• Freda

Safety in Flagging

By Freda Booth

As a flagger, you have a very important job. It should be carried out with authority and dignity, using proper flagging techniques. Your 

driver and the motoring public are relying on you to safely control traffic.

  • You must have good sight, hearing, mobility, and physical stamina.

  • You must be alert and able to react quickly in a dangerous situation to warn your co-workers and keep yourself safe.

  • You must have the personal presence and people skills to gain respect and motorist compliance.

  • You must have been properly trained in flagging procedures and they have become second nature to you

The Basic Functions

  • To guide traffic safely around your load

  • To protect the lives of traveling motorists as well as each other

  • To avoid unreasonable delays to motorists.

  • To answer questions courteously.

Equipment/ Clothing:

  • 18" or 24" STOP/SLOW Paddle mounted on 5' Pole

  • 2-Way Radio

  • Reflective Gloves/ Flashlight or Traffic Wand

  • Highway-Safety-Colored Hard Hat

  • Reflective Safety Vest

  • Durable reflective wear (recommended)

  • Steel-Toed Boots

  • No attire that could distract motorists.

NOTE: Windy conditions - Long hair / loose clothing can create visibility/miscommunication issues! 

Flags should only be used in emergency situations. Experience has shown that it is very difficult to direct motorists by waving a flag.


  • Using a flagger at each end of the congested area to control traffic is the most common operation.

  • One flagger should be designated lead flagger to coordinate the operation.

  • Begin with both flaggers displaying STOP to approaching traffic.

  • The lead flagger decides which direction to release first.

  • Communication between flaggers is critical and can be maintained by:

  • Visual contact Flaggers must be close enough to read each other’s STOP/SLOW paddles and see each other’s “all clear” signals.

  • Use signals that can not be mistaken for flagging signals.

  • Lifting the hat or raising and lowering the STOP/SLOW paddle are proper “all clear” signals.

  • Two-way radio is the best means of communication, even when there is visual contact.

Position on Roadway

  • You should stand on the shoulder adjacent to the traffic being controlled and be clearly visible to traffic.

  • You should stand alone and never allow others to gather around you. 

  • Normally, after you have stopped the first vehicle, you will remain on the shoulder.

  • If additional vehicles arrive and they cannot clearly see your paddle, you may walk toward the center of the road so they can stay at least 2 to 3 feet away from the centerline.

  • Remember to watch out for traffic that may be coming from behind you.

* Never stand in the path of or turn your back on traffic. Always plan and maintain an escape path.

Single Flagger

For low volume situations (no more than three vehicles passing through the site in a five-minute period) and short traffic disruption 

areas on straight roads, a single flagger may sometimes be used to control traffic.

  • The flagger must be visible to both directions of traffic.

  • Standing on the shoulder opposite the work area, the flagger directs traffic with the STOP/SLOW paddle.

  • When visibility is poor, or when one flagger cannot control traffic, use two flaggers. (Escort, truck driver or law enforcement)

Hills and Curves

Never take a position over the crest of a hill or around a sharp curve.

When flagging near a hill or curve, take a position in advance of the hill or curve.

Law enforcement may be required for long-term back-up 

Make sure you are visible to approaching traffic. 

Stopping Traffic

  • Stand in a safe position on the shoulder facing traffic.

  • Hold the paddle away from your body and placed on or near the edge of the travel lane with the STOP sign facing traffic. 

  • Raise your free hand above shoulder height with the palm facing the approaching vehicle and make eye contact with the driver.

  • Change to the STOP only if an approaching vehicle has plenty of distance to gradually stop.

  • Avoid screeching halts.

Walking into the Road

  • After you have stopped the first vehicle, you will usually remain on the shoulder of the road in your normal flagging location.

  • If additional vehicles arrive and they cannot clearly see your STOP paddle, then you may walk out toward the center of the roadway.

  • Do not cross the centerline. Stay at least 2 to 3 feet away from the centerline and remember to watch out for traffic that may be coming from behind you.

  • To prepare to release traffic, move back to your normal position on the shoulder with the paddle remaining on STOP.

Releasing Traffic – Closed Lane

  • Stand on the shoulder of the closed lane with your paddle turned to STOP facing traffic.

  • Wait for an “all clear” signal from the other flagger.

  • Once the “all clear” is received, turn the paddle to SLOW and with your free arm, signal drivers to proceed into the open lane.

  • Be direct and clear with your hand signal. Point to the vehicle and then to the open lane

Releasing Traffic – Open lane

  • Stand on the shoulder of the open lane with your paddle turned to STOP

  • Wait for the “all clear” signal from the other flagger.

  • Once the “all clear” is received, take a step or two back from the edge of the traffic lane and turn the paddle to SLOW.

  • With your free arm, signal drivers to proceed in the open lane.

  • Be direct and clear with your hand signal.

  • Point to the vehicle and then to the open lane.

  • After traffic clears, turn your paddle to STOP before returning to the shoulder position.

Slowing Traffic

  • Stand on the shoulder facing traffic.

  • With the SLOW sign turned toward traffic, you may slowly raise and lower your free arm with the palm facing down in front of your paddle.

“All Clear” Signal

  • When two or more flaggers are used, they must be able to communicate with one another.

  • Two-way radios are necessary since waving a flag will only confuse drivers - confusion causes accidents

  • Visual contact with the second flagger is always the preferred method

Flag Transfer

The driver of the last vehicle in the movement can be given a flag and instructed to give it to the flagger at the other end. This route 

should be one mile or less.


Relay flagging

When distance/hill/curve inhibits radio or visual communication, a relay flagger should be positioned to be seen/heard by both of the other flaggers and relays the signals between flaggers. Cell phone communication can be useful if absolutely necessary, but signal-loss could create bigger problems and delays.

Night Flagging

Night flagging procedures are generally the same as daytime except for some necessary changes:

  • Reflective STOP/SLOW paddles shall be used.

  • ANSI CLASS 3 apparel should be used - offers more reflection / visibility.

  • A flashlight with red glow-cone SHOULD be used to provide additional guidance to motorists

  • Flares should be used in areas that allow them - battery-operated flares may be useful too

Procedure for Night Flagging

  • To stop vehicles, stand on the shoulder and face traffic with the stop sign in the right hand and flashlight with red glow-cone in the left hand.

  • Slowly wave the flashlight back and forth in front of your body.

  • Don’t let the arc extend beyond the base of the paddle staff.

  • To release traffic, point from the driver to the open lane with the flashlight and hold in that position.

  • Do not wave the flashlight when releasing traffic—this may confuse the driver

One-direction Control

  • When loads occasionally block one lane of a two-lane, two-way road, such as when loading or unloading, a flagger can control just one direction of traffic. The other direction of traffic is not stopped.

  • Stop traffic in the usual manner, and release the vehicles when the lane has been cleared.

  • When releasing traffic, turn the paddle a quarter-turn so that the word STOP faces you. This way, the STOP message will not confuse the traffic coming from either direction.

Using Flags

Flags may be used to control traffic during emergency situations until STOP/SLOW paddles can be obtained.

  • Use of hand movements without flag or paddle are prohibited except for law enforcement personnel or first responders.

  • When used, flags shall be at least 24 inches square, of red or fluorescent orange/red material, and be attached to a staff approximately 36” long.

  • The free edge of the flag should be weighted so the flag will hang vertically, even in heavy winds.

  • To stop traffic, stand on the shoulder of the road and extend the flag across the traffic lane.

  • Raise your free hand to the stop position.

  • To release traffic, lower the flag to your side and with your free arm motion traffic to proceed.

*DO NOT use the flag to motion traffic through

  • To alert and slow traffic, extend the flag staff and slowly move your free hand up and down in a sweeping motion between shoulder height and straight down.

  • Replace flags with STOP/SLOW paddles as soon as possible.

The Do’s of Flagging

  • Stay alert at all times.

  • Do Use clear and distinct hand signals when directing traffic.

  • Do Stand on the shoulder of the road out of the path of oncoming traffic.

  • Do Treat motorists courteously.

  • Do Use proper equipment and warning signs.

  • Do Wear proper clothing and shoes.

  • Do Stand alone to be visible.

  • Do Plan an escape route.

  • Do Consult with driver and other escorts about flagging positions Before movement

The Don’ts of Flagging

  • Don’t Stand in an open lane.

  • Don’t Make unnecessary conversation with workers, pedestrians, or motorists.

  • Don’t Give flagging directions against a traffic signal.

  • Don’t Stand in the shade, over the crest of a hill, or around a sharp curve.

  • Don’t Sit down or flag from inside your vehicle.

  • Don’t Leave your station until someone takes your place.

  • Don’t Leave flagger signs in place when not flagging.

  • Don’t talk on a cell phone or text while on duty.

  • Don’t Stand near load 

  • Don’t Stand with a group of people.

  • Don’t Stand next to a bridge railing, barrier, or wall.

  • Don’t Turn your back on traffic.


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