Q: We have a crew performing pole change-outs with the line energized. They are suspending phases with a link stick and digger derrick to provide more clearance between phases to install new poles and hardware. The question is, can the operator leave the controls with the phase lifted? We thought they could, but it seems there has been a change to OSHA 29 CFR 1926.1417(e).
A: The good news is that you cited the wrong rule. Pole change-outs fall under the 1910.269 operation and maintenance rules. You cited the rule for construction (OSHA 1926). The operation and maintenance rule – found at 1910.269(p)(1)(iv) – states the following: “The operator of an electric line truck may not leave his or her position at the controls while a load is suspended, unless the employer can demonstrate that no employee (including the operator) is endangered.”
Of course, it’s not as simple as that. The likely intent of both the operation and maintenance rule and the construction rule is to give an operator a break from the seat for inclement weather exposure or water or bathroom breaks. The issue with the construction rule is that the lift must meet “all of the following,” which are these requirements: no other duties for the operator, the operator stays next to the lift equipment, the equipment is stabilized and locked down, and barricades block the fall zone. Those requirements reflect the Cranes and Derricks in Construction standard (1926.1417(e)). The only requirement with the operation and maintenance rule is assuring no one is at risk.