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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 1, 1994

Mr. Tom Callahan Director of Personnel South Mississippi Electric Power Association Post Office Box 15849 Hattiesburg, MS. 39404-5849

Dear Mr. Callahan:

This is in response to your July 26 letter, requesting interpretation of the Final Rule on Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution. Your questions and our replies, which follow, concern the Power Generation standard at 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(6)(iii). This provision is reiterated in the reply to question #5 below. The Power Generation Standard correction notice (59 FR 33658, June 30, 1994) has been used to reply to your questions. A copy of the two aforementioned references are enclosed for your use. Please accept our apology for the delay in responding.

Question #1: Do 100% cotton garments fully satisfy compliance with the 1910.269(l)(6)(iii) standard?

Reply: Clothing made from untreated, 100% natural cotton may or may not be acceptable. Employers must make a determination of whether or not untreated, 100% natural cotton worn by a worker is acceptable under the conditions to which the worker could be exposed.

Question #2: Do 100% cotton garments that weigh in excess of 11 ounces fully satisfy compliance with the 1910.269(l)(6)(iii) standard?

Reply: Clothing made from untreated, 100% natural cotton, 11 ounces per yard (374.16 grams per meter) in weight or more, would be acceptable under the rule when the clothing weight is appropriate for the flame and electric arc conditions to which an employee could be exposed. The aforementioned Federal Register corrections notice cited evidence that clothing made from this weight of cotton would not ignite in the presence of a 12 inch (30.48 cm) long, 3800 ampere electric arc, 12 inches away and lasting 10 cycles at the power line frequency.

Employers must consider: the weight of the material; the available current involved; the duration of exposure; the distance from any possible flames or arcs that might occur; and the presence of other flammable materials (such as flammable hydraulic fluid) that could be ignited in the presence of an arc and, in turn, ignite the clothing. (59 FR 33659)

Question #3: Do 100% cotton garments that weigh less than 11 ounces fully satisfy the 1910.269(l)(6)(iii) standard?

Reply: Clothing made from untreated, 100% natural cotton, less than 11 ounces per yard in weight, could ignite and continue to burn after an electric arc ceased. This result was demonstrated by Duke Power Company tests, the documentation of which was "made part of the rulemaking record (Exhibit 12-12) on the Power Generation Standard. Clothing made from such lightweight materials is prohibited by Section 1910.269(l)(6)(iii) unless this light-weight clothing is worn in such a manner as to eliminate the hazard involved. Wearing 11 ounce or less weight, untreated 100% cotton clothing under flame resistant or fire-retardant treated, clothing which complies with the Section 1910.269(l)(6)(iii) requirement, is an example of how this lightweight cotton could be worn.

Question #4: Do 100% cotton garments which are fire-retardant treated fully satisfy compliance with the 1910.269(l)(6)(iii) standard?

Reply: Fire-retardant treated, 100% cotton clothing which meet the American Society for Testing and Materials standard, F1506-1994, is acceptable under Section 1910.269(l)(6)(iii).

Question #5: Assumption: For all employees affected by the regulation, SMEPA purchases 100% cotton uniforms which have been fire-retardant treated. SMEPA issues instructions on proper laundering methods to the employees and requires employees to launder their uniforms themselves. Does SMEPA have any liability if the garment is improperly laundered, causing the garment to loose its flame resistance?

Reply: To comply with Section 1910.269(l)(6)(iii), the employer must ensure,... that each employee who is exposed to the hazards of flames or electric arcs does not wear clothing that, when exposed to flame or electric arcs, could increase the extent of injury that would be sustained by the employee.

The key word in this requirement is "ensure." The employer is responsible for compliance. However, the employer may direct employees to participate in this safeguarding. An employer can meet this obligation by establishing and having employees follow work practices on the proper care and laundering of the garments in accordance with manufacturers' instructions and recommendations, by training employees on these work practices, and by enforcing these work practices through effective supervision. For example, the supervisor could examine the outer clothing of employees and question employees on the care and laundering of this clothing during the job briefing required by Section 1910.269(c).

We appreciate your interest in employee safety and health. If we can be of further assistance, please contact Mr. Ronald J. Davies of my staff, telephone #202-219-8031, extension 110.


John B. Miles, Jr.,
Director Directorate of Compliance Programs