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osha electricAbout OSHA Electric Power Standards – Simplified: Topics in this series are derived from SET Solutions’ popular OSHA Electric Power Standards course offered through the Incident Prevention Institute (https://ip-institute.com). The course is designed to help learners identify standard requirements and to offer practical ways to apply the standards. Learn More

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

Minimum Approach Distances: What’s Required?

Let’s kick off this article with a definition of what “MAD” means in the utility sector – and it does not mean that we’re upset with you. The word is actually an acronym that stands for minimum approach distance, which is the calculated safe working distance that provides worker protection when working on or in the vicinity of energized lines and equipment.

As with other articles in this series, we must begin with the hazard. Remember, if you always begin by identifying the hazard, then the application of the OSHA standard becomes somewhat simplified. The hazard here is electricity that could result in electric shock or electrocution. Considering the consequences of the hazard, de-energization should remain the best safe work practice. When de-energization is not feasible, the hazard must be effectively controlled to provide a safe work environment. MAD has been developed to give workers a calculated safe working distance that will provide personal safety and operational security during energized line maintenance or while working in the vicinity of other energized lines. OSHA refers to MAD as “the closest distance a qualified employee may approach an energized conductor or object.”

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

Why are Job Briefings and Risk Assessments Important?

When you hear the term “job briefing,” what comes to mind? Perhaps a meeting, a form to fill out or maybe even a complete waste of time? How we perceive job briefings has a huge impact on how we complete them. Per OSHA, job briefings are required to be completed before each job; however, for us to perform them effectively, it is critical that we understand the intent behind that requirement.

What Needs to be Covered?
A job briefing is intended to be used as part of the planning process to accomplish a job both safely and successfully. OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(c)(2) requires that the following topics be covered, at minimum, during a briefing: hazards associated with the job, work procedures involved, special precautions, energy-source controls and personal protective equipment requirements. All of these elements are essential to safely plan for the work that is to take place. By design, job briefings encourage us to slow down and think about the job we are about to perform. When we take time to think, we begin to identify desired outcomes as well as elements that can contribute to undesired outcomes.

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

What are OSHA’s Training Requirements?

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In our first article in this series (see https://incident-prevention.com/ip-articles/when-osha-electric-power-safety-standards-apply), we discussed how to apply OSHA’s electric power standards. This article will review OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V training requirements relating to qualified and unqualified employees.

To determine training requirements, you must first ask the question, are my employees exposed to electric power system hazards? If so, the training portion of the OSHA electric power standards should apply.

OSHA requires all employees to be trained in the safety-related work practices, safety procedures and emergency procedures that pertain to their job assignments. This includes employees performing covered work, as discussed in the first article of this series, and employees who access areas restricted to qualified employees in order to perform nonelectrical work.

Examples of employees who access restricted areas include an employee spraying herbicide around underground enclosures, a warehouseman delivering substation equipment inside an energized substation, and a maintenance employee replacing “Danger” signs inside an energized substation. Each of these nonelectrical employees has potential electrical hazards and risks associated with their job tasks that must be identified. Unfortunately, nonelectrical employees are many times exposed to unknown electrical hazards, such as step and touch potentials they do not know exist, which emphasizes the importance of effective training.

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Pam Tompkins, CUSP, CSP, and Matt Edmonds, CUSP, CIT, CHST

When OSHA Electric Power Safety Standards Apply

Welcome to the first part of what will be a six-part series focused on OSHA’s electric power standards. We will start this series with a discussion about when the standards apply. Future articles will cover what is in the standards plus provide you with some practical ways to apply them.

If you have tried to read OSHA’s electric power standards, you may find them difficult to interpret and apply. Always keep in mind that each part of the standard was written to address a specific hazard that must be controlled. The standards outline the minimum controls you are required to put in place, so that is why OSHA standards are considered minimum performance standards. If you always begin by identifying the hazard, you may find that the application of the standard becomes somewhat simplified.

Why Does OSHA Have Electric Power Standards?
Employees who work on and around electric power installations face unique electrical system hazards with potentially high risks. OSHA estimates their electric power standards will prevent approximately 20 additional fatalities and 118 additional serious injuries annually. Each portion of OSHA’s electric power standards is designed to address electric power system hazards that workers are exposed to when performing covered work that falls under general industry or construction. 

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