Frequently asked questions
All information provided in "Frequently Asked Questions" is my personal advice, from personal experience, and does not necessarily reflect current Laws or Legal Compliance Requirements. Please verify your concerns or questions with the appropriate Office or Agency.
My employer says I don't have to get a Flagger Card to direct traffic. Why do you say that I do?
The Washington State Department of Labor & Industries WAC 295-155-305 states, ANY person (other than a Police Officer, Firefighter/EMS or others involved in a bonefide emergency) directing traffic MUST possess a valid Certified Flagger Card to engage in traffic control activities as a Flagger. This applies even if only attempting to stop or re-direct traffic for ONE SECOND!
Do I have to carry my Flagger Certification Card with me when I'm flagging?
Absolutely! The card MUST be on your person. If an L&I Official or other local agency official requests to see your card, and you do not have it on your person, they can direct your employer to immediately remove you as a Flagger or possibly even direct the contractor/employer to completely cease operations and vacate the affected roadway.
Someone said I could be "fined" if I don't have my card on me?
No. L&I does not issue fines to individuals (Flaggers). Any fines, or safety violation citations issued by Labor & Industries are issued to your employer, contractor or local agency responsible for putting you out there. However, keep in mind, if you cause your employer to be fined by L&I for that, you may very well be seeking employment elsewhere.
My card has expired. Do I have to take the entire 8 hour class over again?
Unfortunately, yes. If your card has expired even by one day, you are required to attend another full 6-8 hour Flagger Course. If your card is still valid, but approaching it's expiration, I'd encourage you to take the required 4 hour "re-certification" portion of the Class to maintain your certification.
I've lost my Certification Card, and I know it's still valid. What do I do?
Contact the individual (Instructor) or company (Possibly Evergreen Safety Council) that issued you the card. They should be able to issue a replacement card, for a fee, to you. You might consider making a copy of your card to keep on file at home for ready reference should you need it.
How do I get a Flagger job once I've passed the class?
You will be provided a list of various contacts from which to seek possible employment opportunities. The internet is a great tool to use for job searches. "Googling" words such as Flagger, or traffic control, brings up a lot of results. Look for employment websites as well. I use Washington State's Employment Security website "WorkSource" and sites such as Simplyhired.com. Use search words like "flagger" or "traffic control". If you are un-employed, sign up with Employment Security.
Is my employer supposed to provide me all my flagging equipment?
It depends on the employer. Most Unions require that your employer provide the stop/slow paddle, vest and hardhat to you at no cost, while others (non-Union Contractors) may make it your personal responsibility or they possibly provide a payment plan to provide your equipment and take payments out of your paycheck. Ask the employer about their particular policy, never assume anything!
The Contractor said I don't have to put any cones, or anything, by me on the shoulder when I'm flagging. You told me I do. So, which is it?
I tell all my students that it's "wise" to place at least one cone between themselves and the traffic, on the shoulder behind the fog line. The more visible you are, the safer it could be. If you have 4-5-6 extra cones, place them in a taper upstream (for approaching traffic) along the shoulder behind the fog line. You'de be amazed, from a driver's point of view, at how much more visible you are to them. L&I simply states that the Employer MUST do SOMETHING to protect the Flagger. Using something as simple as cones appears to be an acceptable "minimal" practice.
Can I use my Flagger Card in States other than Washington?
Absolutely. The Washington State Certified Flagger Card is recognized in Oregon, Idaho and Montana. If you are interested in States other than these 4, you'll need to research what those other States require. I'd start by looking up their "(State) Department of Transportation".
I see some Flaggers wearing jackets and hoodies, instead of a vest. Isn't that illegal in Washington State?
Good eye! Actually, in 1997 Labor & Industries changed the WAC 295-155-305 language from "vest" to "vest or outermost retroreflective garment". Most likely, the Flaggers you've seen wearing jackets or hoodies are wearing Class 3 garments (retro-reflective stripes on the sleeves as well). Those garments actually exceed L&I's minimum Class 2 requirement. However, The garment MUST have a label on it stating it is Class 2 or 3 compliant, depending on whether it's worn during hours of daylight or hours of darkness. NOTE: Some employers have company policies that "exceed" L&I requirements on Flagger attire. Always check with the Employer/Contractor BEFORE you assume it's ok to wear those garments in place of a Class 2 or 3 garments.
Is it ok for me, when I'm flagging at night, to stand under a street light so cars can see me?
Absolutely not! That was acceptable long ago, but has since changed. Flaggers must be illuminated in such a manner that approaching traffic can see them from at least 1000 feet ahead. Street lights, in most cases, cannot achieve this because of build up on the light lens, light dissipation as it travels down & diminishes and other factors. Washington State Department of Transportation (WSDOT) Standard Specifications Manual M41-10 for example REQUIRES portable light plants (towers) as a minimum for Flaggers. The light source is REQUIRED to be a minimum of 15-25 feet above the ground, is REQUIRED to be on the same side of the road as the Flagger and is REQUIRED to be placed at least 5-10 feet off the roadway.
Why is it ok for Police Officers to flag in intersections, but Flaggers are prohibited from doing so?
Washington State Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) has mandated that it is not safe for Flaggers to direct traffic from the middle of an intersection bacause the Flagger is at risk of being struck from behind (multiple directions). Also, L&I requires the Flagger to use a stop/slow paddle as the "primary signaling device". It's not possible to use a 2-sided paddle in a 4-way intersection effectively. Police Officers are bound by OSHA Regulations since they are Sworn Officers and "Emergency Responders". However, effective 2010, all Emergency Responders (Police,Fire,Paramedics, etc) are REQUIRED to wear at least a Class 2 ANSI compliant safety vest on-scene, per OSHA regulations.
I've seen pictures on the internet of Flaggers wearing baseball caps and shorts. Why do we have to wear a hardhat and long pants in Washington?
Each State has the authority, to an extent, to write specific requirements addressing safety requirements for their particular State. Some States have temperatures (heat) that make wearing hardhats and heavy clothing MORE of a health risk. Washington State Department of Labor & Industries has elected to require Flaggers to wear hardhats and long pants out of safety concerns that have been borne from previous accidents and research in Washington State. A baseball cap would be "comfy", but a hardhat may very well save you life.
I see some Flaggers with 18 inch stop/slow paddles, and others with 24 inch stop/slow paddles. Can we buy/use either one?
Some Counties and Cities in Washington State require a "minimum" of an 18 inch paddle, while others require a minimum of a 24 inch paddle. First, I'd recommend, buying a 24 inch paddle. Though the 24 inch costs a little more, it covers you for wherever you go because it "exceeds the minimum size". Second, "the bigger the better" for visibility. Remember, SAFETY FIRST!
What's "Prevailing Wage"?
The Davis-Bacon Prevailing Wage Act is a list of various labor catagory wages that the Federal Government requires States/Counties/Cities to pay on State/Federally assisted projects or certain Public Works projects. These wages do not necessarily apply to local and "private" projects. Talk to your employer, Union or Contractor about the wage schedule that applies to their particular project. More on the subject can be found at http://www.lni.wa.gov/TradesLicensing/PrevWage/.
It's costing me a LOT in gas to get to jobs. I heard I can claim the mileage I travel to jobsites on my year end IRS Tax filing. Is that true?
Possibly. For 2014, you MAY be entitled to claim .55 cents per mile travelled to/from jobs. There are varying circumstance and you MUST keep a detailed record. Seek the advice of a Certified Tax Consultant and See IRS Publication 463. The direct link is: http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/p463.pdf
I heard that I can deduct the cost of my flagging gear on my taxes. Can I?
Most of the time, yes! There are various requirements, first being you'll have to file long form IRS 1040, instead of 1040ez. Tools, equipment and clothing either "required" to do your job by your employer and not re-imbursed by them, and not normally used or worn outside of work may be eligible for a tax liability reduction. Go to the IRS website for more information or seek the advice of a certified tax consultant.