Design for Field Safety

Caltrans landscape design guidance


Safety for all workers is a critical component of all activities performed on State Highways System (SHS) by Caltrans and our partners. Caltrans incorporates many safety strategies as a routine business practice to reduce and/or eliminate the exposure of highway workers in active work zones on the SHS. “Zero worker fatalities,” aligns with Project Delivery’s historic emphasis on continual monitoring and improvements to working conditions on the SHS. Achieving the target of “zero work zone-related worker fatalities per calendar year” requires heightened consideration of worker safety improvements that can be initiated in planning phases, and throughout the project life cycle.

Design Considerations

Thoughtful design of the State Highway System improves field worker safety and reduces ongoing maintenance efforts and cost. To achieve this design staff must understand how their design elements/assets are constructed and maintained.

  • Is there sufficient access?
  • What type of equipment is needed to maintain the facility?
  • Is there a better location to site or relocate the controller or traffic cabinet?
  • Is there a way to reduce or eliminate the need for maintenance?
To reduce field worker exposure to traffic, these are some of the questions designers need to ask themselves, or better yet, maintenance and construction staff.



On Route 105 in Inglewood, maintenance worker exposure to traffic is reduced by locating irrigation equipment near a gate, providing access from a local street rather than the highway. 

Roadside Management

Caltrans Roadside Management Toolbox provides guidance on selecting from a wide range of roadside management tools, including:

  • Placing facilities that require recurring maintenance such as traffic control boxes, backflow preventers, or stormwater treatment devices at safe locations outside the clear recovery zone.
  • Providing safe maintenance worker access such as gates in the right of way fence, access roads, or maintenance vehicle pullouts for facilities that require recurring maintenance.
  • Placing vegetation control such as paving or fiber weed mats under guard rails.
  • Paving unpaved narrow strips that remain in front of concrete barriers or noise barriers to eliminate the need for weed abatement and facilitate automated litter removal.
  • Eliminating the need for pruning by placing plants where they will not encroach upon sight distances or shoulders.
  • Designing noise barriers with a textured aesthetic treatments or planting them with vines to discourage graffiti.
  • Removing existing planting and placing contrasting surface treatment such as colored and textured concrete in the area beyond the gore.



Roadside facilities are best placed where field workers can 
access them without being exposed to traffic.


Roadside management considers the full life-cycle cost of transportation improvements, including the long-term cost of maintenance.  Design alternatives with the lowest initial construction cost may not be the best solution if those approaches require high recurring maintenance costs.

Guidance and Policy





Updated: February 27, 2019