Written Testimony on Work Zone Safety and Health Issues in TEA-21Author/Presenter: Fowler, Joseph C.
As work begins on the reauthorization of the TEA-21, the LHSFNA would like to offer several observations and items for consideration based on our experience with worker safety issues in road construction:
1. Road owners (i.e. the federal, state, and local governments) need to take responsibility for ensuring that workers and motorists are protected from construction hazards by including requisite safety provisions and practices known to protect workers and motorists in their bid specifications for contractors.
2. Work zone designs should display a preference for road closures and detouring traffic from work zones.
3. The National Institute For Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) should be given designated funding specifically aimed at road construction worker safety and health issues.
4. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s regulations governing work zone safety for workers are woefully inadequate and antiquated. As a start, OSHA should update its 29CFR Part 1926, Subpart G to include requirements to follow the latest edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). Road owners such as states already require conformance with this document, and its inclusion in the OSHA regulations would allow a uniform enforceability. OSHA should be given both direction and funding to update its road construction safety standards.
5. Road construction presents hazards for both motorists and workers. Sometimes, initiatives to protect motorists may put workers more at risk of injury, and vice versa. At present, the FHWA addresses the motorist safety issues, and OSHA is charged with addressing the worker safety issues. Both of these interests come together in a road construction site, yet there seems to be little inter-agency communication and coordination of safety activities between these two governmental entities. Any TEA-21 reauthorization should address the need for better communication, cooperation, and coordination of activities between these two agencies to protect both workers and motorists.