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OSHA Letter Corrects OSHRC Work Zone Decision
Buying and Maintaining
Purchasing agents should consider the following when buying new high-visibility clothing:
- Working conditions (time of day, temperature, etc.)
- Class of apparel needed
- Compliance with ANSI/ISEA 107-2004 and 207-2006
- State and local standards and guidelines
- MUTCD section 6E, which gives the appropriate colors for the apparel
According to the American Traffic Safety Services Association (ATSSA), high-visibility clothing that is faded, dirty, worn-out and no longer able to be seen from a distance of 1,000 feet, day or night, has outlived its usefulness and must be replaced. Safety compliance officers or supervisors should be notified when it is time for new safety garments. Once you have received your new gear, cut your old apparel in half so that it will not be reused.
Reversing a Bush-era decision, a revitalized Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reasserted its requirement of reflective apparel for all highway workers in a new letter of interpretation, issued October 23, 2009.
The new interpretation adds teeth to the General Duty Clause, section 5(a)(1) of the OSH Act, which requires employers to provide work environments “free from recognized hazards…likely to cause death or serious physical harm.”
The new interpretation effectively overturns the November, 2006, decision of the Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission (OSHRC) in Secretary of Labor v. Ruhlin Co. Therein, the Commission ruled that, except for flaggers, OSHA could not cite employers for failure to provide reflective apparel and chastised the Secretary for its efforts to broadly apply the General Duty clause (see Ruling on Warning Vests Reflects OSHA Confusion on PPE).
“The OSHA letter should end the practice of skirting reflective apparel requirements on the basis of a regulatory review commissioner’s obscure, technical logic,” says LIUNA General President Terence M. O’Sullivan. “With more than 100 workers killed every year in work zones, it is common sense to require reflective vests so that motorists and equipment operators will more readily see pedestrian workers and react more quickly to avoid collisions. We are pleased that OSHA has taken this strong step to enhance work zone safety.”
[Janet Lubman Rathner]