OSHA announces final rule revising standards for electric power generation, transmission and distribution
April 1 –The Occupational Safety and Health Administration on April 1 announced a final rule (RIN 1218-AB67) to update protections for workers performing construction or maintenance at power plants or on power lines, closing out more than a decade of rulemaking.
The new rule brings OSHA’s electricity construction standard in line with present industry consensus standards, replacing OSHA rules adopted in 1972 and 1994.
OSHA is revising the 40-year-old construction standard for electric power line work to make it more consistent with the corresponding general industry standard and is also making some revisions to the construction and general industry requirements. The updated standards for general industry and construction include new or revised provisions for host and contract employers to share safety-related information with each other and with employees, as well as for improved fall protection for employees working from aerial lifts and on overhead line structures. In addition, the standards adopt revised approach-distance requirements to better ensure that unprotected workers do not get dangerously close to energized lines and equipment. The final rule also adds new requirements to protect workers from electric arcs.
General industry and construction standards for electrical protective equipment are also revised under the final rule. The new standard for electrical protective equipment applies to all construction work and replaces the existing construction standard, which was based on out-of-date information, with a set of performance-oriented requirements consistent with the latest revisions of the relevant consensus standards. The new standards address the safe use and care of electrical protective equipment, including new requirements that equipment made of materials other than rubber provide adequate protection from electrical hazards.
Among the significant changes, according to OSHA, are:
• Host and contract employers must share information on safety matters and coordinate their work rules and procedures;
• Employers must provide protective equipment to workers exposed to electrical hazards from electrical arcs no later than April 15, 2015;
• Line-clearance tree trimmers must have training on how to recognize and avoid electrical hazards;
• Qualified workers must use fall protection when climbing or changing locations on poles and towers, unless the use of fall protection gear poses a greater hazard or is infeasible, starting April 15, 2015;
• Multiple crews working together on the same line must either coordinate their activities under a single worker or independently comply with the standards for de-energizing transmission and distribution lines;
• New minimum approach distances, effective April 15, 2015, and recognition of a new class of electrical protective equipment, Class 00 rubber insulating gloves.
Additional information on the final rule is available at http://www.osha.gov/dsg/power_generation/. The final rule becomes effective 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. OSHA adopted delayed compliance deadlines for certain requirements.