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OSHA issues final rule revising standards for electric power generation, transmission and distribution work

From the April 2, 2014 issue of Public Power Daily

Originally published April 2, 2014

By Robert Varela
Editorial Director

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration yesterday released a final rule revising its workplace safety standards for workers performing electric power generation, transmission and distribution work. OSHA said it 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. APPA staff is reviewing the 1,607-page final rule, which is scheduled to be published in the Federal Register on April 11.

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, OSHA said. 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 agency said. The final rule also adds new requirements to protect workers from electric arcs.

Effective April 1, 2015, qualified workers must use fall protection when climbing or changing location on poles, towers, or similar structures unless fall protection is infeasible or creates a greater hazard, OSHA said. Work-positioning equipment must be rigged so that workers can free fall no more than 0.6 meters (2 feet).

The final rule revises general industry and construction standards for electrical protective equipment, OSHA said. 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equipment applies to all construction work and replaces the existing construction standard, which was based on out-of-date information, with a set of performance-oriented requirements consistent with the latest revisions of the relevant consensus standards.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.

The final rule will result in estimated monetized benefits of $179 million annually, with net benefits equal to about $130 million annually, OSHA said.

"This long-overdue update will save nearly 20 lives and prevent 118 serious injuries annually," said Dr. David Michaels, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health. "Electric utilities, electrical contractors and labor organizations have persistently championed these much-needed measures to better protect the men and women who work on or near electrical power lines."

The full text of the final rule and additional information, including a fact sheet and frequently asked questions, is available on OSHA's website. The final rule becomes effective 90 days after publication in the Federal Register, although OSHA adopted delayed compliance deadlines for certain requirements.


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