The two OSHA regulations/rules covering safe work practices for the electric utility industry were just updated. CFR 1910.269 & 1926.960 have been in the revision process for many years and are now finally completed. 1910.269 covers the operation and maintenance part of the industry while 1926.960 covers construction. The previous editions of these rules were not particularly specific in their requirements for clothing only stating employees should not wear clothing that could increase the extent of injury. This required a judgment by the employer and implies they would have to assess the workplace for exposures levels.

So what changed?

  1. First they both specifically now state that employers are required to assess the workplace to identify employees exposed to hazards from flame or from electric arcs. And they must make a reasonable estimate of the incident heat energy to which these employees would be exposed.
    2.   Second they state the employer is required to provide workers with flame-resistant clothing when the estimated incident energy exceeds 2 cal/cm². They also specifically state the entire body needs to be included with a few exempt situations. That means face and head protection as well as FR clothing covering both the upper and lower parts of the body. No longer can a utility get away with wearing an FR shirt and non-FR pants/jeans. The actual required level of protection/arc rating is based on the estimated incident energy exposure found in the assessment.
  2. 1910.269 also prohibits clothing that could melt onto an employee’s skin or that could ignite and continue to burn when exposed to flames or to the available heat energy estimated by the employer under Sec.  1910.269(l)(8)(ii). It states, meltable fabrics, such as acetate, nylon, polyester, and polypropylene, even in blends, must be avoided.
  3. There are also requirements to calculate a safe minimum approach distance, proper fall protection, and training.

When are Companies Required to Comply?
There are a couple of different compliance dates after the rule becomes effective in July.

1.   The first compliance date is January 1, 2015. This is the date when companies are required to have made their assessment of the reasonable estimate of incident energy exposure.
2.   The second date is April 1, 2015. This is the date when companies need to have established the minimum approach distances, appropriate fall protection must be utilized, and  workers must be wearing the appropriate arc rated clothing.

Summary –
This updated rule has become much more specific in the requirements for FR safety clothing as well as other PPE and safe working practices for those working on utility lines and equipment. Many utility companies have already been following most if not all these rules but now they have become official.

Mark Saner – Technical Manager