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OSHA Issues Expansive New Rules to Save Lives, Improve Arc Flash Protection

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Compliance with new regulations will prevent injuries, reduce equipment repair and minimize downtime

The electrical industry can breathe a sigh of relief starting this month as a new OSHA rule requiring utilities and many manufacturers to do arc flash calculations and provide arc flash mitigation equipment fully goes into effect.

OSHA’s Final Rule for Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution Standards (29 CFR 1910.269 and 1926 Subpart V), replaces out-of-date provisions that are inconsistent with current industry standards. All employers that operate or maintain electric power generation, transmission, or distribution lines or equipment are required to comply with the new rules, which provide updated, clear, and consistent safety standards.

Employees performing work involving electric power generation, transmission, and distribution are exposed to a variety of hazards, including fall, electric shock, and burn hazards that can and do cause serious injury and death. OSHA estimates that, on average, 74 fatalities and 444 serious injuries occur annually among these workers, and the previous standards were inadequate to protect lives and property.

As the electrical industry's pacesetter for remote racking and remote switching solutions, the leadership team at CBS ArcSafe strongly supports the new OSHA Rule. Increasing working distance and operating equipment remotely are two proven and effective methods to protecting workers from arc flash danger. 

“We believe that our extensive line of arc flash mitigation equipment, in conjunction with training and awareness, has rendered arc flash injuries not only avoidable, but unacceptable in today's workplace,” says Ashley McWhorter, president of CBS ArcSafe, Inc.

The updated standards reduce worker risk from hazards through requirements addressing: training; host employers and contractors; fall protection; minimum approach distances and insulation; protection from flames and electric arc hazards; deenergizing transmission and distribution lines and equipment; protective grounding; underground electrical installations; electrical protective equipment; and foot protection.

Protection from arc flash is one of the most significant aspects of the updated OSHA Rule, including the following new requirements:
•    The employer must assess the workplace to identify workers exposed to flame or electric-arc hazards.
•    No later than January 1, 2015, employers must estimate the incident heat energy of any electric-arc hazard to which a worker would be exposed.
•    No later than April 1, 2015, employers generally must provide workers exposed to hazards from electric arcs with protective clothing and other protective equipment with an arc rating greater than or equal to the estimated heat energy.

Dr. David Michaels, Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, promotes the updated regulations, saying “The long-overdue final rule updating a 40-year-old standard will save nearly 20 lives and prevent 118 serious injuries annually. Electric utilities, electrical contractors, and labor organizations have long championed these much needed measures to better protect the men and women who work on or near electrical power lines.”

For more information and to download the Final Rule, please visit the OSHA website at https://www.osha.gov/dsg/power_generation/.

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