Proposed is a collaboration between Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute and Pennsylvania State University to systematically improve the visual information from warning beacons used by front line service workers (FLSWs), who make up 13% of the U.S. workforce but are involved in 36% of workplace fatalities, with vehicle incidents the most common cause of fatalities, according to the National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA). [This is inherently understood by the example of """"""""Move Over"""""""" legislation now being enacted in 49 of 50 states in the U.S., several of which include maintenance and utility vehicles in addition to police and emergency vehicles. However, the high proportion of crashes involving FLSWs suggests that drivers do not have the visual information required to make the best driving maneuvers needed to comply with """"""""Move Over"""""""" laws.] To address crashes involving FLSWs, several integrated, multidisciplinary studies are proposed leading to performance specifications for new-generation warning beacons using the latest sensor and light source technologies. Visibility of warning beacons will be characterized in these studies through psychophysical measures including response times, closure detection performance, correct identification of location, electroencephalographic (EEG) measures, and self-reports of visibility and glare. Both scale model laboratory experiments and full-scale closed-track studies are proposed. Also proposed are optical simulation studies to ensure that the psychophysical findings from the laboratory and closed-track experiments can be implemented practically using available lighting, control and sensor technologies. The studies will address the following specific aims:
Aim 1 : To identify the luminous intensity distributions of warning beacons needed to provide visible signals without creating glare under different ambient conditions to support the safety of FLSWs.
Aim 2 : To identify the temporal and chromatic requirements of warning beacons to convey information about the relative speed and orientation of vehicles around which FLSWs are located.
Aim 3 : To establish whether synchronizing the frequency and phase of multiple warning beacons would help drivers more quickly and accurately make appropriate decisions to reduce risk exposure of FLSWs.
Aim 4 : To confirm the findings from Aims 1 through 3 in closed-track field studies. RPI and PSU have successfully collaborated previously, and have an established track record of working together. It is anticipated that the results of the proposed collaborative research activities under this R01 application will lead to innovative and practical performance characteristics of warning beacons that will provide drivers with the visual information needed to quickly and confidently perform necessary driving maneuvers for improved worker safety, thus addressing an important research need identified by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) in its National Occupational Research Agenda (NORA).

Public Health Relevance

of the proposed R01 project to public health is derived from the fact that front line service workers (FLSWs) who often work under the protection of warning beacons are over-represented in on-the-job vehicle-related crashes. Scientifically based performance characteristics of warning beacons will result in improved visual information to drivers who pose significant hazards to FLSWs. It is anticipated that the results of the pro- posed research studies will provide the basis for drivers to respond sooner and more appropriately to service work areas near roadways, leading to fewer work-related vehicular incidents involving FLSWs.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH)
Research Project (R01)
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Safety and Occupational Health Study Section (SOH)
Program Officer
Frederick, Linda J
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Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute
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United States
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Kersavage, Kristin; Skinner, Nicholas P; Bullough, John D et al. (2018) Investigation of flashing and intensity characteristics for vehicle-mounted warning beacons. Accid Anal Prev 119:23-28
Rea, M S; Bullough, J D; Radetsky, L C et al. (2018) Toward the Development of Standards for Yellow Flashing Lights Used in Work Zones. Light Res Technol 50:552-570
Bullough, John D; Rea, Mark S (2016) Impacts of Fog Characteristics, Forward Illumination, and Warning Beacon Intensity Distribution on Roadway Hazard Visibility. ScientificWorldJournal 2016:4687816
Rea, Mark S; Bullough, John D (2016) Toward Performance Specifications for Flashing Warning Beacons. Transp Res Part F Traffic Psychol Behav 43:36-47