U.S. Department of Transportation
Federal Highway Administration
1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE
Washington, DC 20590

Skip to content U.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway AdministrationU.S. Department of Transportation/Federal Highway Administration


eSubscribe Envelope

FHWA Home / Safety / Work Zones

National Highway Work Zone Safety Program

The objective of the National Highway Work Zone Safety Program (NHWZSP) is to enhance safety and operational efficiency of highway work zones for highway users — motorists, pedestrians, motorcyclists, bicyclists, including the elderly highway users — and highway workers.

Federal Register / Vol. 60. No. 205 / Tuesday / October 34, 1995 / Notices regarding the National Highway Work Zone Safety Program.

The NHWZSP consists of four components:

  1. Standardization
  2. Compliance
  3. Evaluation
  4. Implementation

In addition, the FHWA conducted a study entitled "Meeting the Customer's Needs for Mobility and Safety During Construction and Maintenance Operations," [PDF, 363 KB] which involved interviews with FHWA and State personnel in 26 States.

C. Work Zone Program

The NHWZSP consists of four components—standardization, compliance, evaluation, and innovation.
Each component contains key elements supporting the component, and for each element there are planned or recommended FHWA activities that will aid in its implementation. In addition, each listed activity may support more than one program component.

1. Standardization—Update Existing Work Zone Safety Related Standards and Develop New Standards Where Needed

Standardization of traffic control devices, operational features, traffic control plans or layouts, contract
specifications, and use of recognized industry wide good work zone management practices encourages uniformity of application and a common understanding of these items by highway agency staff, contractor’s personnel, equipment and material suppliers, and the traveling public. This promotes quicker recognition and better understanding of what is required to achieve compliance and assure a higher level of safety in work zones.

The following elements are pertinent to having appropriate national and State standards and guidelines contribute to improved work zone safety:

a. An updated Federal regulation on work zone safety—23 CFR 630 Subpart J, ‘‘Traffic Safety in Highway and Street Work Zones.’’

(1) FHWA will review current work zone problems and update the regulation to reflect current needs and emphasis including reinforcement of guidance on bidding practices, work zone accident data collection and analysis at both project and program levels, compliance with traffic control plans, and work zone speed limits.

b. A current Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) including Part VI Standards and Guides for Traffic Controls for Streets and Highway Construction, Maintenance, Utility, and Incident Management Operations.

(1) FHWA will maintain and continually update Part VI of the MUTCD for direct use by highway agencies, contractors, utility companies, and the highway industry in general.

(2) FHWA will develop retroreflectivity standards for work zone signs and pavement markings as part of an overall FHWA objective to meet the retroreflectivity requirements included in the 1993 U.S. Department of Transportation Appropriations Act.

c. Standards, procedures, and criteria for establishing the crashworthiness of work zone safety appurtenances.

(1) FHWA will propose a pooled funded crash testing program using the latest accepted criteria and standards approved by the FHWA. This will also include development of clarifying or additional guidance related to the use of crashworthy devices in work zones.

2. Ensure Compliance

Experience in work zone operations indicates that ensuring compliance with existing standards and guidelines at all times would substantially improve the safety and operation of work zones. The common causes of noncompliance include—underestimating project needs or complexity, failure to accurately implement the traffic control plan initially or modify it due to changing conditions, and gradual deterioration of devices over the life of the project.

Elements considered important to assuring compliance with work zone related standards and guidelines are—

a. Procedures and specifications which help achieve or maintain an acceptable level of quality for traffic control plan applications, including all traffic control devices and safety appurtenances used in work zones.

(1) FHWA will develop inspection methods to identify devices that have been improperly installed or inadequately maintained to increase the contractors’ compliance and highway agencies’ enforcement of contract traffic control provisions. This activity includes promoting the National Highway Institute’s training course— ‘‘Inspection of Work Zone Traffic Control Devices,’’ which provides guidance to inspectors for assuring an acceptable quality level of installed and maintained work zone traffic control devices.

(2) FHWA will identify and promote those procedures and specifications that will help improve the efficiency and effectiveness of work zone operations (ex. special incentive/disincentive provisions for timely completion of work) and increased safety.

b. Public awareness and education programs designed to sensitize highway users on the uniqueness and risk of driving in work zones and to change highway user behavior accordingly.

(1) FHWA will promote the development and implementation of public education and awareness programs, including exploring the potential of developing, in cooperation with our partners, a single national work zone safety campaign that could be locally adapted and used by each State.

(2) FHWA will consider other outreach activities to advance the concept of safer driving in work zones.

c. Full use of available resources and guidance material to achieve better compliance with traffic control plans, specification, and procedures.

(1) FHWA will provide guidance to highway agencies on training/certification programs for flaggers and
work site safety supervisors, and promote their use.

(2) FHWA will encourage State and local highway agencies to include work zone safety in their Safety Management Systems to assure it is properly considered in the planning, design, and implementation stages.

(3) FHWA will promote greater coordination and cooperation between law enforcement and highway agencies in the planning, design, and implementation of traffic control plans. Also, provide information on effective State and local laws, regulations, and procedures that enhance the safety and operations of work zones.

3. Improve Evaluation of Work Zones

Evaluation is a necessary tool for analyzing failures and identifying successes in work zone operations. Through evaluation, it is possible to identify opportunities for countermeasures and to measure the benefits of current ones. The following elements contribute to increased evaluation capabilities and improved program related data:

a. Accurate and sufficient work zone crash data.

(1) The FHWA will assist State highway agencies in evaluating their programs and improving their procedures for collecting and analyzing work zone accident and incident data.

(2) The FHWA, in cooperation with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) and others, will provide a single definition of work zone related accidents for universal use, and identify the minimum data elements that should be collected for compiling the fatalities and injuries occurring in work zones.

b. Independent project and work zone program oversight to identify safety deficiencies.

(1) The FHWA will encourage State and local highway agencies to have a system of independent project site and program process reviews to identify desirable safety changes.

(2) On a regional basis, the FHWA will periodically review a sampling of active highway construction, maintenance, and utility projects. The review will include a detailed analysis of traffic control plans and their revisions, the validity and condition of the traffic control devices (both day and night), and appropriate management and enforcement activities.

c. A national information exchange system for feedback on positive activities for improving work zone safety.

(1) The FHWA will provide an annual report summarizing efforts being made by the States to reduce deaths and injuries occurring in work zones and the effectiveness of such efforts.

(2) The FHWA will explore, in cooperation with others, the potential for establishing a national work zone safety information clearinghouse.

d. A specific problem assessment program to identify possible cause and effect factors for unique work zone problems and identify potential solutions.

(1) The FHWA will evaluate specific work zone related problems or issues of national significance as they occur. Scope and extent of evaluation will be determined on a case by case basis. Active participation by States and FHWA field offices will be encouraged.

4. Implement Innovative Technologies and Procedures

The use of innovative technologies and procedures can help improve highway user and worker safety, and traffic flow through work zones. Such innovations consist of the development of new products and procedures and more effective use of existing ones through increased training. Elements supporting innovation and increased effectiveness are:

a. Acceptance and adoption of new technology.

(1) The FHWA will encourage the State and local highway agencies and others to use the Strategic Highway Research Program (SHRP) Work Zone Safety Products that have been proven successful. These include those that provide added protection for workers, such as, the flashing stop/slow paddle and the intrusion alarm.

(2) FHWA will encourage the increased use of innovative protective safety devices, such as Truck Mounted Attenuators for short-term and intermediate-term stationary work zones, and automated shadow vehicles for mobile and short-term work zones.

(3) FHWA will encourage the use of techniques identified in the 1992 report to Congress entitled, ‘‘Traffic/Congestion Management During Highway Construction’’ to minimize disruptions to traffic during construction of highway projects.

b. An ongoing research and evaluation program for new work zone safety products, devices and procedures.

(1) FHWA will encourage the States to support work zone safety research and new technology evaluation programs to be able to more quickly adopt viable products and devices.

(2) FHWA will conduct research on condition-responsive work zone traffic control systems and operations applicable to longer-term construction areas. An example is the ‘‘Vehicle Queue Backup Warning System’’ being developed to warn motorists and workers of situations which could produce hazards such as traffic stoppage at critical locations.

(3) FHWA will research work zone human factors driving needs with emphasis on the elderly driver.

c. A continuing training program for highway agency staffs and contractor personnel where appropriate.

(1) FHWA will develop and conduct a comprehensive work zone safety training program. This program will encompass subjects ranging from an understanding and application of basic concepts to procedures for developing complex work zone strategies. The work zone training program courses will be available through the FHWA’s National Highway Institute (NHI).

View entire PDF version

Page last modified on December 10, 2014.
Safe Roads for a Safer Future - Investment in roadway safety saves lives
Federal Highway Administration | 1200 New Jersey Avenue, SE | Washington, DC 20590 | 202-366-4000