Responding to adverse comments from the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and other construction industry organizations, the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has withdrawn a fast-track proposal for new rules governing construction operations around streets and highways. The agency announced plans to begin a normal public rulemaking procedure on adoption of the U.S. Department of Transportation's "Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD)."

OSHA received eight comments on its so-called "direct final rule" - three in support of the change and five against. Most objections related to OSHA's rapid timetable for implementing the rule, which had been scheduled to take effect Aug. 13.

NECA stated that the compressed schedule provided insufficient time to inform and educate their members about the new safety regulations, and to obtain new signs, barricades, and other equipment required for compliance. The new rules could also have put construction contractors in violation of OSHA standards on projects that had already been planned and budgeted without knowledge of the proposed new rule.

"We welcome OSHA's decision to evaluate in more detail what impact the adoption of the 2000 edition on the MUTCD will have on construction operations, particularly in regards to utility installations near roadways," said David Potts, NECA's director of safety and insurance. NECA is pleased that OSHA is proceeding forward with the rulemaking process on a proposed rule. As we stated in our written comments, we wholeheartedly support this planned action to help assure a safe working and motoring environment for all exposed to hazards near roadway construction and maintenance operations."