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.

June 21, 1995

The Honorable Robert E. Goodlatte
House of Representatives
114 North Central Avenue
Staunton, VA 24401

Dear Congressman Goodlatte:

This is in further response to your January 13 letter regarding the request for assistance by Mr. Scott E. Sorrels, employee of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative. In his letter, Mr. Sorrels requested that you "make the Occupational Safety and Health Administration responsible for their rules and regulations instead of an act of Congress to change their blanket rules on specific problems that might arise." This request was made in the context of "imposing an undue hardship on the working man who is trying to do his job by keeping the electricity on for America to enjoy." Apparently, Mr. Sorrels is referring to apparel which he is required to wear as a condition of employment. Please accept our apology for the delay in responding.

We published a final rule on electric power generation, transmission, and distribution work on January 31, 1994. That standard, 29 CFR 1910.269, contains a provision relating to the clothing worn by employees working on or near exposed energized parts of electric power generation, transmission, or distribution installations.

In developing this standard, we found that employees who were exposed to electric arcs were being injured as a result of their clothing catching on fire. While these employees would likely have been burned by the electric arcs alone, the extent of their injuries was made worse because of the continued burning of their clothing long after the arcs were extinguished. At the time the rule was issued, there was no national consensus standard in effect to guide OSHA in determining what specific protective clothing must be worn. Therefore, rather than require protective clothing, we decided to adopt a rule prohibiting employees form wearing clothing that could increase the extent of personal injuries should exposures to electric arcs or flames occur. This rule which became effective on November 1, 1994 can be found in paragraph 1910.269(l)(6)(iii).

In March, 1994, the Edison Electric Institute (EEI), an association of investor owned utilities, challenged the electric power generation standard, including the apparel provision, in federal court. In August, 1994, five of EEI's members, Alabama Power Company., Georgia Power Co., Gulf Power Co., Mississippi Power Co. and Savannah Electric and Power Co., filed a separate suit in the same court challenging only the apparel provision. The National Rural Electric Cooperative Association (NRECA), together with several other groups representing industry interests and two unions representing employees, sought to intervene in the Alabama Power Co. case. NRECA's motion to intervene is pending. In April, 1995, the court granted EEI's request voluntarily to dismiss its lawsuit, leaving only Alabama Power Co.'s challenge to the apparel provision. Briefs in the case will be filed this summer; however, a decision is not expected for several more months.

As employers have been attempting to comply with 1910.269(l)(6)(iii), a performance-oriented requirement, several questions regarding this standard have arisen. We have prepared a Fact Sheet to help answer these questions. Some of the answers contained on the Fact Sheet relate directly to Mr. Sorrel's concerns; so we have enclosed a copy for your convenience.

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

Sincerely,



Joseph A. Dear
Assistant Secretary

Enclosure



February 15, 1995

The Honorable Robert E. Goodlatte
Member, United States House
of Representatives
114 North Central Avenue
Staunton, VA 24401

Dear Congressman Goodlatte:

This is in response to your January 13 letter requesting assistance for Mr. Scott E. Sorrels, employee of the Shenandoah Valley Electric Cooperative, regarding the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution Standard, which is intended to keep electrical workers safe on their jobs.

This matter requires further research. We are attempting to respond as quickly as possible, taking into consideration the need for a thoughtful and accurate reply. We expect to provide you with a full response shortly.

We appreciate your interest in the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's programs. Thank you for your patience.

Sincerely,



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