Adopt-a-Highway - Safety first

While volunteer help is greatly appreciated, safety is WSDOT’s number one concern. Washington’s Adopt-a-Highway program has an outstanding safety record, and WSDOT wants to keep it that way.

All groups are required to watch a safety video and read through safety tips before picking up litter. In addition, all groups are loaned safety equipment for use while picking litter. WSDOT provides bright orange vests, hard hats, traffic signs and vehicle-mounted strobe lights.

Tips for volunteer groups include:

  • Carpool to the adopted section and pull all vehicles as far off the side of the road as possible
  • Have a first aid kit on hand, and a person who has a first aid card
  • Do not pick up heavy or hazardous materials - call the local Adopt-a-Highway coordinator for a crew to dispose of the objects.

Safety Tips

Wear appropriate clothing during cleanup
It is important to make yourself visible to the traveling public and protect yourself from weather conditions or possible injury. Be sure everyone in the group wears the following items: 

  • Safety hat and vest
  • Gloves
  • Long pants and a long sleeve shirt
  • Thick-soled boots or shoes

    Preparing for litter cleanup
    Before litter pickup begins, always set up a temporary "Volunteer Litter Crew Ahead" sign and park a buffer vehicle with warning light ahead of the adopted area (see the Adopted-A-Highway Traffic Control Plan). 

    Conduct a refresher safety review (pdf 168kb) for crew members. You will need to have an adult supervisor for every eight minor crew members -- those between 15 and 18 years of age. We recommend you take a first-aid kit appropriate for the size of the crew with a listing of the location and phone numbers for local emergency services. At least one person should have a valid first-aid card.

    Carpool when you transport crew members to the work site using no more than two vehicles when possible. Vehicles should be parked off the shoulder when conditions permit, otherwise park with no more than two wheels on the paved shoulder. Make yourself familiar with the most direct route to the hospital and park at least one vehicle nearby in case of an emergency.

    While picking up
    Be safe and always use caution. At all times:

    • Watch your footing, stay off rocky, steep or unstable slopes
    • Avoid poison ivy, poison oak, blackberries and other thorny plants.
    • Watch for stinging insects
    • Walk single file across bridges
    • Carry a box for broken glass and other sharp objects.
    • Avoid over exertion, rest when needed
    • Drink plenty of water and use sun screen
    • Recycle!!! Recycle any of the materials found during your litter control effort. Profits from the sale of these collected items belong to your group. 

      Don't forget the paperwork
      Activity Reports are to be filled out each time a group works on the roadside, and turned into WSDOT within seven days. This can be done online. This provides documentation of participation in the event an injury occurs while working on the roadside, and allows WSDOT to meet reporting requirements.

      In the event of an emergency, dial 911. Report any injuries or accidents to your local coordinator within two business days of the occurrence.

      For your safety

      • Don't use headphones which interfere with hearing and warnings.
      • Don't engage in horseplay or pranks endangering the safety of yourself, fellow members or the traveling public.
      • Don't cross the roadway on foot. Get in a vehicle and get out on the same side as the pickup will take place.  No U-turns at intersections and interchanges. Turn off the flashing warning light while traveling to and from the work site.
      • Don't pick up litter on the roadway.
      • Don't pick up litter on bridges, tunnels or overpasses.
      • Don't compact trash bags -- injuries from sharp or broken objects may result or the bag may burst.
      • Don't pick up syringes or hypodermic needles.
      • Don't carry knives, machetes, axes, etc.
      • Never pick up extremely heavy or unyielding objects, dead animals, or suspected toxic or hazardous materials. Mark the location of these items and notify WSDOT for pick up. 

        If your group has any further questions regarding safety tips or litter control, please contact the Adopt-A-Highway Coordinator in your area.