New roadwork rules moving too fast

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a series of new standards for road signs, signals, and barricades to improve worker safety in traffic zones. However, several groups, especially the National Electrical Contractors Assoc. (NECA), believe OSHA's efforts to "fast track" the rulemaking process may not be an appropriate approach in this case. "We wholeheartedly agree

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has proposed a series of new standards for road signs, signals, and barricades to improve worker safety in traffic zones. However, several groups, especially the National Electrical Contractors Assoc. (NECA), believe OSHA's efforts to "fast track" the rulemaking process may not be an appropriate approach in this case.

"We wholeheartedly agree that meaningful steps must be taken to protect construction employees working near operating streets and highways," commented David L. Potts, NECA's director for safety and insurance. "However, as compared with the usual OSHA rulemaking process, there has been very little time for affected construction employers and employees to become aware of the compliance details associated with these proposed standards."

OSHA has proposed adoption of the Federal Highway Administration's Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) with an accelerated effective date of August 31. The 982-page manual has customarily been applied to road and highway constructors, but typically not to other companies, including electrical/communications contractors, utility/sewer contractors, and equipment suppliers, which conduct other operations near roads and highways. Enforcement has been almost exclusively the responsibility of state highway departments, rather than OSHA.

Extending MUTCD rules to cover these additional operations, without adequate public notice and phase-in period, could cause a variety of problems, said NECA, including widespread non-compliance by affected companies.

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