In October 2012, OSHA issued a new compliance directive, CPL_02-01-052, which is now the basis for COSHO (Compliance Safety and Health Officer) inspections of work sites requiring temporary traffic control to protect workers. Portions of this directive tell COSHOs how to protect themselves and how to approach the inspection site. The directive also establishes the training required for COSHOs to be able to issue traffic control citations.
This entire directive is the first real attempt at setting specific procedures for a traffic control inspection. In addition to the references to the MUTCD in the OSHA Construction Regulations, osha.gov/doc/highway_workzones/mutcd, there also are some regulations that deal with flagging and excavations that are separate from the Sign Signal and Barricades sections, osha.gov/doc/highway_workzones/index.html. During a construction activity, OSHA can cite your company either under these regulations or under the General Duty Clause. If you are performing a general industry activity, any citations would fall under the General Duty Clause. Where and how you get cited is important when negotiating any settlements after citations are issued – especially now that all serious citations are a potential for repeat status for an entire five-year period after your case is closed. Do the same thing wrong twice in five years, and the potential exists for a devastating loss of hard-earned funds; violations that start at $7,000 per item can go as high as $70,000 under the repeat status.
Despite the changes, MUTCD continues to be the standard for traffic control activities in both general industry and construction applications. In the past, the MUTCD has been referenced just about every time a traffic control issue is cited under the General Duty Clause. For this reason, all surveying companies should conduct training on traffic control based on the MUTCD. This training should be thorough enough for your employees to understand how to set up and use devices and equipment under your Temporary Traffic Control Plan (TCP). You should regularly inspect your traffic control sites to make certain employees are following their training. If they aren’t, then additional training will be justified. You should also hold periodic toolbox safety talks about traffic control.
The most ironic part of the entire traffic control issue with OSHA is that compliance officers have been citing these items for years and are just now getting around to giving instructions to their COSHOs on how to do the inspections. It gets even scarier considering that most COSHOs in the U.S. have not had detailed training in the MUTCD and how traffic control should be established. Apparently, however, they can cite you for not knowing what they don’t know.