High-visibility warning garments are now required safety attire for all highway and road construction workers, according to a new letter of interpretation recently released by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
In 2004, OSHA issued a letter of interpretation about the use of high-visibility apparel in highway construction. The letter emphasized that section 5(a)(1), the General Duty Clause, of the OSH Act requires workers in highway work zones to wear high-visibility apparel.
However, the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission ruled that OSHA’s 2004 letter indicated a more limited position: that high-visibility garments were only required where the Federal Highway Administration’s Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) mandates their use.
Therefore, OSHA has issued a new letter stating that all highway and road construction workers must wear high-visibility apparel regardless of whether the MUTCD requires them. OSHA considers road and construction traffic a well-recognized hazard to highway and road construction workers. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reinforced the need for using safety apparel when data from 2003 to 2007 showed there were 425 road construction work zone fatalities.
“Highway construction workers should not suffer serious or fatal injuries simply because they could not be seen,” said acting Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab. “Requiring the use of reflective vests is essential to help prevent workers from being injured or killed.”
To read OSHA’s 2009 letter of interpretation, click here: letter of interpretation.