Archive Notice - OSHA Archive

NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.

OSHA requirements are set by statute, standards and regulations. Our interpretation letters explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances, but they cannot create additional employer obligations. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation of the requirements discussed. Note that our enforcement guidance may be affected by changes to OSHA rules. Also, from time to time we update our guidance in response to new information. To keep apprised of such developments, you can consult OSHA's website at

December 7, 1976

Mr. Richard D. Wiles
International Brotherhood of
Electrical Workers Local Union
1049 745 Kings Highway
Hauppauge, New York 11787

Dear Mr. Wiles

This is in response to your letter requesting clarification of the Standards and terminology used in relation to maintenance-of-way for electric utility line.

In the Federal Register dated June 24, 1974, Paragraph 308 excludes OSHA jurisdiction over power production and transmission apparatus. This relates to the application of the National Electrical Code as designated in 1910.309. However, this does not exclude the electrical industry from complying with OSHA standards under all circumstances involving employee exposure. The answers to the questions you submitted all require clarification and explanation inasmuch as there are no direct set of standards related to "maintenance" in relation to electric utilities' operations. It appears that all of your questions are based upon consideration of the Standard 1926.950 through 1926.959. The scope of Subpart V, Power Transmission and Distribution, indicates that it shall apply to the construction of electric transmission and distribution lines and equipment. However, the following paragraph clarifies the term construction to include the erection of new electric transmission and distribution lines and equipment and the alteration conversion and improvement of existing electric transmission and distribution lines and equipment. Nowhere is the term maintenance used; therefore, it appears that this is excluded from the intent of this Standard.

If a compliance officer makes an inspection of a location and sees an employee obviously exposed to the hazards of voltage high or low or to other physical hazards, he may in the absence of a direct standard related to the electrical transmission industry cite the employer on the basis of a General Duty Clause identified as Public Law 91-596(a)(1). Voluntary compliance is always sought by OSHA to provide as much protection for the employee as is possible. In evaluating voluntary compliance, the items listed in your five (5) questions should be considered as follow:

1. Direct contact is indicative of the employee touching high voltage electrical lines. Indirect contact is an exposure to electrical shock because the branch of a tree or other object touches the electrical line and makes in turn that employee becomes a part of a total grounding circuit.

2. The safe working conditions listed under 1926.950 should be applied in all instances and shall be used in relation to hot stick methods.

3. Sufficient protection would consist of rubber insulating materials or their equivalent as listed in the OSHA Standard 1926.951. The primary protection would be direct grounding or deenergizing of the lines. Secondary protection would be provided by rubber gloves, rubber sleeves, rubber boots, rubber mats, and like insulating materials.

4. The Occupational Safety and Health Act and the Administration do not specify whether the employee needs to be trained on the job or receive focal training. The concern is that he is trained in accordance with the requirements and exposure of his job. Under Paragraph 1910.21(b)(2), it states that the employer shall instruct each employee in the recognition and avoidance of unsafe conditions and the regulations applicable to his work environment to control or eliminate any hazards or other exposures to illness or injury. This is the training program that is required by OSHA.

5. In considering the exposures to electrical hazards, it is known and understood that wet conditions will enhance and enlarge the hazards of operating in and around high voltage electricity. Therefore, every precaution shall be taken including avoidance of working in wet conditions where it is feasible and possible.

We have mailed under separate cover several OSHA brochures including the above noted OSHA Standard for your ready reference. Please feel free to contact us if there are further questions about OSHA.


Alfred Barden
Regional Administrator
Occupational Safety and Health