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NOTICE: This is an OSHA Archive Document, and may no longer represent OSHA Policy. It is presented here as historical content, for research and review purposes only.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

February 13, 1997

[Name Withheld]

Dear [Name Withheld]:

This is in response to your July 23, 1996 letter requesting interpretation of the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution standard, 29 CFR 1910.269. As you noted in your letter, some of the questions contained in your September 20, 1994, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Area Office in Appleton, Wisconsin, have been answered by other OSHA correspondence. Again, please accept our apology for the delay in responding.

Work Assignments

Question 3:

If not all, how many employees on a crew would have to be qualified under paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(ii) and trained in pole top rescue?


Paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(i) requires employees to be trained in emergency procedures related to their work and necessary for their safety. At least one crew member other than the exposed employee must be trained and must demonstrate proficiency in pole-top rescue, including getting to the injured employee, when the work being performed is expected to include the need for pole-top rescue. Obviously, if the pole-top rescue could be expected to expose the rescuing employee to energized parts of more than 50 volts, that employee would have to be trained as required in paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(ii). (See the introductory text to paragraph 1910.269(l)(1)). If pole-top rescue is not needed, the employees on the ground will not have to be trained in pole-top rescue or be qualified as climbers. However, one of the employees on the ground must be trained and assigned the duty of taking timely action to obtain rescue assistance for the employee working on the pole, and of course, at least two of the crew members would still have to be trained in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation as required by paragraph 1910.269(b)(1)(i).

Question 4:

What would be your response to Question 3 above if the crew consists of four employees who are skilled and trained in different occupations such as a lineman, carpenter, electrician, and underground cable installer? Could this crew be assigned a job which entails overhead work? Please keep in mind that the person doing the overhead work would be the lineman. If the lineman were shocked or injured and needed to be rescued immediately, there would be no other member of the crew who is trained or skilled to effect a rescue.

Question 4a:

Could a crew of this makeup be expected to do work, as described under paragraph 1910.269(1)(1)(ii), that normally would be done by one employee?

Question 4b:

Is it fair to the lineman to work on a crew whose members are not qualified or skilled to provide assistance aloft or effectuate a pole top rescue if so needed?


The reply to Question 3 above would be applicable to the crew you described. The employer must train this crew, as delineated in the reply to Question 3 above, before the work you described in Questions 4 and 4a above is begun. In response to Question 4b, the employer must meet the requirements referenced in Question 3 above.

Question 5:

Can the employer assign the crew described in Question 4 to manhole work? The one employee in the crew who is trained and skilled in the hazards of enclosed space entry and rescue procedures is the underground cable installer who would be the only employee assigned to perform work on underground electrical installations in the manhole. If the underground cable installer were shocked or injured and needed immediate rescue, there would be no one in the crew qualified or skilled to perform the rescue.

Question 5a:

Could a crew of this makeup be expected to do work, as described under paragraph 1910.269(t)(3)(iii), that normally would be done by one employee?

Question 5b:

Is it fair to the underground cable installer to be assigned to a crew whose members are not qualified or skilled to provide assistance below or effectuate a manhole rescue if so needed?


Only under the specific work provisions of paragraph 1910.269(t)(3)(iii) may the underground cable installer enter a manhole alone. OSHA has determined that these operations may be performed safely by an employee working alone. For other operations, employees must be trained to provide whatever emergency rescue assistance may be necessary. This includes training to enter the manhole to perform rescue procedures and, as specifically required by paragraph 1910.269(b)(1)(i), training in cardio-pulmonary resuscitation techniques.

Question 6:

How many employees in the preceding Question 5 crew must be trained and skilled in manhole rescue and considered qualified under paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(ii)?


None of the crew members needs to be trained and skilled in manhole rescue or otherwise qualified with respect to work performed by the underground cable installer working under the specific provision of paragraph 1910.269(t)(3)(iii). For other work operations, at least one employee, in addition to the one performing the work in the manhole, must have the training noted in the reply to Question 5 above.

Question 7:

In my opinion a crew with limited skills and training as described in Question 4 above should have limited work assignments. Any overhead work or underground work in a manhole or vault should be limited to work rules governing the use of a one man crew as specified in paragraphs 1910.269(1)(1)(ii) and 1910.269(t)(3) (iii). Is this also OSHA's interpretation to paragraph 1910.269(a)(2) Training?


The employee training required under paragraph 1910.269(a)(2) depends on what job tasks the lineman, carpenter, electrician, or underground cable installer employee is required to perform. An employer who assigns his or her employee a job task for which the employee has not been trained (and the employer has not certified as trained based on the demonstrated proficiency of the employee) would be in violation of paragraph 1910.269(a)(2). All employees must be trained in and familiar with the safety requirements in paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(i). Also, qualified employees must be trained and competent in the safety requirements in paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(ii). In areas containing unguarded, uninsulated energized lines or parts of equipment operating at 50 volts or more, at least two qualified employees must be present while the types of work covered by paragraph 1910.269(l)(1)(i) are being performed, but a qualified employee working alone may perform the types of work covered by paragraph 1910.269(l)(1)(ii).


Question 1:

Paragraph 1910.269(t)(3)(ii) states: Occasionally, the employee on the surface may briefly enter a manhole to provide assistance, other than emergency. What time frame (5 minutes, 10 minutes, half hour) does OSHA intend "briefly" to be?


Please note that what OSHA intended "briefly" to mean is addressed by the example at the bottom of the right-hand column of page 4414 in the preamble of the final rule (56 FR 4414). Up to fifteen minutes is considered reasonable time frame for the attendant in this example to provide assistance. What OSHA intended "occasionally" to mean is addressed also in this preamble example. "[If] significant portions of the job require the assistance of a second worker in the manhole, the attendant would not be permitted to remain in the manhole for the length of time that would be necessary, and a third employee would be required."

Question 2:

Does the attendant for manholes containing energized electrical equipment required by paragraph 1910.269(t)(3)(i) have to be trained in the hazards of enclosed space entry, in enclosed space entry procedures and in enclosed space rescue procedures as required under paragraph 1910.269(e)(2) when the manhole is an enclosed space?


Yes, the attendant must be trained in all the areas you described.

Question 3:

Would an attendant be required under paragraph 1910.269(t)(3) for entry into both vented and unvented vaults containing energized electrical equipment?


Yes, an attendant is required for both of the entries you described.

Qualified Climber

Question 4:

Should an "unqualified employee" under NOTE 2 following paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(v)) be considered a qualified back-up to an employee on a pole, tower or other similar type structure?


Note 2 following paragraph 1910.269(g)(2)(v) is intended to clarify that employees undergoing fall protection training are required to use fall protection anytime they are more than 4 feet (1.2 meters) above the ground. This is an exception to the concept that an employee is considered qualified to perform duties associated with the on-the-job training if, in the course of such training, he or she has demonstrated an ability to perform the duties safely at his or her level of training and if he or she is under the direct supervision of a qualified person. See Note 2 following the definition of "qualified employee (qualified person)" under paragraph 1910.269(x) Definitions.

An employee must have the training required by paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(i) for the purpose of being a back-up to an employee who is not working on or near exposed, energized parts of electric equipment on a pole, tower, or similar structure. An employee must have the training required by paragraph 1910.269(a)(2)(i) and (ii) for the purpose of being a back-up to an employee working on or near exposed, energized parts of electric equipment on a pole, tower, or other similar structure.

Question 4a:

Should an unqualified employee (unqualified climber) be placed in a position where his or her skills are put to the ultimate test of performing a pole top rescue?


An employer may only assign an employee work that the employee has been trained to perform as required by paragraph 1910.269(a)(2).

Live-line tools versus insulated operating tools

Question 1:

Are live-line tools that are not used for primary employee protection exempt from being tested under paragraph 1910.269(j)(2)(iii)?


No. Under paragraph 1910.269(j)(2)(ii), live-line tools with any defect or contamination that could adversely affect the insulating qualities or mechanical integrity of the tool must be removed from service and examined and tested according to paragraph 1910.269(j)(2)(iii).

Question 2:

We currently use a few specific live-line tools which are designated "insulated operating tools." These tools are always used in conjunction with the use of high voltage rubber insulating gloves for primary protection. The insulated operating tools are used for distance only, opening or closing disconnects, cutting jumpers, cutting downed wires in the clear, etc... Are these acceptable uses for these designated insulated operating tools?


The live-line tools you categorized as "insulated operating tools" would be acceptable for the purposes you indicated when used in accordance with 1910.269, particularly, paragraph 1910.269(1)(2)(i).

One Man Crew Working Rules

Question 1:

Does 1910.269 allow for a employee working alone to perform the following work?

- Hands-on work (utilizing rubber insulating gloves) on energized parts operating at 600 volts or less, providing the work involved can be accomplished safely by one employee.

-Routine switching at a substation not involving direct contact with live parts or climbing on structures, and other types of work with similar characteristics. These tasks are performed when there are no unusual conditions, including poor lighting, bad weather, and hazardous switching equipment configuration or state of repair.

-Use of live-line tools to operate disconnects and similar work performed with a live-line (hot stick) tool at a safe distance.

-Emergency work to the extent necessary to safeguard the general public.


Under the provision of 1910.269, the work you described may be performed by a qualified employee working alone. Under paragraph 1910.269(l)(1)(ii)(A), an employer is required to demonstrate that conditions at the site allow. switching of circuits more than 600 volts to be performed safely by a single qualified worker. Also, under paragraph 1910.269(l)(1)(ii)(B), a qualified employee may perform work alone using a live-line tool if the employee is positioned so that he or she is neither within reach of nor otherwise exposed to contact with parts energized at more than 600 volts.

Rubber Gloves and Sleeves - You have written that the information contained in the Final Rule (59 FR 4320) leads you to believe the following to be an accurate description of the rubber insulating gloves and sleeves requirements under paragraphs 1910.269(1)(2) and (3).

An employee must wear rubber insulating sleeves in addition to wearing rubber insulating gloves:

-when approaching or taking any conductive object closer to exposed, energized parts than set forth in Tables R-6 through R-10 other than the exposed, energized part upon which the employee is performing work or,

-when the exposed, energized part could come into contact with the upper arms of the employee due to the positions he or she would take to perform work on the exposed, energized part.

Since sleeves are not required "if exposed energized parts on which work is not being performed are insulated from the employee (paragraph 1910.269(1)(3)(i)) and since this insulation can take the form of protective cover-up equipment, adequate wire insulation for the voltage involved (secondary voltages), or "air space" hence the Minimum Approach Distance Tables R-6 through R-10 and as stated in the preamble (page 4386) discussion on 1910.269(1) "the required minimum approach distances would have to be maintained from other exposed energized parts." (The minimum approach distance for 50 to 1000 volts is "avoid contact", from Table R-6).

Sleeves would then not be needed for work on secondary voltages unless:

-the employee were going to contact or work on more than one secondary phase at a time (closer than the minimum approach distance), or

-the employee were to work from a position such that his or her upper arms would be exposed to contact with exposed, energized parts.

Question 1:

Is this an accurate summary of 1910.269(1) as it pertains to the required use of rubber insulating sleeves in addition to gloves when working on secondary, less than 600 voltages.


No. For the purpose of complying with the "insulated" requirement of 1910.269, an employer must ensure that no employee approaches or takes any conductive object closer to exposed, energized parts than set forth in Table R-6 through R-10, unless the provisions of paragraph 1910.269(1)(2) (i), or (ii) or (iii) are met. Under paragraph 1910.269(1)(2)(i), gloves and sleeves may be used for personal protection only with regard to the energized part upon which work is being performed. Personal protection from other exposed, energized parts (closer than the applicable minimum approach distance set forth in Table R-6 through R-10) on which work is not being performed must be provided by complying with either paragraph 1910.269(1)(2)(ii) or (iii).

Under paragraph 1910.269(1)(3), rubber insulating sleeves need not be used with gloves when exposed energized parts on which work is not being performed are insulated to provide position protection such that the upper arms of an employee (using gloves to perform work on an exposed, energized part) are not exposed to contact with these parts. If sleeves are not used, conductors and circuit parts on which work is not being performed must be insulated to such an extent that the employee could not contact them at the maximum limit of his or her reach.

Question 2:

Is secondary wire insulation (that which is rated for a higher voltage than the voltage for which it is being used) considered adequate insulation under paragraph 1910.269(1)(3)(i)?


If the insulation on the conductor is rated for the voltage on that conductor, the conductor is considered to be insulated for the purposes of paragraphs 1910.269(1)(2) and (1)(3). Of course, employees must be trained to distinguish an insulated conductor from a covered conductor (that is, one that has a weather-proof covering that is not rated for the voltage)

Opening Circuits Under Load

Question 1:

Can a hot stick or telescoping switch stick be used to open a fused cutout under normal operating conditions without violating paragraph 1910.269(1)(10) relating to opening circuits under load conditions?


Section 1910.269 does not require load-break-type switches to be installed at all locations where a circuit would have to be opened. Alternatives include deenergizing the line and removing the load. The employer can also make an engineering determination that the fused cutout is capable of safely interrupting load current. Additionally, if no employees are exposed to the hazards involved, the employer would not be cited for violating paragraph 1910.269(1)(10). This would be the case if a non-load-break disconnecting device was operated from a remote position where the employee could not be injured in the event that the device failed.

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


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