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OSHA Directive – Work Near Roads

Thursday, January 3, 2013

On October 16th, 2012 OSHA issued a new directive (CPL 02-01-054) on “Inspection and Citation Guidance for Roadway and Highway Construction Work Zones.  It applies to all companies whose work exposes employees to the hazards of vehicular traffic on public roads and highways.

While this directive has obvious application for road builders, it should be noted that all entities whose employees are exposed to vehicular traffic on public roads are subject to this directive.  While road builders generally are better equipped to address this issue, companies who perform incidental work along roads may be particularly susceptible to violations.

Summary of the Directive

  • These inspections will often be initiated because compliance officers driving in work zones are looking for potential violations
  • OSHA directs compliance officers to wear Personal Protective Equipment when conducting inspections in work zones including hard hats, steel toe boots, eye protection, hearing protection, high visibility clothing, and respirators (although not likely). They will be looking for equivalent protection for contractors employees in work zones
  • Fall hazards and excavation work in work zones will take inspection priority and be looked at first (part of OSHA’s focus four construction hazard inspection policy)
  • The directive calls for the compliance officer to request a copy of the traffic control plan. They may ask this of subcontractors or general contractors working in, or supervising, construction activities in work zones
  • If hazards are observed in work zones that are contrary to instructions in the traffic control plan, OSHA may issue violations using the general duty clause
  • The smallest subpart of OSHA’s construction regulations, Subpart G, will be used as the basis for many work zone violations
  • Inspections will include interviews with flaggers to ascertain if they have received the training necessary to safely and effectively flag
  • The directive discusses possible citations for failure to implement “safety programs” as found in Subpart C, 1926.20(b)(1)
  • The directive also discusses possible citations for failure to train employees in general required to work in work zones as found in Subpart C, 1926.21(b)(2)
  • OSHA provides three specific examples of where it might use the general duty clause as the basis for citations. They include crossing live lanes of high speed traffic, setting and retrieving cones, and failure to wear high visibility apparel

Response to Work Zone Compliance Directive

  • While the wheels of government often turn slowly, I recommend to use the time it takes OSHA to execute this directive wisely and preparing for eventual inspection and enforcement
  • Train all employees, particularly foremen, about the new directive. This should include a plan and strategy of how to respond to the OSHA inspection
  • Evaluate the need for site specific, written, traffic control plans. It appears having such a plan could be a net positive, providing the details of the plan are implemented on site
  • For larger projects, the estimator or project manager should request a copy of the general contractor’s traffic control plan
  • A compliance officer’s impression of a jobsite is often driven by the “optics.”  A jobsite where all employees are wearing hard hats, safety glasses, high visibility garments, and steel-toed work boots sends a strong visual cue of a “safe” jobsite
  • Noise and dust exposures from activities in work zones should be evaluated and quantified. Silica dust is on OSHA’s radar screen, and it appears noise is now as well
  • Training for all employees in work zones will be a critical aspect of compliance. Specific training for flaggers is emphasized in the compliance directive. All employees should receive general training in work zone hazards and safe practices. Flaggers should likely be trained no less than every two years
  • Jobsite safety inspections should include a heavy focus on work zone safety. Violations discovered in work zones should result in disciplinary action of the offending employee or supervisor to establish aspects of the unpreventable employee misconduct defense

A copy of the complete directive can be obtained from OSHA’s website at:

Material posted on this website is for informational purposes only and does not constitute a legal opinion or medical advice. Contact your legal representative or medical professional for information specific to your legal or medical needs.

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