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July 03, 2014
UPDATED: OSHA announces final rule for electric power generation

UPDATED: On June 20, OSHA announced a delay in enforcement of certain provisions of the following rule change.

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OSHA has announced a final rule updating its standards for electric power generation, transmission, and distribution and electrical protective equipment. The changes to the 40-year-old rule make it more consistent with OSHA’s general industry requirements. Both standards now include revised provisions for host and contract employers and improved fall protection for employees working from aerial lifts and overhead line structures.

The revisions have been a long time coming: OSHA published its intention to amend the requirements in 2005. The final rule will be published in the Federal Register on April 11. Most provisions of the new rule will take effect on July 10 of this year, while some requirements have a compliance deadline of April 1, 2015.

The revised standard also includes revisions of general industry and construction standards for electrical protective equipment. OSHA anticipates the final rule will save millions of dollars for employers and will prevent about 120 serious injuries and 20 fatalities annually. The agency says the changes make the requirements easier to understand and comply with.

According to OSHA, “the updated standards create a unified and up-to-date set of requirements to help employers more effectively establish work practices to protect their workers.”

UPDATED: On June 20, OSHA issued a memorandum delaying enforcement of certain provisions of the new rule until October 31, 2014. Employers who were in compliance with the previous version of 29 CFR 1910.269 (the standard for electric power generation, transmission, and distribution) will be considered compliant through that date. In addition, OSHA says it will not issue any citations under the revised versions of paragraph (b) of 29 CFR 1910.137 or paragraph (b) of 29 CFR 1926.97 (the standards for electrical protective devices other than rubber gloves) until after October 31, 2014.

Who is affected?

Employers that operate or maintain electric power generation, transmission, or distribution lines or equipment must follow the requirements in 29 CFR 1910.269 (the general industry standard). Employers with employees who perform construction work on electrical power transmission or distribution lines or equipment must follow the requirements of the construction standard, at 29 CFR 1926, Subpart V. According to OSHA, construction work includes the erection of new electric transmission and distribution lines and equipment and the alteration, conversion, and improvement of existing electric transmission and distribution lines and equipment.

Important compliance requirements

Some of the most important updates to the standard include the following:

Requirements effective July 10, 2014

  • The degree of employee training must be determined by risk to the worker for the hazard involved.
  • Qualified workers must have training to recognize and control or avoid electrical hazards at the worksite.
  • Host and contract employers must share information on safety-related matters and must coordinate work rules and procedures.
  • Line-clearance tree trimmers must have training on distinguishing exposed live parts and determining their voltage, as well as in minimum approach distances and how to maintain them.
  • Employers must assess worksites to identify workers exposed to flame or electric arc hazards.
  • The final rule recognizes a new class of electrical protective equipment, Class 00 rubber insulating gloves, and adopts new requirements for electrical protective equipment made of materials other than rubber.
  • Multiple crews working on the same lines or equipment must coordinate their activities.
  • Where protective footwear will protect workers from electrical hazards that remain after the employer takes other protective measures, employers must ensure that workers use protective footwear as a supplementary form of protection.
  • Affected workers must follow the new standard for electrical protective equipment, which replaces outdated consensus standards with performance-based requirements consistent with current consensus standards. The new standard for construction will apply to all construction work, not only to power transmission and distribution.

Requirements effective April 1, 2015

  • Qualified workers must use fall protection when climbing or changing location on poles, towers, or other structures.
  • Work-positioning equipment must be rigged so that workers can free fall no more than two feet.
  • Employers must provide workers exposed to hazards from electric arcs with protective clothing and other equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy.
  • Employers must adhere to the revised minimum approach distances detailed in the appendices to the standard.
  • Employers must provide workers exposed to electric arc hazards with protective clothing and equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy to which he or she could be exposed during an electric arc incident.


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