Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.


Power Transmission & Distribution in Construction

Employees working on and around power transmission and distribution systems face grave dangers from electrocution, falls, and other serious hazards. Workers employed in the construction of these systems have a risk of between 17 and 23 deaths per thousand workers over a working lifetime of 45 years. These workers are not covered by the 1994 OSHA electric power generation standard which applies only to general industry. The construction industry standard is over twenty years old and inconsistent with the newer, more protective general industry standard. To improve worker protection, OSHA is designating power transmission and distribution in construction as a priority for rulemaking to revise the existing standard.

Hazard Description

More than 110,000 power line workers who construct/repair power transmission and distribution systems face a wide range of serious and potentially fatal injuries, including electrocutions, falls from elevation, and injuries from falling objects. Major causes of non-fatal injuries include over-exertion, electrical shock injuries (burns), sprains and strains, cuts and lacerations, and contusions. (1)

The National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health's (NIOSH) National Traumatic Occupational Fatalities (NTOF) surveillance system identified power line workers as a high-risk occupation group for work-related deaths. According to NTOF data, the average annual fatality rate for power line workers is 56.3 deaths per 100,000 employees.(2) The Bureau of Labor Statistics' (BLS) Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries (CFOI) identified 42 fatalities among electric power installers and repairers in 1993 (38 deaths per 100,000 workers). (3) These rates correspond to a risk of between 17 and 23 deaths per thousand workers over a working lifetime of 45 years. The risk may actually be higher, however, because available data do not provide specific numbers for construction workers.

Current Status

OSHA has separate standards for construction and general industry. OSHA's construction standard is over 20 years old, and is based on technology and practices that reflect its age. The general industry standard, published in January 1994, established new requirements addressing work practices to be used during the operation and maintenance of electric power generation, transmission and distribution facilities. It also revised existing requirements for electrical protective equipment in general industry. Ambiguities and inconsistencies exist between the old construction standard and the new general industry standard.

Consensus standards have been developed by the American National Standards Institute's (ANSI) National Electrical Safety Code (ANSI C2-1993; NESC) (4); the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM); and the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineering (IEEE).

Rationale

The hazards associated with the construction of electric power transmission and distribution systems meet the criteria for designation as an OSHA priority. A moderately large number of workers are at extremely high risk of fatal injury and methods of protection are well known. In addition, construction workers, who are at greater risk, receive inferior protection compared to general industry employees; there has been strong support from both industry and labor groups for action on reducing hazards in this industry; and the action will complete the second phase of rulemaking begun with the general industry standard.

References

  1. 59 FR 4321, January 31, 1994. Final Rule on Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution and on Electrical Protective Equipment for General Industry.
  2. Casini VJ, Collins JW, and Myers JR. (1991). "Preventing Lineworker Fatalities." Public Power, July-August, pp. 20-26.
  3. BLS (1994). Bureau of Labor Statistics' 1993 Census of Fatal Occupational Injuries
  4. ANSI (1993). American National Standards Institute, National Electrical Safety Code (ANSI C2-1993).

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and no longer represents OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.