Q: We were recently sticking distribution for a small utility when the utilities inspector stopped us for not having safety latches on our hot hoist. We have now been told that OSHA requires safety latches, but we can’t find a rule for that in the OSHA 1910.269 standard. What are we missing?
A: This answer will surprise and confuse some safety folks, so we want to remind you that we are not necessarily advocating the information we provide – we are educating readers on the rules and best practices. In response to your question, you are not missing anything; there is no OSHA rule for our industry that requires safety latches on hooks. Latches make sense. With a latch, connections do not unexpectedly separate. However, hooks under strain do not unexpectedly separate either. Most hooks for hoists have a tab for installing a latch. Many come with latches, and many do not. In hot-sticking applications, it often is difficult to open a latch and remove a hook from a sling. OSHA does, however, have safety latch requirements for some vertical standards that have no effect on utilities.
Q: When does OSHA consider a pole hole an excavation requiring a barricade?
A: It depends on whether or how long the pole hole is open and/or unattended. The preamble has a discussion on pole holes in which OSHA, in a fit of practicality, agreed that if the hole is bored and the pole is set within a reasonable time – being tens of minutes – there is very little practical reason to install fall protection. However, if the hole is large enough that a worker could fall in even with the pole in place, then some measures should be taken. As a contractor, we would ensure spoils were stable and lay 6 to 8 feet of 12-inch scaffold board across the holes between pole and spoils to ensure stable footing and no void large enough that a person could fall through. The other issue is, a hole for what pole? Distribution is not an issue. Transmission starts to need activities for protection like the above. Some transmission holes are 50 inches for a pole that’s only 36 inches to allow for concrete ballast. Those are excavations. We know many contractors that have used half of a round hay-bale feeder from Tractor Supply Co. as a guardrail.