TRANSPORTATION MATTERS for IOWA

When a little light serves as your guardian angel.


Back of plow truckSnow is swirling and you’ve been plowing snow for hours. You know you need to pull off and clean off your headlights, but you’re worried about being hit by a passing motorist when you’re out of your truck. Is there something that can help increase your visibility to others on the road?

Our District 5 maintenance staff have found a new tool to increase the visibility of our crews in low light or bad weather. Matt Heuvelmann, who was recently promoted to highway maintenance supervisor in Southeast Iowa, previously worked as a garage operations assistant with a focus on safety training. While in this role, he found and tested a personal lighting device to help our workers be more visible when they are out on the road.

Guardian angel lightsThese wearable devices are lightweight and can be clipped to the shoulder of a safety vest or attached using magnets to the front of a vest. They are commonly used by first responders and the reviews of the brand of devices we chose were very positive.

Heuvelmann explained, “We were doing a lot more night work during the summer since traffic is lighter and we all know that winter is coming, so I wanted to find something to help make our crews more visible when we’re working on the road. We had some safety funds, so I purchased 10 of these wearable lights to do a pilot project and see what the crews thought about them. To be useful, they needed to be comfortable to wear, easy to use, and not be a distraction to the person wearing the light.”

LightThe pilot project with the initial 10 lights proved to be successful, so the district purchased 190 devices allowing each crew member working on the road to have one. Cory Steele, the garage operations assistant in Washington, says his crews are using the devices regularly. He said, “We were out on a closure the other day at dusk. We needed to finish up and it was dark by the time we were done. They’re really easy to operate. You just switch them on when you’re in the work area and switch them off when you’re done. We take them out with us every day and then plug them in to recharge between shifts. Using these lights is another tool we can use to catch a driver’s attention and help them see that we’re working.”

“We are considering the wearable lights just another piece of personal protective equipment, just like leg gators or vests,” said Heuvelmann. “The more visible we can be to motorists, the safer we all are.”

Steele added, “I really think these lights are going to be valuable in winter operations. There are times when our operators need to be outside the snowplow for one reason or another, and these lights will help them be much more visible when they don’t have the protection of being inside the truck.”

At around $100 per unit, the lights are relatively inexpensive. Heuvelmann said, “This is an investment in the safety of our crews. I don’t know what could be more important than that.”

Hi Bill! We hope you're doing well!!

Many years ago I was the DOTphotographer that provided the day and nighttime photos by which the inter state system could determine what vest was most effictive throughout the states. I see you are still wearing them. It sure gave me a lot of pleasure to be of constant help to the engineers as they developed ideas such as proving the need for snow fences with photography.
Bill Burns, DOT Photographer, 1964 through 1990.

Great project. Setting the example here in District 5. Way to go !!

What an awesome idea. Makes me happy that our employees out there in dangerous situations will be more visible and that much more safe.

Great job, Matt, thinking outside the box and working to keep DOT staff just a little bit safer!

This is a wonderful idea! I wish those workers the best. Thank you so much for all you do for us.

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