In February of this year, Edison Electric Institute (EEI) circulated an agreement with OSHA. This agreement – which can be viewed at www.osha.gov/dsg/power_generation/SubpartV-final-settlement.html – ended the petition for review filed over several new provisions of the April 11, 2014 final rule affecting the general and construction industry rules for transmission, distribution and line clearance work. The agreement as delivered consisted of the final agreement and four exhibits that specified the agreed-upon terms. Exhibit A is a series of 46 questions and answers reflecting more detailed terms of new enforcement dates and general terms of agreement found in exhibits B and C. Since the Q&A in Exhibit A and the scope clarification for line clearance tree trimming in Exhibit D are pretty straightforward, we won't treat them here, but we will attempt to simplify and illuminate as best we can the terms found in exhibits B and C. At the time of this writing, the agreements were not signed by all parties, but we hope and assume the agreement will go forward as written.
Exhibit B: Fall Protection
Much has been debated about fall protection in aerial lifts. In 2009 OSHA issued an interpretation, rescinded in 2011, that essentially told industry that the use of a deceleration lanyard was prohibited if it would allow a worker to fall from a bucket and hit the turret at lower levels. Later we became aware of two occasions on which OSHA agreed to voluntary settlements with cited employers who adopted retractables to prevent employees from striking a level below while working from an aerial lift. In this latest settlement, OSHA has addressed the issue of striking a lower level and the use of what are commonly called “retractables,” also known as self-retracting devices.
The first item of interest in Exhibit B is a definition of “lower level.” OSHA notes that in separate guidance – Exhibit A, questions 29(a) and (b) – the agency has clarified that it does not treat tree branches, conductors, or tower cross-bracing or legs as lower levels for the purposes of 29 CFR 1926.502(d)(16)(iii). Structures and turrets or truck beds are still lower levels.
The second item of interest is OSHA’s clarification regarding the use of restraint devices. The agency has accepted in the standard that fall arrest or fall restraint is acceptable means of fall protection from an aerial bucket. While I am aware that Buckingham Manufacturing Co. offers a strap-installed anchorage for buckets that may have some effective applications, OSHA stipulates that they are not aware of any fall restraint system that can be used in a bucket without an anchorage built into the bucket. OSHA concludes then that an employer’s only choice is a fall arrest system rigged so that an employee can neither free fall more than 6 feet nor contact any lower level while the bucket is moving or stationary. This stipulation puts employers at odds with the fall protection standard if a fall restraint cannot be used and the possibility of striking a level below would make the traditional arrest by harness and lanyard ineffective. However, under a long-held policy of enforcement, if there is no means of accomplishing the intent of the rule with the equipment available to the employer, and the work cannot be accomplished any other means, exceptions to enforcement are granted.
If the following conditions are met, OSHA has agreed in this settlement that employers will not be cited if a fall arrest system used by an employee in a bucket-type aerial lift could permit the employee to contact a lower level while the bucket is ascending from the cradle position to a working level or descending from a working level to the cradle position:
• The fall arrest system is compliant is all other respects.
• The brakes are set, the outriggers are deployed and the employer has taken reasonable precautions to address ejection hazards.
In particular, OSHA addressed setting up in traffic and compliance with work zone protections as required by the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices. It is not mentioned in this settlement, but we would also suggest that another such reasonable precaution would be procedures that prevent raising a boom through trees, a condition responsible for numerous ejections.
OSHA extended the same citation guidance to falls from a bucket that might strike a structure, but with one additional requirement. At aerial locations, where position of the bucket, the need for the employee to move around the bucket, available anchorages and available fall protection equipment would permit an ejected employee to strike the structure, the employer must be able to demonstrate that there is no other way to perform the work.
This is not a free pass on serious consideration of your fall protection systems for buckets. Note the language carefully. There is decidedly different language on aerial and cradle positions. If you have to use a bucket, you get a pass on the lower level at cradle. At elevated positions, you have to demonstrate there is no other way to perform the task. This language opens the door to the question, couldn't they climb the structure? Before you reject that argument, recall that in the crane and derrick preamble, when utilities complained that an isolator between hook and load line would close up head space, making it impossible to set transformers, OSHA's response was that you don't have to use a boom. Instead, you can use a transformer gin and blocks.
Safety managers should also keep in mind that if an employee is ejected from a bucket near the cradle and seriously injured, you can be sure you will have a difficult task trying to explain that you did all you could if you didn't meet all the requirements necessary for the enforcement exception.
OSHA thoroughly addressed wood pole fall protection in the new standard, but in this part of Exhibit B the agency appears to be addressing the selection of fall protection equipment for towers, particularly lattice towers.
The issue with lattice is that a personal mobile anchorage system – such as Jelco’s Pole Choker, Buckingham Manufacturing Co.’s BuckSqueeze or Capital Safety’s Cynch-Lok – cannot be used on a tower. As such, employers have a variety of systems to choose from, but each requires installing some sort of temporary anchorage or using steel members available as an anchorage. On tower legs there is not too much below that you can fall against except for steps, and cross-members in tower lacing are not considered lower levels. However, if you cross a horizontal member such as an arm, from the time you pass the arm until you are above the extent of the arrest system, it is possible that you could strike the arm. OSHA has issued a similar notice here that the employer will not be cited for that exposure if they can show there is no compliant system that would prevent striking the arm in a fall and that the fall protection system in use is fully compliant in all other respects.
Exhibit C: Training
OSHA will not enforce the training requirements of 1910.269(a)(2) or 1926.950(b) until the other provisions of the settlement are being enforced. The mentioned “other provisions” are those with enforcement delayed by the settlement. In other words, you are not mandated to ensure demonstrated proficiency for newly required safety-related tasks until the tasks are enforceable. However, don't forget that the requirements to ensure proficiency do apply for safety-related tasks currently in effect. Examples include the training required in 1910.269(a)(2); the new arc flash protection rules, with one exception (see the “Arc Flash Calculations” section below); fall protection rules; and any other safety-related rules already found in the original standard.
No citations will be issued to host employers until June 30, 2015, provided that after April 30, 2015, host employers provide all other required information defined in 1910.269(a)(3) and 1926.950(c), other than maximum switching transients.
Until April 30, 2015, employer obligations under 1910.269(c)(1)(i) and 1926.952(a)(1) that require the employer to give supervising employees information regarding characteristics and conditions will not be enforced.
Minimum Approach Distances
The new rules raised a lot of issues for utilities and contractors, mostly regarding the requirement to determine utility- and circuit-specific minimum approach distances (MAD) based on maximum transients. Another issue was Table V-6, “Alternative Minimum Approach Distances for Voltages of More Than 72.5 kV,” which increased MADs in some cases by 400 percent over MADs that had been in place for years. OSHA has relented somewhat by making delays in enforcement for classes of voltages. The delay appears to be an effort to allow peer review input and guidance for acceptable calculation and application of minimum approach based on the hazard of transients.
The settlement does not address any changes to voltages up to 72.5 kV except to note that the standards require compliance by April 1, 2015. Therefore, the assumption is that the new rules apply. The revised rule requires employers to calculate MAD according to the formulas in Table R-3 of the standard or, in accordance with the notes to Table R-3, using the alternative tables R-6 and R-7.
Until January 31, 2016, for voltages over 169.1 kV, no citations will be issued under 1910.269(l)(3)(ii) or 1926.960(c)(1)(ii) for failing to determine the maximum anticipated per-unit transient overvoltage. Also until January 31, 2016, OSHA will accept compliance with the MADs in 1910.269 Appendix B, Table 6 or tables 10-13. Table 6 contains the original MADs that were in effect until March 31, 2015. Tables 10-13 contain the original MADs with transients added for employers who want to use the original MAD tables with added distances for transients. Tables 6 and 10-13 were replaced by the new utility-specific calculated tables or the alternative tables on March 31, 2015.
Until January 31, 2016, for voltages of 72.6 to 169.0 kV, OSHA will not cite 1910.269(l)(3)(ii) or 1926.960(c)(1)(ii), which require the employer to determine the maximum anticipated per-unit transient overvoltage, provided the employer assumes a maximum anticipated per-unit transient overvoltage, phase to ground, of 3.0 per unit. Unlike voltages over 169 kV, OSHA did not cite a permissible table, but alternative table V-6 in 1926.960 appears to have MAD listed by voltage with a transient calculation slightly over 3.0 per unit.
For both voltage classes, OSHA noted that by May 1, 2015, it will extend the delay as necessary to allow for peer-reviewed guidance and employer compliance with that guidance as it becomes available. The implication here appears to be that OSHA is accepting input from stakeholders toward a new set of standards regarding the hazard of voltage transients.
Arc Flash Calculations
Arc flash calculations in 1910.269(l)(8)(ii) and 1926.960(g)(2) were required by March 31, 2015. Protective clothing required by 1910.269(l)(8)(iv)(A) and 1926.960(g)(4)(i) was to be in place by April 1, 2015. These are obviously a little late for this publication, but this is an opportunity to clarify the standard. Pants were specifically noted in the agreement. The requirements of arc protective clothing are based on calculated exposure. It should not be construed or manipulated to avoid having to put employees in arc protective pants, but if the employer can show that calculations indicate no exposure level requiring arc protective pants, they are not required.
OSHA has extended the compliance date for one part of the new arc protection rules. Until August 31, 2015, employers will not be cited for failure to provide arc protective clothing for exposures calculated to be over 8 cal/cm2. The assumption is that because of a shortage of materials in the marketplace, employers will need a little more time to acquire those higher-rated protective garments.
Line Clearance and Tree-Trimming Fall Protection
Across the country, tree trimmers have been using body belts and short lanyards, or what is now designated as a system of fall restraint. OSHA's view that a fall restraint is not effective unless it is tethered to a rated anchorage on a bucket creates an issue for these trucks currently in use. OSHA is therefore providing time for changes toward compliance by issuing two compliance date delays. One date has already passed: Until March 31, 2015, OSHA would not cite an employer for fall restraints attached to the boom (not on the bucket). Until December 31, 2015, employers using a fall restraint or personal fall arrest system attached to the bucket or boom will not be cited if they are actively coordinating with a manufacturer to develop and test a fall restraint system that meets the requirements of the standard. This delay also requires the employer to train workers using the testing devices. In the absence of a manufacturer's development and testing program, or for employees not part of the development and testing program, workers must be in a harness and a lanyard must be attached to the boom of the lift.
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