Voice of Experience: Clearing Up Confusion About 1910.269
It’s now been 18 months since OSHA’s final rule regarding 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V was published. For the most part, the dust has settled and the industry has started to adjust to the requirements of the new standard. However, questions still abound regarding certain issues, and I’d like to address two of them – employee training and host-contractor information transfer – in this installment of “Voice of Experience.”
To begin, many companies are still confused about the meaning of changes to 1910.269(a)(2). The pertinent portions of (a)(2) are printed below for easy reference.
“The degree of training shall be determined by the risk to the employee for the hazard involved.”
“Each qualified employee shall also be trained and competent in the skills and techniques necessary to distinguish exposed live parts from other parts of electric equipment; the skills and techniques necessary to determine the nominal voltage of exposed live parts; the minimum approach distances specified in this section corresponding to the voltages to which the qualified employee will be exposed and the skills and techniques necessary to maintain those distances; the proper use of the special precautionary techniques, personal protective equipment, insulating and shielding materials, and insulated tools for working on or near exposed energized parts of electric equipment; and the recognition of electrical hazards to which the employee may be exposed and the skills and techniques necessary to control or avoid these hazards.”
Note to paragraph (a)(2)(ii)
“For the purposes of this section, a person must have the training required by paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this section to be considered a qualified person.”
The employer is the authority who recognizes when an employee is qualified. The employer has to determine the training necessary so that employees can identify hazards, mitigate risks associated with work, select proper work procedures, recognize special precautions and existing conditions, control all energy and identify and select the correct PPE to safely perform tasks. OSHA also requires additional training in order for an employee to be declared qualified by the employer. Each employee shall be trained in and familiar with the safety-related work practices, safety procedures and other safety requirements that pertain to his or her job assignments. Additionally, according to 1910.269(a)(2)(i)(B), each employee “shall also be trained in and familiar with any other safety practices, including applicable emergency procedures (such as pole-top and manhole rescue), that are not specifically addressed by this section but that are related to his or her work and are necessary for his or her safety.”
The meaning of these rules could completely change the manner in which business is carried out in the future. In the past, to be considered qualified, an employee was required to meet all of the training requirements of 1910.269(a)(2). But with the revisions made to this section in the 2014 final rule, it appears that now an employee can be trained and considered qualified to perform certain work tasks without having to meet the requirements of a completely qualified worker. For example, let’s say employees complete task-specific training about entering utility substations and subsequently demonstrate proficiency. Per OSHA’s rules, the employees can now be considered qualified to safely enter substations for engineering, vegetation maintenance, HVAC or other maintenance tasks, which could be a cost-saving measure for employers. In the past, anyone who performed this type of work had to be escorted into the substation by a company employee, but again, this could change in the future. It’s important to note here that there are North American Electric Reliability Corp. rules and other liabilities that need to be carefully considered before a company can issue a key to their property.
Documentation of Proficiency
OSHA also made changes to paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(viii), which states that the “employer shall ensure that each employee has demonstrated proficiency in the work practices involved before that employee is considered as having completed the training required by paragraph (a)(2) of this section.”
I would like to point out that, per paragraph (a)(2)(viii), OSHA does not consider an employee to be qualified unless there is documentation of his or her demonstrated proficiency. Note 1 to (a)(2)(viii) states that written documentation in the form of employment records is one method of keeping track of when an employee has documented proficiency. There are new methods offered by OSHA to satisfy this requirement, but the industry still recognizes that written training records of who, what, where and when are the industry standard and the best method of documentation. Also, in order to certify the training and qualify the employee, it’s extremely important to document information about the instructor or the method by which the employee received the training.
Note 2 to paragraph (a)(2)(viii) provides the following three-step process for determining the proficiency of employees with previous training. This is helpful for those who work in the contracting world in which there is a constant change of workers.
1. Confirm the employee has the training required by 1910.269(a)(2).
2. Use an exam or interview to make an initial determination that the employee understands the relevant safety-related work practices before performing work.
3. Closely supervise the employee until he or she has demonstrated proficiency.
The topic of information transfer, addressed in 1910.269(a)(3), is another significant addition to the updated 1910.269 standard. Essentially, OSHA incorporated a large part of the 1999 Multi-Employer Citation Policy in the 1910.269 standard. After a series of events occurred – including several fatal accidents involving contractors – the 1999 policy was introduced in an effort to provide additional protection for contractors working for host employers on host employer job sites.
This new part of the standard requires the host employer to provide certain information to the contractor before work begins. Specifically, the host employer shall inform contract employers of the characteristics of the host employer’s installation that are related to the safety of the work to be performed and are listed in paragraphs 1910.269(a)(4)(i) through (a)(4)(v).
The note to paragraph 1910.269(a)(3)(i)(A) requires the host employer to obtain the information listed in paragraphs (a)(4)(i) through (a)(4)(v) if the employer doesn’t already have it in existing records. This includes the nominal voltages of lines and equipment; maximum switching-transient voltages; presence of hazardous induced voltages; presence of protective grounds and equipment grounding conductors; and locations of circuits and equipment, including electric supply lines, communication lines and fire-protective signaling circuits.
Industry workers used to say, “When in doubt, contract it out,” but that can’t be said anymore. There was once a belief that what happens to the contractor and the contractor’s employees is the contractor’s problem, not the host’s issue. That line of thinking was a mistake, and now it’s a regulation that the two parties must communicate with each other and address problems together. Obviously, the host-contractor relationship should be maintained for the purposes of 29 CFR 1904, “Recording and Reporting Occupational Injuries and Illness,” and because of tort liability issues. Improper relationships and failure of the host employer to sustain relationships with its contractors can be very costly. It can also increase the possibility of OSHA citations and tort lawsuits by the employees of independent contractors. The only extension for final rule compliance as of press time is directed at the requirement that host employers provide transient overvoltage information to independent contractors; OSHA will not issue any citations until January 31, 2016 (see www.osha.gov/dsg/power_generation/SubpartV-final-settlement.html). A question that routinely comes up in training sessions is about the use of host equipment by independent contractor employees when they work on the host’s property. The use of a host’s equipment or tools can certainly increase the possibility of tort liability cases in the event of an injury to a contract employee.
The 2014 OSHA final rule is a complicated body of work that requires thorough study and critical thinking in order to be understood, and even then it often prompts questions. I hope this installment of “Voice of Experience” has helped to answer some of those lingering questions. If you need clarification about anything, please feel free to reach out to me. In the meantime, stay tuned for my next column, in which I plan to address 1910.269(g), “Personal protective equipment.”
About the Author: Danny Raines, CUSP, safety consultant, distribution and transmission, retired from Georgia Power after 40 years of service and opened Raines Utility Safety Solutions LLC, providing compliance training, risk assessments and safety observation programs. He is also an affiliate instructor at Georgia Tech Research Center OSHA Outreach in Atlanta. For more information, visit www.electricutilitysafety.com.