OSHA News Release - (Archived) Table of Contents|
An innovative public-private reinvention project developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that helps save lives and prevent injuries on highway construction sites in New Jersey will be featured Monday, April 7, in a conference on "Reinvention's Second Term" in Bethesda, Md.
Concerned about a rising death and injury toll among workers in highway construction work zones, the Parsipanny, N.J., area office of OSHA worked with the New Jersey State Police to form a coalition of public and private organizations. This coalition developed a strategy to "make highway construction work in New Jersey the safest in the country." As a result, more than 1,700 workplace hazards were identified and fixed.
Vice President Al Gore will preside over a panel of reinventors that will, among other topics, discuss the New Jersey highway project in a session from 3 to 4:30 p.m. Monday during the reinvention conference, to be held in the Hatcher Conference Center, National Institutes of Health, Bethesda, Md. Lt. John Mazur of the New Jersey State Police, who heads a 45-trooper State Police Work-Zone Unit that patrols construction work sites, will explain the program as a member of the panel.
Robert Kulick, who now heads OSHA's Reinvention Office, was the OSHA area director in Parsipanny when he took the lead in forming the coalition. His office had investigated an accident in which three New Jersey highway construction workers were killed by a passenger truck that crossed over a barrier intended to protect the work zone.
Kulick and his Parsippany office colleagues felt a clear need to prevent such incidents. The office's inspections of highway construction sites had been either responses to worker complaints or after-the-fact investigations of accidents. The Parsippany OSHA decided that a preventive approach that involved collaboration and partnership among affected public and private organizations might solve the problem.
OSHA spearheaded the formation of the coalition, which includes the New Jersey State Police (which had already formed the special work-zone unit), the Laborers' Union, the New Jersey Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, the Utilities and Transportation Contractors Association of New Jersey, Rutgers University, local and county police departments, and the N. J. Department of Labor Consultation Programs (OSHA-funded).
The strategy developed by the coalition includes:
Education and Awareness -- Troopers in the work -zone unit already were patrolling highway construction sites, but their unfamiliarity with occupational safety and health regulations kept their focus on traffic safety in general and speeding motorists in particular. After receiving training in hazard recognition, the State Police and N. J. DOT staff were able to intervene at worksites to ensure that dangerous working conditions were corrected. OSHA compliance officers attended sessions conducted by the State Police to learn more about highway traffic safety. Television public service announcements on highway construction work-zone safety were broadcast.
A Choice for Contractors -- Partnership or Enforcement. Highway contractors were invited to OSHA offices to discuss an offer of partnership -- (1) comply voluntarily with OSHA regulations and protect the safety of their employees or (2) face strong enforcement and penalties from OSHA.
Data Collection -- State Police, with OSHA's help, developed a monthly intervention report that is filed when work hazards are corrected. This allows OSHA and its partners to track hazard trends among highway contractors and to educate workers and employers, troopers, and DOT staff.
Intervention, Leveraging and Enforcement -- Troopers or DOT site representatives stationed at a construction worksite bring hazardous conditions to the attention of the contractor and insist upon removal of employees from risk, as well as immediate corrective action. If hazardous conditions are not abated as quickly as possible, the State Police summon OSHA to the site. All OSHA offices in the state have agreed to respond quickly to any requests from the police for assistance. Repeated violators are subject to strong enforcement action by OSHA.
Permanent Contract Language -- The N. J. DOT is developing contract language all contractors must follow if they submit a bid on state-funded highway work. The contract language is expected to address such topics as implementing safety and health programs, having a safety officer on site, and maintaining site-specific safety and health records of worksite injuries and deaths to assist them in their safety management. DOT, OSHA, the State Police and the Laborers Union will ensure that contract language is enforced.
Among the accomplishments of the program are:
More than 1,700 hazards that posed a significant risk to highway construction workers have been identified and fixed quickly. More than 1,100 workers were removed from potentially serious hazards such as unsafe closure of traffic lanes, inadequate crew protection, and unsafe site-vehicle operation. Many of these hazards also exposed the driving public to risks.
The State of New Jersey assigned 20 additional State Police officers to the project, or 45 troopers in all. The State also decided to expand the collaborative effort to county and local police. OSHA, the Federal Highway Administration, N.J. DOT and the State Police have provided training for 200 county and local police officers and plan to train another 300 officers, for a combined total of 545 state, county and local police officers who will exercise responsibility for worker safety at highway construction projects.
OSHA's Robert Kulick, who will be a panelist Monday and Tuesday mornings in workshops on "Forging Partnerships" at the conference, said, "Perhaps the most important accomplishment of the New Jersey program has been the successful development of a major interagency, public-private coalition which is effectively addressing a problem in a community manner, sharing ownership of the problem and pooling resources to achieve a permanent solution. By working together and focusing on changing behavior, not simply enforcing regulations, the solution to the highway construction problem will be 'hardwired' into the community."
The reinvention conference is hosted by the Vice President's National Performance Review, the national program to make government work better and cost less, Government Executive magazine, the Council for Excellence, George Washington University, the Innovations in American Government program, and the Brookings Institution. It is sponsored by IBM and Price Waterhouse.
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