OSHA Issues New Rules for Electric Power Industry

Posted on 4/17/2014 by Scott C. Dunsmore

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) most recent safety standards for constructing electricity transmission and distribution installations are now more than 40 years old. To bring these now outdated standards, written in 1972, up-to-date, OSHA this month promulgated new and revised rules for employees who operate and maintain electrical power generation, transmission, and distribution lines and equipment. 
The April 11 Final Rule makes various changes to the construction standards (29 CFR 1926) and the general industry standards (29 CFR 1910). Changes include new or revised provisions on host employers and contractors, training, job briefings, fall protection, insulation and working position of employees working on or near live parts, minimum approach distances, protection from electric arcs, de-energizing transmission and distribution lines and equipment, protective grounding, operating mechanical equipment near overhead power lines, and working in manholes and vaults.
Some highlights of the final rule include:
  • OSHA issued a new section to the construction standard at 29 CFR 1926.97, Electrical Protective Equipment, which applies to all construction work. OSHA derived the new rule from the consensus standards that were adopted by reference at 29 CFR 1926.951. The rule provides flexibility by including provisions from the consensus standards that are performance-based and necessary for employee safety, but the final rule does not contain many of the detailed specifications from those standards.
  • In the revised general industry and construction standards, the Agency adopted a requirement that employers determine the degree of training by the risk to the employee. In addition, there is a new requirement for employers to train qualified employees to recognize electrical hazards and to control or avoid them. Employers are now required to determine that employees have demonstrated proficiency in the specific work practices.
  • OSHA added a new training requirement for employees who trim trees from power lines. The new rule now limits the voltage on isolating transformers used with cord- and lug-connected equipment to 50 volts.
  • The rules now require that independent crews coordinate energizing/de-energizing lines and equipment and that they coordinate their activities under a single employee in charge.
  • OSHA added 29 CFR 1910.269, Appendix E, containing information on protecting employees from electric arcs.
  • 29 CFR 1926, Subpart V, Electric Power Transmission and Distribution, is revised to assure that the standards that apply to the construction of electric power transmission and distribution installations are more consistent with the requirements for these installations under the general industry standard at 29 CFR 1910.
Lastly, OSHA revised its general industry standard on foot protection at 29 CFR 1910.136. Employers must now ensure that each affected employee uses protective footwear when the use of protective footwear will protect the employee from electrical hazards that remain after the employer takes other necessary protective measures. These changes apply to employers performing work on electric power generation, transmission, and distribution installations, as well as employers in other industries.
The final rule becomes effective on July 10, 2014. However, certain provisions of the new rules have a delayed compliance date. A thorough review of the final rule is necessary in order to determine your compliance deadlines for each of the revised and new standards.
Each year, workplace injuries cost US businesses billions of dollars in lost productivity, logistics delays, compensation, and OSHA fines and penalties. Knowledgeable, well-trained employees know how to protect themselves and their colleagues from incidents in the workplace, and can help keep your facility running safely and efficiently. Ensure your team is prepared to meet their compliance responsibilities – including electrical safety – with the 10-Hour OSHA General Industry Online Course. Online courses are available 24/7, and 7-day support makes it easy to fit this online course into your team’s work schedule

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