Safety: Tapered Road Edges Gain Momentum

June 6, 2012

The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) reports recent, rapid progress with field adaptation of its Safety Edge concept, which is mainly aimed at making rural roads safer.

The Safety Edge is a paving detail that consolidates the pavement edge into a 30-degree angle to mitigate pavement edge drop-offs. These drop-offs develop as the material adjacent to the pavement settles, erodes, or is worn away. A pavement edge drop-off can create problems after a vehicle driver drifts off the pavement, drops onto the shoulder, and tries to re-enter the roadway. Drivers attempting to re-enter the roadway can oversteer and lose control of their vehicles.

Dozens of Safety EdgeSM installations have been paved in recent years, says Cathy Satterfield, safety engineer with the FHWA’s Office of Safety. Available paving devices permit Safety EdgeSM to be installed on either asphalt or concrete pavements. Recent developments include:

  • The FHWA has conducted a field construction evaluation of the Safety EdgeSM in several states. Results showed that the Safety EdgeSM can be constructed in such a way that does not negatively impact paving operations, says the FHWA’s Andy Mergenmeier, P.E., senior pavement and materials engineer.
  • A pooled fund study of crash data commissioned by the FHWA, estimates that the Safety EdgeSM will result in a reduction in total crashes of approximately 5.7%.
  • The Safety EdgeSM has been named by the FHWA as one of five Every Day Counts (EDC) accelerated technology innovations. EDC is an initiative to deploy innovation aimed at shortening project delivery time, enhancing roadway safety and protecting the environment
  • The Safety EdgeSM is designed to be built monolithically with the pavement, and the new spec says the slope should be approximately 1.5:1. Equipment and construction requirements are detailed in the new spec.

Field construction evaluations have come from Safety EdgeSM projects in several states, including Iowa, Delaware, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Maine, and Mississippi. “In the field evaluations we were able to demonstrate that you can construct an edge between 30 and 40 degrees,” Mergenmeier said. “And equipment vendors who make devices to create the Safety EdgeSM are improving their equipment to enhance compaction and to create an edge angle closer to 30 degrees.”

For access to FHWA’s recently issued Safety Edge Design and Construction Guide, go to, and search for Safety Edge Design. The guide provides a wealth of information on the various considerations when designing and building pavement projects with the safety edge.

The current commercial safety edge devices can be grouped into two categories: devices attached to the paver screed, and modifications or attachments to the paver end gate. Four screed devices are available from three different manufacturers, which are: 1) the Shoulder Wedge Maker, by TransTech,; 2) the “Advant-Edger” and “Ramp Champ,” manufactured by the Advant-Edge Paving Equipment LLC,; and 3) the SafeTSlope Edge Smoother by Troxler Electronic Laboratories Inc.,

The end-plate device is available from Carlson Paving Products Inc. (Safety Edge End Gate), The ski of the device forms the slope of the Safety Edge and can be set to a range of angles. The screed operator can adjust the angle of the ski while paving to ensure the final angle of the Safety Edge after rolling is close to 30 degrees.

“Putting a tapered edge on the road can really reduce fatalities, especially for run-off-the-road accidents on rural roads,” says Gary Mittleman, chief executive officer of Advant-Edge Paving Equipment. “Our company is focused only on making safety edge equipment and on making it extremely easy for paver operators to use.”

FHWA says the cost of adding the Safety EdgeSM treatment to a resurfacing project is minimal. Overall project costs and the overall cost of asphalt resurfacing material did not increase for resurfacing projects using the Safety EdgeSM, compared with projects without it.

Your Response to an OSHA Inspection
In a recent issue we discussed an employer’s rights, an employee’s rights, and OSHA’s rights in the event you get inspected by OSHA.

To review, an employer has the right to inform its employees of their rights during the inspection. Employees have the right to a private one-on-one interview with the compliance officer, which is confidential and considered “protected activity.” The employee cannot suffer any adverse action from the employer for exercising this right, says Mark Lies, a labor and employment law attorney with Seyfarth Shaw LLP, Chicago.

An employee can refuse to be interviewed by the compliance officer. Many employees are reluctant to speak to compliance officers because they have been emotionally affected by an accident in which a co-worker has been injured, or they are afraid to speak to a government representative.

An employee has the right to end the interview at any time for any reason. Since the interview is entirely voluntary, unless OSHA has obtained a subpoena, the employee can end the interview at any time and can leave without any explanation. If OSHA has obtained a subpoena, the employee has additional rights and should consult legal counsel, says Lies.

An employer has the right to participate in nonprivate employee interviews and, if the compliance officer refuses, require that the interviews occur on nonpaid work time. An employer can end the interviews if they become disruptive, interfere unreasonably with ongoing work, or become confrontational, in which case the employer should consult legal counsel.

Lies says another significant issue may arise after a serious accident involving a fatality or multiple injuries, and that is potential criminal liability for the employer and individual employees. A basic right under the United States and state constitutions is the right to remain silent and not incriminate oneself: the Fifth Amendment. Unfortunately, when the inspection occurs, it is impossible to determine whether criminal charges may result, months or years later. By that time an employee may have incriminated himself or herself and exposed themselves to criminal liability. For that reason, Lies says it is even more important to consider getting legal counsel for the OSHA interviews.

An OSHA compliance officer is not required to give an employee Miranda warnings informing the employee that in the interview

  • the employee has the right to remain silent;
  • the employee’s statements can and will be used against them;
  • the employee has a right to have an attorney;
  • the state must provide an attorney if the employee cannot afford to hire one.

Unfortunately, in many inspections, OSHA objects to the employee having another person present, including legal counsel. In those instances where OSHA agrees to allow the employee to have legal counsel, the agency objects to allowing the employee to use the employer’s attorney, who has been provided at no cost to the employee. OSHA claims that such attorney may have a conflict of interest by representing both the employee and the employer.

It should be noted that it is not OSHA’s right to object to any potential conflict of interest. Rather, that is the sole right of the employee, who is free to accept the employer’s attorney as long as the attorney has discharged his or her legal obligation to discuss potential conflicts of interest with the employee.