• OSHA Issues First Ever Highway Safety Directive
  • November 9, 2012 | Authors: John D. Surma; Collin G. Warren
  • Law Firm: Adams and Reese LLP - Houston Office
  • Every year, thousands of employees are injured and hundreds are killed while working on or adjacent to highways. In 2009, the Federal Highway Administration reported that fatal crashes in highway construction work zones cost 667 lives. According to the U.S. Department of Labor Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), each year over 100 construction workers are killed and 20,000 are injured in highway construction work zones. Texas, Florida, and California ranked as the three States with the most motor vehicle crash fatalities in highway construction work zones. Nearly half of all workers killed in these accidents were killed as a result of being struck by either a vehicle or a piece of construction equipment.

    In a significant move, OSHA recently issued its first ever Directive relative to the inspection of and issuance of citations relative to roadway and highway construction work zones. The Directive, issued on October 16, 2012, covers all construction activity on or near roadway or highways, including “road, highway, sidewalk, or utility construction” where vehicular and construction equipment traffic exposes workers to “struck-by” hazards.

    The Directive provides guidance for the safe inspection of roadway and highway construction work zones. It specifically provides guidance relative to highway signs, signals, and barricades. You can read the complete Directive here.

    The release of this Directive, combined with other recent Directives and emphasis programs focused on the construction industry, suggests that OSHA may increase its number of inspections of roadway and highway construction work zones. The emphasis during such inspections will be on the following hazards: noise, dust (silica), illumination, personal protective equipment, scaffolds, fall protection equipment, excavations, precast/poured concrete, steel erection, and cranes. A number of these areas of emphasis have been subject to national emphasis programs and other special enforcement measures designed to deal with areas perceived by OSHA as being particularly problematic over the past few years.

    Employers who require their employees to work on or near roadways and highways should consider whether they are covered by this Directive and, if they are, review their safety programs to ensure that they are incorporating all of the requirements set forth in the new Directive.