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FHWA Order 3902.3
This Directive was canceled November 16, 2004.

Occupational Safety Inspections and Abatements
Classification Code Date  
3902.3 May 5, 1978  


  1. Purpose

  2. Authority

  3. Policy

  4. Definitions

  5. Inspection of Workplaces

  6. Conduct of Inspections

  7. Abatement of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions

  8. Reports by Employees of Unsafe or Unhealthful Working Conditions

  1. PURPOSE. To prescribe procedures for safety inspections of FHWA's workplaces, issuance of notices for unsafe conditions and abatement of unsafe conditions.

  2. AUTHORITY. Executive Order 11807, 29 CFR 1960, and DOT Order 3902.3A, and FHWA Orders 3902.1, and 7000.1.

  3. POLICY. It is the policy of the Federal Highway Administration to provide:

    1. periodic inspections by qualified personnel of all workplaces to ensure a safe and healthful working environment, and

    2. prompt abatement of any hazards discovered as a result of inspection or employee report.

  4. DEFINITIONS. For the purpose of this Order, the following are defined:

    1. Safety and Environmental Hygiene Specialist - A person who meets minimum Civil Service qualifications for administering safety programs and has a knowledge of the Occupational Safety and Health Act.

    2. Occupational Safety Manager - An FHWA employee who is responsible for managing the Occupational Safety and Environmental Hygiene Program at his/her designated organizational level. Terms synonymous with Occupational Safety Manager are Regional Occupational Safety Manager, and Washington Office Safety Manager.

    3. Designated Inspector - A person qualified by training to recognize hazards for the type of work or facilities inspected.

    4. Occupational Safety and Health Committee - A committee composed of management and employee representatives at the national and regional level established for the purpose of advising and assisting agency officials with respect to their responsibilities under the agency Occupational Safety and Environmental Hygiene Program.

  5. INSPECTION OF WORKPLACES. Each FHWA facility shall be inspected by personnel with sufficient technical competence to recognize unsafe working conditions. For inspection purposes, FHWA's facilities and workplaces shall be categorized as low risk (offices), and high risk (laboratories). Construction sites may be low risk or high risk depending on the size of the project, number of people involved, and type of work accomplished on the site.

    1. Inspection of Low Risk Workplaces. Low risk workplaces shall be inspected annually as a minimum by designated inspectors.

    2. Inspection of High Risk Workplaces. Workplaces of high risk shall be inspected (semiannually as a minimum) by safety and environmental hygiene specialists, or by designated inspectors.


    1. General.

      Designated inspectors are authorized (1) to enter without delay and at reasonable times any facility, construction site or other workplace to inspect all pertinent conditions, structures, machines, devices, equipment and material; and (2) to question any employee or supervisor, or the official in charge of the establishment. Before making an inspection, the inspector shall examine previous inspection, reports and any accident, injury and illness records of the establishment. The inspector should take environmental samples where appropriate, take photographs related to the purpose of the inspection, and employ other reasonable techniques of inspection. The inspector will comply with safety and environmental health rules and practices of the establishmentbeing inspected and will avoid unreasonable disruption of the operations of the establishment.

    2. Advance Notice of Inspection. Advance notice will be given to the official in charge under the following circumstances:

        (1) when necessary to ensure the presence of presentation from management and employees, and

        (2) when special preparations are necessary for conducting the inspection.

    3. Opening Conference. During the opening conference with the official in charge or a representative, the inspector will explain the purpose of the inspection in terms of FHWA, DOT, AND OSHA requirements.

    4. Participants in the Inspection.

        (1) The inspector shall be in charge of the inspection and shall offer the opportunity of participation to management and employee representatives.

        (2) The inspector is authorized to deny the participation of any person who interferes with a fair and orderly inspection.

    5. Closing Conference. At the conclusion of the inspection, the inspector shall confer with the official in charge, or a representative, and the employee representative to discuss findings concerning workplace conditions. The inspector will informally advise them of apparent unsafe or unhealthful conditions. The necessary corrective action and abatement periods required will be discussed.

    6. Report of Inspection. A formal report shall be made of each inspection containing the following information:

        (1) identification of the facility or workplace,

        (2) name of the management officials in charge of the operations,

        (3) name of the management or employer representatives who participate in the inspection,

        (4) name of the employee representative participating in the inspection,

        (5) name of the inspector,

        (6) a description of any unsafe conditions or violations,

        (7) the reference to the safety standard pertaining to each violation, and

        (8) the abatement period for each safety violation.

    7. Notice of Unsafe Conditions. A Notice of Unsafe Conditions shall be issued when unsafe conditions are found through inspection. The Notice shall contain references to the standards violated, descriptions of the violations and the location, and the proposed abatement period determined by the official in charge. Immediately upon receipt of a Notice of Unsafe Conditions, the official in charge shall post the Notice (or copy thereof) unedited at the locations where unsafe or unhealthful conditions exist. The Notice shall remain posted until the unsafe conditions have been corrected.


    The official in charge has the primary responsibility for the abatement of hazardous conditions and practices. Where there is multiple occupancy within a facility or workplace, the official in charge is that official who has supervisory authority over the particular work area and/or employees where the hazardous condition exists. The following procedures apply to abatement requirements and the timeliness of corrective actions:

    1. Imminent Danger. Imminent danger exists whenever conditions or practices in the workplace could reasonably be expected to cause death or physical harm, either immediately or before normal correction action could eliminate the exposure.

        (1) Upon determination of imminent danger, the officialin charge shall undertake immediate abatement and withdraw employees not needed for abatement of the hazard who may be injured.

        (2) If the dangerous exposure is in a regional or division facility, the official in charge shall notify the Regional Safety Manager and request any necessary assistance, The Regional Safety Manager shall notify the Regional administrator.

        (3) If the dangerous exposure is in a Washington Headquarters facility, the official in charge shall notify the Washington Occupational Safety Manager and request any necessary assistance. The Occupational Safety Manager should then notify the Associate Administrator for Administration.

        (4) If the imminent danger in a field or Washington Headquarters facility cannot be promptly and completely abated, the Regional Administrator or the Associate Administrator for Administration shall notify the Office of the Secretary through the Chief, Occupational Safety Staff (HMS-4).

    2. Abatement Periods. Abatement of unsafe conditions or practices shall be accomplished expeditiously. Reasonable periods for completion of abatement action shall be established as follows:

        (1) Abatement periods of less than 30 working days shall be stated in the Notice of Unsafe Conditions. The abatement period will be established by the official in charge. The Occupational Safety Manager will provide technical assistance concerning the correction for the unsafe conditions.

        (2) When abatement cannot be accomplished within 30 working days, an abatement plan is required to be submitted to the Associate Administrator for Administration within the 30 working day period by the official in charge. The plan shall contain an explanation of the delay, a proposed timetable for abatement and a statement of actions being taken in the interim to protect employees from the hazard. A copy of the plan shall be forwarded to theOccupational Safety Manager and the Occupational Safety and Health Committee for that establishment.

    3. Reinspection.

      A reinspection of the workplace shall be conducted by the Occupational Safety Manager with representatives of management and employees to confirm that corrective action was taken.


    1. Oral Reports. Employees are encouraged to make an immediate oral report to their supervisors of suspected unsafe or unhealthful conditions.

    2. Written Reports. Any employee may request in writing that an inspection of the employee's workplace be made if he or she believes that an unsafe or unhealthful Condition exists. The request must be signed, and should be submitted to the Occupational Safety Manager (or Regional Safety Manager) or to any member of the Occupational Safety and Health Committee. The later should immediately transmit it to he Occupational Safety Manager. If a reporting employee so requests, his or her identity should not be revealed by the person to whom the inspection request was submitted.

    3. Disposition of Written Reports. Within five days after receipt of a written request, except for imminent danger situations, the Occupational Safety Manager should cause an inspection to be made of the alleged unsafe or unhealthful conditions.

        (1) An inspection made as a result of an employee's request need not be limited to matters referred to in the request.

        (2) If the inspection reveals that unsafe or unhealthful conditions exist, a Notice of Unsafe Conditions shall be issued (paragraph 6g), and the abatement procedures prescribed in paragraph 7 shall be followed.

        (3) If the inspection reveals that no unsafe or unhealthful conditions exist, the employee who originated the request should be given a written notice of the inspection results.

        (4) If the originator of the request for an inspection for unsafe conditions in not satisfied with the written notice, subsequent reviews may e requested, in the order listed, from the Regional Administrator, the Associate Administrator for Administration, and the Office of the Secretary of Transportation, or their designees. In each case, the employee should be given a prompt written response.

William M. Cox
Federal Highway Administrator

Page last modified on October 19, 2015
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