On December 5, 2007, the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) issued its final rule on new, supplemental regulations concerning the use and payment of uniformed law enforcement officers, positive protection measures between workers and motorized traffic, and temporary traffic control devices on construction, maintenance, and utility work zones. The regulations are intended to reduce the likelihood of fatalities and injuries to both road users and highway workers. The regulations apply to all Federal-Aid highway projects, but state agencies are encouraged to adopt these on other types of projects as well. The regulations become effective in a year (December 4, 2008). The complete rule can be read by clicking here.
These regulations require all state highway agencies to have a policy in place which requires the systematic consideration and management of road user and worker safety impacts on all Federal-Aid highway projects. Agencies are to establish processes, procedures, and/or guidance to systematically consider the use of the following:
- Positive protection devices to prevent the intrusion of motorized vehicles into the work space and other hazardous areas of the work zone;
- Exposure control measures to avoid or minimize worker exposure to motorized traffic, and road user exposure to work activities;
- Uniformed law enforcement officers and other traffic control measures to reduce work zone crashes; and
- Safe exit and entry of work vehicles into and out of the work area from the travel lanes.
The regulations require agencies to base their procedures and guidance regarding the use of longitudinal barriers and other positive protection devices on an engineering study. Agencies have the flexibility of conducting these studies for individual projects, and/or for establishing their overall guidelines regarding positive protection usage. At a minimum, conditions that place workers at increased risk from motorized traffic (e.g., tunnels and bridges that limit worker escape routes, long duration projects on high-speed facilities that place workers in close proximity to motorized traffic, etc.) and where positive protections devices can significantly improve safety (such as to protect a pavement drop-off that will be in place overnight) shall be considered for positive protection devices.
The regulations identify a number of exposure control measures (full road closures, ramp closures, median crossovers, night work, etc.) and additional traffic control measures to improve safety (changeable message signs, intrusion alarms, speed management techniques, etc.) that agencies should consider in some fashion in their processes and procedures. Considerable flexibility is provided to the agencies about how this consideration should occur, the roadway and work zone factors that should be contemplated, and so on.
The regulations require agencies to establish policy on the use of uniformed law enforcement officers, again taking roadway and work zone factors into consideration. Night work, temporary lane closures that put highway workers in lanes next to high-speed motorized traffic, and other higher-risk work zones where improved driver awareness and behavior could significantly reduce the risks are among those situations where consideration of law enforcement use is recommended.
Also, the regulations require agencies to establish processes, procedures, and guidelines on how to safely get work vehicles and equipment into and out of the work zone for construction deliveries. The processes, procedures, and guidelines should be based on individual project characteristics and factors.
A significant amount of the new regulations are devoted to authorizing the use of Federal-Aid funds in paying for these additional efforts, and specifying how such payments should be made. The regulations emphasize the use of unit price bid items rather than lump sum payment for those devices and measures that can significantly improve safety but which affect construction costs. The regulations provide additional flexibility in how Federal-Aid funds are used by agencies in paying for uniformed law enforcement officers when needed.
The new rule does a very good job of raising the level of attention that must be given to worker and road user safety for work zones. Also, it also removes many of the financial disincentives that previously existed for highway contractors who wanted to include these measures and strategies in their bid, but could not for fear of losing the job to a lower bidder. We want to hear what you, the practitioner, think about the new rule. Go to the forum and post your opinions, questions, thoughts, etc. Some things we’d like to hear from you on are the following (but you can comment on anything relevant to the rule that you’d like):
- How much, and in what ways, do you think worker and road user safety will be most improved by this new rule? In what ways will it have the least effect?
- How much do you think project costs will be affected by these regulations? Do you think there will be any unintended consequences of the rule?
- How do you think the engineering studies can, should, and/or will be done to develop guidance for longitudinal barrier and other positive protection device use?
- How should agencies best consider the use of exposure controls and other traffic control measures? Are there key research and data needs that exist?