OSHA Standard Interpretation: Employees In Highway/Road Construction Work Zones Must Wear High-Visibility Garment

Employers occasionally ask OSHA to explain how a standard applies to particular circumstances posed on the job. OSHA’s response, in the form of a standard interpretation letter, helps to clarify the standard requirements.

OSHA was previously asked whether OSHA standards require high-visibility apparel for construction workers working in highway/road construction zones. According to a letter published on OSHA’s website on August 5, 2009, “high visibility apparel is required under the General Duty Clause to protect employees exposed to the danger of being struck by public and construction traffic while working in highway/road construction work zones.”

There are two specific circumstances where employees are required to wear high-visibility garments. These are employees who work as flaggers (29 CFR 1926.201(1)) and employees exposed to public vehicular traffic in the vicinity of excavations (29 CFR 1926.651(d)).

OSHA then looked to a recent final rule issued by the Federal Highway Administration for additional guidance. The rule, found in 29 CFR Part 634, requires all workers in a road construction zone to wear high visibility safety apparel.

All workers within the right-of-way of a Federal-aid highway who are exposed either to traffic (vehicles using the highway for purposes of travel) or to construction equipment within the work area shall wear high-visibility safety apparel.

According to OSHA, this standard indicates that wearing high-visibility safety apparel is a feasible means of addressing the safety hazards faced in any road construction work zone. “Typically, workers in a highway/road work zone are exposed to that hazard most of the time.”

The full text of OSHA’s August 5, 2009, standard interpretation letter can be found at the link provided.

OSHA’s Construction eTools also provide safety information related to employees working around vehicles and construction equipment. Here is a link to OSHA’s: Struck-By Vehicles Construction eTool.

Wisconsin Based Contractor Settles With OSHA; Agrees To Pay $474,000 In Penalties

In a news release dated September 30, 2009, OSHA announced that it reached a settlement with a contractor involving three separate excavation hazard inspections. The three inspections were conducted between September 2008 and September 2009 resulting in approximately $861,000 in initial proposed penalties.

The contractor, A-1 Excavating, Inc., settled the matters for $474,000 in penalties, agreed to abate all of the cited hazards, and agreed to take numerous steps beyond what is ordinarily required by OSHA standards for the protection of its employees including the following:

  • Hire a full-time safety director;
  • Implement site-specific safety and health plans for all major projects;
  • Provide additional safety and health training to all employees;
  • Identify all jobsites to OSHA before work begins and allow access to the jobsites without a warrant for the next three years;
  • Reduce the salary of job superintendents and project managers who fail to comply with applicable OSHA requirements;
  • Retain a third-party safety consultant; and
  • Conduct monthly foreman meetings during the construction season to discuss safety and health issues.

Some of the hazards revealed during one of OSHA’s investigations included failure to provide safe egress from a trench and failure to protect workers in an excavation from cave-ins.

OSHA maintains a Construction eTool for trenching and excavation that provides a wealth of safety information that can be found at the provided link.