Updates To Electrical Distribution Requirements

By Jordy Byrd

Last summer, OSHA updated the Federal Register, regulating electrical work in the construction industry. The final rule came into effect in July 2014, but construction crews and contractors are still navigating the changes.

Parts 1910 and 1926 of 29 CFR have undergone nips and tucks for a harmonized face lift. The final rule synced standards that apply to general industry maintenance work (Part 1910) with standards created for construction work on electrical installations (Part 1926).

It's been more than 40 years since OSHA updated safety protocol for working near power generation sources such as power lines and electrical utility boxes. Work involving power generation and distribution sources includes work near live wires and or high above ground. Technology and training needs have changed to the point that the old standards weren't appropriate anymore.

"This long-overdue update will save nearly 20 lives and prevent 118 serious injuries annually," said OSHA Administrator Dr. David Michaels in a recent press release. "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 revisions include but are not limited to:

·      Training: New or revised provisions for host and contract employers to share safety-related information with each other and with employees.

·      Minimum Approach Distances: Employers must determine maximum anticipated per-unit transient over voltages through an engineering analysis or, as an alternative, assume certain maximum anticipated per-unit transient over voltages. This will replace the previous requirements for employers to establish minimum approach distances based on old formulas.

·      Fall Protection: Improve fall protection for employees working from aerial lifts and on overhead line structures.

·      Updated Personal Protection Equipment: Employers must make reasonable estimates of heat energy, in which a worker could be exposed to flames or electric arc based on the new minimum approach distance requirements. Outer layer of clothing worn by workers must be flame resistant under certain conditions. Both the general industry and construction standards for electrical protective equipment will include new requirements for equipment made of materials other than rubber. The requirement to wear protective footwear against electric shock while performing work on electric power generation, transmission and distribution installations was removed.

·      De-energizing of Equipment: The revised requirements for protective grounding permit employers to install and remove protective grounds on lines and equipment operating at 600 volts or less without using a live-line tool under certain conditions. Operating mechanical equipment near overhead power lines clarify that the exemption from the requirement to maintain minimum approach distances applies only to the insulated portions of aerial lifts. The revised provisions include work done around manholes.

OSHA believes that "monetized benefits" of $179 million annually with net benefits close to $130 million annually will occur due to decreasing injuries and fatalities with the revised standard.

Jordy Byrd is a public relations specialist with Graphic Products. She writes about industrial safety and workplace hazards. For more information, visit GraphicProducts.com.

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