When it comes to work zone safety, it can seem as though there are many agencies all trying to do the same job.
But all those repetitive regulations, training, guides, and manuals often cite the same few sources of information and rules. Two key players in work zone safety are the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Much of OSHA’s work zone safety materials comes directly from the FHWA. OSHA has adopted the Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) to help uphold work zone safety standards across the board, in all states. The FHWA created the MUTCD, but both agencies have different agendas for the same set of standards.
According their site, “The objective of the National Highway Work Zone Safety Program (NHWZSP) is to enhance safety and operational efficiency of highway work zones for highway users — motorists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, including the elderly highway users — and highway workers.”
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In a nutshell, the FHWA helps create and enforce work zone safety programs for the benefit of the general public.
Alternately, OSHA utilizes many of the same standards as the FHWA solely to protect workers. OSHA's job is to ensure that employers provide their employees with proper work zone safety training to minimize injury and death among workers. In order to help keep the same uniformity, OSHA adopts some of the FHWA's standards, like the MUTCD, so that employers and employees in work zones only have one set of standards to follow.
The FHWA works a dual role in some ways. For example, FHWA engineers design the crash-worthiness of barriers. In doing so, it keeps the general public safe by implementing designs to minimize crash injury, but it also keeps the workers behind those same barriers safe from out-of-control vehicles.
OSHA’s job would be to ensure that the employer provided his or her employees with the barriers and the training to set them up properly.
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Despite the overlap of the two agencies, their goals are ultimately different. Aside from designing industry-wide standards of traffic control, the FHWA puts much of its focus on educating and helping the public understand their role in keeping workers safe, while keeping street congestion to a minimum as well.
OSHA keeps its focus mainly on the education of employers and employees in work zones to keep the workers safe.
The relationship between the two agencies is a very delicate balance between keeping work zones safe for both the public and workers. It is the responsibility of the employer to keep up to date on regulation changes from both OSHA and the FHWA.