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.

March 5, 1996

Mr. Michael D. Crandall
Illinois Power Company
500 South 27th Street
P. O. Box 511
Decatur, IL 62525-1805

Dear Mr. Crandall:

This is in response to your January 17 letter requesting a determination by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) on whether the "Line Journeyman Changing out Transformer" activities depicted in the Illinois Power video tape you provided are within the intent of the OSHA standards under 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(1)(i) and (l)(1)(ii).

In your letter you stated that the procedures utilized in the video demonstrate the safe and proper application of the 1910.269 standard in this particular situation and should not be construed to apply to any and all circumstances involving electric line work. Furthermore, you stated that these procedures include maintaining the proper approach distances, use of hot-line tools, and proper cover-up. Also, you stated that the procedure insure that a line journeyman can accurately determine that the minimum approach distance of the equipment is being maintained.

We cannot make a determination that paragraph 1910.269(l)(1)(i)(C) would not require the presence of more than one employee based on the information you provided. In the absence of an on-site inspection by one of our Compliance Safety and Health Officers, we are not in a position to state definitively to what extent such an operation would be covered by the electric power generation standard. Additionally, a clean pole with a single power line is depicted in the video tape. If additional power lines were present on the pole, additional hazards would be present, along with potential violations of 1910.269. Thus, a workplace inspection under actual working conditions would be necessary for OSHA to determine compliance.

The use of mechanical equipment and the installation of electric equipment (such as a transformer) near lines energized at more than 600 volts are safety concerns on which OSHA predicated the requirement for the presence of a second employee. As industry and union witnesses testified at the public hearing on 1910.269, current industry practice is to use a minimum of two employees for the installation and removal of transformers. The following discussion is intended to assist you in interpreting 1910.269 as it pertains to the safe removal and installation of a transformer by an employee working alone at a work site.

As noted above, your letter references paragraphs 1910.269(l)(1)(i) and (ii), which require at least two employees to be present when removing and installing transformers if an employee is exposed to contact with parts energized at more than 600 volts except as provided under paragraph 1910.269(l)(1)(ii)(C).

Your letter does not reference other applicable 1910.269 standards such as paragraphs 1910.269(l)(4) working position and 1910.269(p) (4) mechanical equipment operations near energized lines or equipment. Under paragraph 1910.269(l)(4), the employer must ensure that each employee, to the extent that other safety-related conditions at the work site permit, works in a position from which a slip or shock will not bring the employee's body into contact with exposed, uninsulated parts energized at a potential different from the employee. Also, under paragraph 1910.269(p)(4)(ii), a designated employee other than the equipment operator must observe the approach distance to exposed lines and equipment and give timely warnings before the minimum approach distance required by paragraph 1910.269(p)(4)(i) is reached, unless the employer can demonstrate that the operator can accurately determine that the minimum approach is being maintained.

Whether the employee in the video was trained and had demonstrated proficiency in the transformer change out work practices required by the employer and by paragraph 1910.269(a)(2) cannot be determined from your correspondence. Also, no information was provided to determine whether the job briefing requirements under paragraph 1910.269(c) were met.

Comments relating to whether or not the employee would be exposed to contact with parts energized at more than 600 volts follow.

1. While placing and removing insulating guards, the employee is positioned beneath power lines. One of the conductors could be pulled down thus exposing the employee to contact.

2. Observation of the employee performing the transformer replacement was limited to the video tape, from which minimum approach distances could not be accurately discerned because of camera positioning and viewing limitations. For example, a tape measure is used by the employee in the video to demonstrate that the minimum approach distance between the lifting boom and the overhead power line is being maintained. The second measurement appears to be taken from a position the boom which is not the closest to the power line. Also, the end of the tape measure at the power line is not visible on the video tape.

3. The employee appears to be in working positions such that he could reach inside the minimum approach distance even without a conductive object in his hand. For example, when removing the insulating guards from the overhead power lines, the employee in the video appears to be near to the transformer and its electrical connections after it has been energized such that the minimum approach distance is not being maintained.

4. The employee on the video tape appears to be preoccupied with the boom assisted placement of the transformer and appears to be positioned such that he cannot continuously overview the installation to ensure that the minimum approach distance is being maintained with respect to himself and with respect to the boom.

5. There is no indication on the video tape that the pole was inspected to ensure that it was in good condition. A damaged or decayed pole could fail when the old transformer was removed or when the new transformer was installed. This also could cause employee exposure to contact with energized parts.

6. It should be noted that the aerial lift cannot be considered as insulated during this transformer replacement operation. The upper portion of the boom appeared to be closer than the minimum approach distance to a grounded object (the pole). In fact, at times, the boom appears to be in conductive contact with the pole. This practice bridges the insulation on the aerial lift and renders it ineffective.

We appreciate your interest in employee safety and health. If we can be of further assistance, please contact the Office of Safety Compliance Assistance, Mr. Ronald J. Davies, telephone (202) 219-8031, extension 110.


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