caused by a construction drum.

Construction Workers

Construction workers are most vulnerable to this kind of injury; while motorists are merely driving past the construction drums, construction workers could be around them all day. Workers could be struck by drums when setting them up or moving them out of the construction site, or they could be struck by a drum that a passing car hits and mobilizes. Workers might also be hit by a passing vehicle if there are not construction drums to facilitate traffic.


Motorists could be injured by construction drums if the drums are not visible or are poorly placed. There are other circumstances by which a motorist could be hit by a construction drum, but these are the most likely.

Protections for workers

Certain laws are in place to help construction workers recover if they are injured on the job. We have discussed some of the regulations and guidelines specific to the safety of roadway work zones. There are some routes to recovery for workers, mostly through those OSHA regulations and worker’s compensation.

OSHA Protections

It is possible that your injury occurred because your company violated OSHA regulations; perhaps you are a flagger who was not provided with the correct attire for the job, and you were hit by a car because of that. This instance highlights an example of the company not providing the correct personal protective equipment (PPE). There is an OSHA handbook of worker’s rights online that offers a comprehensive description of rights specific to particular jobs.

Worker’s Compensation

Worker’s compensation is the route through which a worker can recover for work-related injuries without suing the employer; the type of injury the employee sustains will determine the set amount that the employer owes the employee. The employee usually may not file a legal claim against the employer. The only state that does not mandate that employers offer worker’s compensation is Texas.

Protections for Drivers

Drivers who are injured at a work zone might be able to file a negligence claim. There are four elements that must be met to have a claim for negligence:

1. The existence of a duty that the construction company owed to the driver,

2. The company’s breach of that duty,

3. The existence of an injury that the driver suffers, and

4. Proof that the company’s breach of duty caused the driver’s injury.

The Construction Company’s Duty

We have already seen the many regulations by which the construction company must abide in order to follow the law. The company must follow specific standards for every traffic control device to keep both workers and drivers safe. This is a more strongly defined duty than many civil negligence cases since there are legally binding standards, but that does not mean automatic recovery for your injury.

Breach of Duty

A company that violates the regulations set forth by OSHA and the FHWA might have breached its duty to keep workers and drivers safe. Courts usually determine whether there was a breach of duty by measuring whether the financial burden of taking safety precautions that could have prevented the injury outweighs the probability of an injury multiplied by the gravity of the resulting injury. If the financial burden is less than that, then the company is at least partially liable.

Injury and Its Cause

The driver will likely have sustained an injury if there is bodily harm or damage to property. Also, the construction company must have caused the injury by breaching its duty to protect workers and drivers.

Should I hire a personal injury lawyer near me?

Whether you are an injured worker or motorist, you might consider hiring an attorney. Not only might you need to file a claim and negotiate a settlement to get compensated, but you also might need help to determine whom you should sue. While we have been referring to the liable party as “the company,” it is not always clear who has control over the safety of the construction site.

Construction companies often hire subcontractors or independent contractors to take on jobs. Sometimes employees do not even know who passed down the job to their company. It might be helpful for you to talk with someone who takes roadway work zone injury cases to learn how to proceed.

Give our Construction zone injury attorneys a call

If you think you could benefit from the guidance of a legal advocate, our skilled lawyers are ready to see what they can do to help you with your case. Call the Zinda Law Group lawyers at (800) 863-5312 in order to schedule your free consultation.

Our personal injury lawyers want you to feel confident in your decision to trust us with your case. To do that, we have a No Win, No Fee Guarantee so that you will not be expected to pay us unless we win your case for you.

Meetings with attorneys are available by appointment only.