OSHA & Arc Flash
**Breaking News** OSHA has released their final ruling making major modifications to their 1910.269 section of the CFR. This section deals with Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution. The change does not affect most businesses directly, but shows the direction that OSHA is headed. For more information on this standard and the changes click here.
OSHA is revising the 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 both the construction and general industry requirements. Here are some examples of the types of injuries and fatalities the standard will prevent:
- As an electric utility worker was installing replacement batteries in a substation, an electrical fault occurred when a battery cable fell onto the terminals on one of the installed batteries. The ensuing electric arc severely burned and melted his rubber insulating gloves. He sustained second- and third-degree burns, requiring several surgeries, as well as multi-day hospitalization. See incident report.
- A power line worker descending a utility pole fell about 10 meters to the ground when his pole climbers cut out. He sustained fractured ribs, fractured pelvis, fractured legs, and internal injuries and was hospitalized for 14 days.See incident report.
- While a power line worker was moving his aerial lift platform away from a utility pole after completing repairs, a tractor-trailer struck the aerial lift truck, ejecting the worker from the platform. He died of injuries sustained in the fall. See incident report.
The final rule includes new or revised requirements for fall protection, minimum approach distances, and arc-flash protection, and for host employers and contract employers to exchange safety-related information. The final rule also includes requirements for electrical protective equipment.
The final rule becomes effective 90 days after publication in the Federal Register. However, OSHA adopted delayed compliance deadlines for certain requirements.
The NFPA 70E has not been formally adopted by OSHA at this time. With that said, many people feel that OSHA is not enforcing or issuing citations for the safety mandates that are written therein. The truth is quite the contrary. With little effort in searching the web today it can be easily noted that OSHA can and does enforce and issue citations for non-compliance with the NFPA 70E.
The twist is that OSHA is not actually basing their citation on the NFPA 70E at all! Most in the industry are familiar with OSHA’s General Duty Clause, it states:
- (a) Each employer -
1. This our most common option. EDS will come to your site to collect all data needed for the analysis. EDS will work with qualified site personnel to collect the proper site data. EDS will manage and record all data and direct site personnel as to what electrical components and areas must be accessed for proper data to be collected. EDS does not touch or access any customer equipment.
2. shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act
- (b) Each employee shall comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to this Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct.
What does this all mean? In a nutshell, it is saying if a hazard is known about in industry, you are required to do something about it. The key word you will find is “recognized” when referring to hazards. Arc flash is certainly a recognized hazard in today’s workplace. With that said, OSHA can rely on and use the general duty clause to enforce arc flash compliance.
This is only a partial truth. Though OSHA can use the General Duty Clause to enforce arc flash and electrical safety, they rarely do. Typically you will find that they will reference directly to their own code sections. Here are some of the sections that we typically see referenced in citations:
- 1910.333(a) – Explains that work practices shall be consistent with the nature of and extent of electrical hazards.
- 1910.335(a)(1)(i) – Employees working in areas with potential electrical hazards shall be provided with and shall use electrical PPE appropriate for parts of the body and work to be performed.
- 11910.335(a)(1)(v) – Talks about safeguarding against electric arcs or flashes or from flying objects resulting from electrical explosion
- 1926.95(a) – Protective equipment shall be provided wherever it is necessary by reason of the hazard.
What we have found is that OSHA will reference these code sections directly when issuing citations and dealing with employers. So what is the correlation to the NFPA 70E? OSHA is the person writing the law and enforcing it, the problem with OSHA law is that it does not tell you how to achieve compliance with the standards within. This is where the NFPA 70E comes in. The NFPA 70E fills the gap that OSHA regulation leaves between the law, and employer compliance.
OSHA will even tell employers directly, if they want to be in compliance with OSHA regulations for electrical safety and arc flash follow the NFPA 70E.
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