It is national work zone safety week and one group of employees is in jeopardy every week.
“The flaggers are the ones who are at the most risk because they're out there and they're unprotected,” said PennDOT spokeswoman Fritzi Schreffler.
Danger comes with the job when you direct drivers around construction sites, but that doesn't frighten the folks at Flagger Force, a Harrisburg based company that provides flaggers.
“If we establish a work zone correctly, if we control traffic correctly, our people can be safe,” said York's Mike Doner, owner of Flagger Force. “We can make a safe work zone out of a dangerous industry.”
Flagger Force provides flagmen to 400 work sites in five states (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Virginia) every day. Its biggest customers are electric and gas utilities. You'll also find them on some PennDOT projects.
“We especially know they are trained, they are indeed professionals,” Schreffler said.
The state requires four hours of flagger training every three years. Flagger Force gives its workers 30 hours of training every year.
Instead of a company putting a sign in the hand of its least experienced construction worker, Flagger Force specializes in moving traffic safely through the area.
Flagger Force has 850 clients.
“They don't have to mess with signs, stands, cones, people, anything,” Doner said. “I have customers that just love that.”
They also love that Flagger Force assumes the risk and though it's had “incidents” it's never had a fatality.
“We take 100-percent of the liability,” Doner said, which has to be a huge selling point.
In honor of safety week, Mike reminds drivers to put down the phone and slow down in work zones. But the rest of his world is in the fast lane.
The phones ring off the hook at the Hummelstown headquarters and it is an amazing Midstate success story.
Doner and his wife Michele began Flagger Force from their York home in 2003 with four employees and $500,000 in business.
In 2013, they had 1200 full time workers and $50 million in business. An amazing boom through the teeth of the recession and it's future may be even brighter.
“We're projecting we'll be three times as big as we are today in five years,” Doner said. “We'll be down in many, many more states.”
Flagger Force hired 60 people last week. It expects to hire 60 more next week.
Kevin Venable, 23, thought he was taking a temporary job on the road crew three years ago. He's now a supervisor in what he calls “his career.”
“Everyone's coming to Flagger Force,” Venable said with a chuckle. “It's kind of like a name brand. It's like Kleenex.”
Doner said employees who work 30 hours get full time health benefits. To check out job offerings go to Flaggerforce.com.