WORK-ZONE SAFETY: A close look

OSHA’s new directive will have ramifications for inspection of roadway construction work zones

Transportation Management Article May 08, 2013
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OSHA is paying special attention to the construction industry, especially to companies performing work near roadways or highways where employees could be exposed to struck-by hazards.

Each year, nearly 100 construction work-zone crew members are killed and more than 20,000 are injured. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), from 2007-09, 253 fatal occupational injuries occurred in highway, street and bridge construction. Moving vehicles that strike workers on foot cause the majority of work-zone deaths.

To combat this high accident, injury and death rate, OSHA has released Enforcement and Compliance Directive (CPL) 02-01-054, Inspection and Citation Guidance for Roadway and Highway Construction Work Zones. This is the first OSHA directive on inspection procedures in roadway and highway construction work zones.

The directive serves two purposes:

 

  • To help OSHA’s Compliance Safety and Health Officers (CSHOs) safely inspect roadway and highway construction work zones. Working near fast-moving public traffic presents hazards for CSHOs performing inspections; and
  • To help CSHOs issue consistent citations for violations under 29 CFR 1926, Subpart G Signs, Signals, and Barricades (which incorporates by reference Part VI of the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices [MUTCD] 1988 Edition, Revision 3, as well as the Millennium Edition, December 2000).

 

General OSHA
inspection procedures

OSHA’s inspections of roadway and highway construction work zones have two parts: inspections of the construction work and inspections of the temporary traffic controls.

 

Inspecting the
construction work

Inspections of roadway construction work are generally no different from inspections of other construction sites. OSHA is especially concerned with any construction work where employees are working near traffic or other roadway conditions such as overhead power lines or excavations.

Upon arrival at the activity area of the work zone, the CSHO will perform the inspection as set out in Chapter 3 of OSHA’s Field Operations Manual. The CSHO may stop and open an inspection of a roadway construction work zone after observing potential violations from the public way.

 

Inspecting temporary
traffic controls

Highway construction work zones require the use of temporary traffic-control signs, devices and procedures. Construction employers are required to post legible traffic signs to warn road users and workers of hazardous conditions that can be present in construction areas.

A sign is any traffic-control device that is intended to communicate specific information to road users through a word or symbol legend. Signs do not include traffic-control signals, pavement markings, delineators or channelization devices.

The function of channelizing devices is to warn road users of conditions created by work activities in or near the roadway and to guide road users. Channelizing devices include cones, tubular markers, vertical panels, drums, barricades and longitudinal channelizing devices.

When inspecting these work zones, the CSHO will refer to the specific provisions in Part VI of the MUTCD for more detailed inspection guidance.

 

What will CSHO
be looking for?

The first part of the work-zone inspection is called the initial “drive-by.” The CSHO will drive through the entire work zone, preferably in both directions, to observe it.

The CSHO is going to be looking for the four typical components of a roadway work zone while driving by:

 

  • Advance warning area: The section of highway where road users are informed about the upcoming work zone or incident area;
  • Transition area: That section of highway where road users are redirected out of their normal path;
  • Activity area: The section of the highway where the work activity takes place. It comprises the work space, the traffic space and the buffer space; and
  • Termination area: The section of the highway where road users are returned to their normal driving path.

 

The CSHO will have to remember that work zones vary. Some have no transition area, such as when work takes place on the shoulders or behind barriers.

 

What should you do?

If applicable, make sure:

 

  • Advance warning signs are in place;
  • Transition area tapers are at a safe distance;
  • Buffer spaces exist (an optional work-zone component). Vehicles or equipment should not occupy buffer spaces (longitudinal or lateral);
  • Cones are spaced correctly; and
  • The control devices indicate a clear path of travel.

 

Traffic-control plan

If OSHA is conducting an inspection following a work-site accident or there is an independent basis for believing that a hazard exists, the CSHO may request a copy of the traffic-control plan (TCP) for the work zone during the opening conference, in addition to other normally requested documentation. The TCP describes which temporary traffic-control measures it uses for facilitating road use through a work zone.

The degree of detail in a TCP depends entirely on the complexity of the situation. TCPs are not required for every work zone, but the general contractors of most major roadway construction projects will have detailed TCPs in place. Many local jurisdictions require approved TCPs for construction work on their public roadways. In general, the traffic-control engineer for the jurisdiction that owns the roadway designs or approves the TCP according to MUTCD specifications. Smaller, short-duration jobs may call for atypical MUTCD application.

The CSHO will refer to the TCP to assist in establishing employer recognition of hazards and the feasibility of abating those hazards, including for General Duty Clause violations (§ 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act). For example, TCPs will often identify the location in the work zone where temporary pavement markings should be. Should a hazardous working condition exist due to the employer’s failure to use temporary pavement markings, the CSHO may then refer to the TCP as evidence of employer recognition of the hazard and the feasibility of abatement.

 

What should you do?

Have your TCP prepared (if it is needed) and ready to provide to the CSHO.

 

Standards and
citation policy

The second part of the new CPL covers how CSHOs should cite the standards that they see violated during the inspection.

 

Traffic signs

The underlying standard they will be looking at is §1926.200(g)(1) (Traffic signs) which says, “Construction areas shall be posted with legible traffic signs at points of hazard.”

CSHOs will use §1926.200(g)(1) when there are no traffic signs that warn of a point of hazard or when a traffic sign at a point of hazard is illegible.

CSHOs may use provisions of the MUTCD, including non-mandatory provisions, to identify points of hazard in construction areas that the CSHO’s judgment recognizes a dangerous condition. CSHOs will reference the source, whether the MUTCD or another source, used to identify a point of hazard when citing §1926.200(g)(1).

 

What should you do?

Make sure all your traffic signs that warn of a point of hazard are in place and legible.

 

Traffic-control signs
and devices

Section 1926.200(g)(2) requires: “All traffic control signs or devices used for protection of construction workers shall conform to Part VI of the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices . . ., 1988 Edition, Revision 3 . . . or Part VI of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Devices, Millennium Edition, which are incorporated by reference . . .”

The most recent edition of the MUTCD is the 2009 edition. Under OSHA’s de minimis policy, compliance with more current DOT requirements, or with more current ANSI or other applicable nationally recognized consensus standards, is acceptable so long as such standards are at least as protective as the OSHA requirement.

 

What should you do?

Use only traffic-control signs or devices that meet the specifications in the MUTCD.

 

Signaling (flagging)

Section 1926.201(a) provides: “Signaling by flaggers and the use of flaggers, including warning garments worn by flaggers, shall conform to Part VI of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, (1988 Edition, Revision 3 or the Millennium Edition) . . .”

The inspector will cite §1926.201(a) for violations of mandatory MUTCD standards pertaining to flagging and reference the mandatory provisions of the MUTCD in the citation.

 

What should you do?

Review the mandatory MUTCD standards pertaining to flagging (MUTCD Section 6E).

 

Barricades and barriers

Section 1926.202 provides: “Barricades for protection of employees shall conform to Part VI of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices, (1988 Edition, Revision 3 or the Millennium Edition), which are incorporated by reference in Sec. 1926.200(g)(2).”

The inspector will cite §1926.202 for violations of mandatory MUTCD standards pertaining to the use of barricades and reference the mandatory provision(s) of the MUTCD.

Section 1926.203 defines “barricade” as “an obstruction to deter the passage of persons or vehicles.” The Type I, II and III barricades specified in the MUTCD fall within this definition, as they deter traffic by restricting access to the roadway. In addition, the temporary/portable barrier systems described in the MUTCD are included in the §1926.203 definition of “barricade,” because these systems can be used as a channelizing and/or physical deterrent of traffic.

 

What should you do?

Review the mandatory MUTCD standards pertaining to either barricades or barriers under §1926.202.

 

Compliance checklist

Use the following checklist to help you stay in compliance with OSHA’s applicable standards:

 

General work-zone safety

  • Each employee is instructed in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and regulations applicable to his or her work environment (§1926.21(b)(2);
  • An effective hearing conservation program is in place (§1926.95(d)(1);
  • Administrative or engineering controls are in place to reduce silica dust exposure, per 1926.55;
  • Illumination at the work site meets the minimum intensities in 1926.57 Table D-3;
  • Personal protective equipment is being supplied and used as necessary and meets the requirements of 1926 Subpart E;
  • Scaffolding, if used, meets the requirements of 1926 Subpart L;
  • Fall protection, if needed, meets the requirements of 1926 Subpart M;
  • Equipment used on the site meets the requirements of 1926 Subpart O;
  • Excavations, if needed, meet the requirements of 1926 Subpart P;
  • Precast and poured concrete meet the requirements of 1926 Subpart Q;
  • Steel erection, if built, meets the requirements of 1926 Subpart R; and
  • Cranes, if used, meet the requirements of 1926 Subparts CC and DD.

 

Temporary traffic controls

  • A TCP is in place, if necessary;
  • Traffic signs are posted and legible at points of hazard (§1926.200(g)(1);
  • Traffic-control signs or devices conform to Part VI of the MUTCD (1926.200(g)(1);
  • Use of flaggers meets the requirements of Part VI of the MUTCD (§1926.201(a));
  • Flagger’s warning garments conform to Part VI of the MUTCD (§1926.201(a));
  • Flagger’s signals conform to Part VI of the MUTCD (§1926.201(a));
  • Barricades and barriers conform to Part VI of the MUTCD (1926.202);
  • Setting and retrieving traffic cones or devices does not expose employees to the hazards of being struck by public traffic or construction vehicles and equipment and/or falling from construction vehicles or equipment. (General Duty Clause); and
  • Crossing live lanes of high-speed traffic does not expose employees to the hazard of being struck by public traffic or construction vehicles and equipment. (General Duty Clause).

 

Conclusion

You must protect your employees when they are performing construction activity on and near roadways or highways (such as road, highway, sidewalk or utility construction projects) where public and/or construction vehicular traffic exposes construction workers to struck-by hazards.

OSHA’s CPL 02-01-054, Inspection and Citation Guidance for Roadway and Highway Construction Work Zones, will provide you with some of the information needed to make your work zone a safer place for your employees to work.

About the author: 
Stromme is a construction safety subject matter expert at J.J. Keller & Associates Inc., Neenah, Wis.
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