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White House Releases Electrical-Safety Regulations

By Roy Maurer  12/30/2013
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After 13-plus years of rulemaking and an 18-month review, the draft final rules for the general industry power transmission standard and the construction standard for power transmission and distribution were cleared by the White House’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) on Dec. 20, 2013. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is expected to publish the final rule in the Federal Register shortly.

The OIRA reviews draft final rules to ensure they are consistent with applicable law and don’t conflict with other federal agencies’ rules or actions.

Electrical hazards are a major cause of occupational death in the United States, where the annual fatality rate for power line workers is about 50 deaths per 100,000, according to OSHA. Workers in the electric power industry are potentially exposed to a variety of serious hazards that can cause injury and death, such as arc flashes, electric shock, falls and thermal burns.

“The construction industry standard addressing the safety of these workers during the construction of electric power transmission and distribution lines is nearly 40 years old,” OSHA said. The revisions “will prevent many of these fatalities, add flexibility to the standard, and update and streamline the standard.”

OSHA also intends to amend the corresponding standard for general industry so that requirements for work performed during the maintenance of electric power transmission and distribution installations are the same as those for similar work in construction.

In addition, the agency will revise a few general industry requirements, including provisions on electrical protective equipment and foot protection. The rulemaking also addresses fall protection in aerial lifts for work on power generation, transmission and distribution installations.

OSHA hasn’t released any information about what changes, if any, were made to the regulation during the OIRA review.

Roy Maurer is an online editor/manager for SHRM.

Follow him on Twitter @SHRMRoy.

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