Tuesday, July 20, 2010

General Duty Clause - HiViz

Contributed by Sandy Paquette, Roadway Programs Trainer, Evergreen Safety Council
Did you know the Stimulus legislation included $27 million dollars for OSHA to step-up inspections of stimulus-financed projects? There were 100 new OSHA enforcement positions filled. Did you know that OSHA is beginning enforcement of the High Visibility Clothing rules using its “General Duty Clause?”

Construction employees working on highway/road construction work zones often risk being struck by traffic. Do the OSHA standards require high-visibility apparel for these construction workers?

Road and construction traffic poses an obvious and well-recognized hazard to highway/road construction work zones employees. OSHA standards require such employees to wear high visibility garments in two specific circumstances: when they work as flaggers and when they are exposed to public vehicular traffic in the vicinity of excavations. However, other construction workers in highway/road c construction work zones are also exposed to the danger of being struck by the vehicles operating near them. For such workers, section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, 29 U.S.C. 654(a)(1), also know as the General Duty Clause, requires similar protection. Section 5(a)(1) requires employers to provide their employees: ….employment and place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his his/her employees…..

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) rationale underlying the rule well illustrates that the industry recognizes that construction workers in highway/road construction work zones need protection against the hazard posed by moving traffic. The FHWA’s recent mandatory standard for workers on federal-aid highways shows that struck-by hazards in highway/road construction work zones are well recognized by the construction industry. Furthermore, the standard indicates that a feasible means of addressing that hazard is the wearing of high-visibility apparel.

Accordingly, 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. Typically, workers in a highway/road work zone are exposed that hazard most of the time.

The fines can start at $7000. per ticket, so if you have several workers on foot in the work zone without high-visibility apparel you can multiply the fine by that number of employees that are not wearing it.

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