- Standard Number:1926.550(a)(15)
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 http://www.osha.gov.
July 21, 1992
George S. Kennedy, CSP
Director of Safety
National Utility Contractors Association
4301 N. Fairfax Drive,
Arlington, Virginia 22203-1627
Dear Mr. Kennedy:
This is in response to your letter of June 26 requesting my help in resolving conflicting interpretations of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirement addressing operating equipment near powerlines.
As you stated in your June 23 letter to Mr. Roy Gurnham, there are three options for compliance with 29 CFR 1926.550(a)(15). OSHA included these options in this standard because the Agency recognizes that any one of the methods is not suitable or feasible in all cases. Consequently, in regard to your inquiry, a decision to use insulating barriers alone will not be adequate in all cases to provide the necessary protection.
In the example you described where a backhoe is digging below or near powerlines, insulating barriers would appear to be adequate only if the reasonably expected motion of a backhoe boom and bucket, could produce, at most, a brushing type contact with an overhead wire and damage to the wire or barrier would not be possible or expected. If, on the other hand, the reasonably expected motion of the backhoe could pull down or contact conductors or otherwise damage the wire or barrier if contact was made, then barriers would not be adequate and the powerline would have to be deenergized, or the backhoe moved away from the lines.
Determinations as to the adequacy of protective barriers must be made at the construction site by our compliance officers after consideration of all conditions. This flexibility, although sometimes leading to differences in application, is needed both by industry and OSHA so that OSHA's regulations can be properly applied to the diversity of situations that are always present on many construction sites.
If we can be of any further assistance, please contact Mr. Roy F. Gurnham or Mr. Dale R. Cavanaugh of my staff in the Office of Construction and Maritime Compliance Assistance at (202) 523- 8136.
Patricia K. Clark, Director
Directorate of Compliance Programs