Red vs. Yellow Barricade Tape by John Henle
Heavy equipment, such as trucks, aerial work platforms or cranes, are involved in 75% of struck-by fatalities according to OSHA. Workers in construction trades are most at risk, but other categories of workers also can count contact with objects in the top three causes of death and injury (Falls, Struck-By and Caught-Between). According to OSHA there were 721 workplace deaths due to these types of incidents or an average of 2 fatalities a day and more than 232,500 injuries with days away from work in 2016 alone. Many of these injuries and fatalities could have been prevented by using the proper barricade.
OSHA defines a barricade as “an obstruction to deter the passage of persons or vehicles.”
On construction site various barricades types (Tape, Signs, Machine Guards and Physical Barriers) are used to alert employees, other contractors, and the public as to the hazards that exits on the job site. There are several kinds of barricades and warning devices, each with its own purpose and safety level. Red and Yellow tape barricades on construction sites are intended to warn people to stay out of potentially hazardous areas, such as the swing zone of an aerial lift or crane. In the construction workplace, barricades are not just suggestions, the barriers are there to protect all workers and public from injury or to save a life.
Barricade tapes that are red in color mean an imminent safety and or health hazard is in the area. Some of these immediate health hazards could include overhead loads, suspended loads, hot work being performed overhead, high noise exposure, open holes, personal fall protection required, confined space entry and others. Typically, on construction sites the Competent Person will determine what type of hazard exist and then erect the appropriate barricade and signage. Barricades must be placed at least six (6) feet from the hazard it is identifying.
If Red tape/barricade is erected no one may enter the area unless they have work in the area and a worker within the barricaded area signals the area is safe to enter. Yellow caution tape, the most common, means the area has safety and health hazards of a lesser danger. This could range from anything from materials and tools on the ground, noise over 85db, multiple pieces of heavy equipment in use, or a congested work area and many others. Yellow tape means, “Warning, if you need to cross through the area barricaded you may do so only after a worker within the area gives you an all safe acknowledgement. Then you may proceed to cut through the area after you check the area for any hazards yourself.”
Both Red and Yellow tape should have signage at each point of possible entrance, stating the hazards within the area. Simiarly signage should also indicate who put up the barricade and their on-site contact information.
IMPORTANT: NEVER REMOVE A TAPE UNLESS YOU ARE AUTHORIZED TO DO SO!
Keep in mind that barricade tape does not just come in Red and Yellow. Reading what the tape says can help you understand the threats that are in the area, but hopefully knowing the difference between the standard “Yellow Caution” barricade tape and “Red Danger” you can be a better equipped when you enter onto your next job site.
A Note in Regard to Roofing Work. Do not use caution tape for a warning line on a rooftop. The warning line must have enough strength so that one who leans against the line will not break it. Regulations state that only rope, wire, or chain with a minimum strength of 500 pounds may be used as a warning line. Caution tape may be used for a controlled access line if it will support 200 pounds. The differences between a warning line and a controlled access line are that a warning line must strong enough so that if a worker backed up to it, they would be stopped by the line, while a caution line is used to keep other workers out of an area. A caution line serves as a visual warning, while a warning line is a physical warning.