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.

October 3, 2002

John Tanase
Safety Coordinator
R.W. Leet Electric, Inc.
3225 East Kilgore Road
Kalamazoo, MI 49001

Dear Mr. Tanase:

This is in response to your letter of March 11, 2002, in which you request interpretations of several OSHA electrical standards. In your letter, you describe two situations and ask two questions about the applicability of particular standards in §1926.405. We will address only your specific questions -- not other issues that may be raised by these scenarios.

Scenario A
In the first situation, your company installed 120-volt light fixtures, conduit, fittings (boxes), and #12 THHN wire as part of the permanent installation. In order to provide better lighting in the area, the feeds, which were put in flexible conduit on a temporary basis, were connected to a generator. The light fixtures and boxes were approximately 13 feet above the finished floor. You contend that there was no potential for the exposure to harm the workers in the area since they were well above a height that any person would be able to come in contact with the conductors.

Question 1: In this scenario, is there a violation of the §1926.405(b)(2) requirement that "all pull boxes, junction boxes, and fittings shall be provided with covers?"

Answer: The Occupational Safety and Health Review Commission and the courts have stated that no violation occurs when there is an absence of employee "exposure" to the hazard. We cannot tell from this scenario if the height of the fixtures and boxes alone would be sufficient to establish a lack of exposure. For example, if employees in the area were working from ladders or scaffolds or otherwise had access to the boxes, there would be exposure. Also, there can be exposure from indirect contact, such as from carrying long conductive objects (metal piping, conduit, etc). Craft personnel working in the area may also be likely to want to use such outlets for their tools. If they have access to ladders etc., that could constitute exposure as well.

Question 2: Is this a violation of the §1926.405(b)(3)(ii) requirement that "boxes shall be closed by covers securely fastened in place?"

Answer: Paragraph (b)(3) of §1926.405 applies only to pull and junction boxes installed on systems of more than 600 volts. If none of the conductors within the box were over 600 volts, then the requirement in question does not apply.

Scenario B
The second situation involves receptacles and lighting switches in an office area. The devices were energized so that craft personnel could use them for various power tools and/or electrical devices. Plastic receptacle and switch covers were not installed. The covers were not in place because the walls were being prepared for first and second coat painting.

Question: Is this a violation of the1926.405(j)(1)(i) requirement that "fixtures, lampholders, lamps, rosettes, and receptacles shall have no live parts normally exposed to employee contact?"

Answer: Yes, this would be a violation of §1926.405(j)(1)(i). The openings in a switch or outlet box are typically big enough that an employee could inadvertently stick his or her finger (or an object) inside, contact live parts, and receive an electric shock.

If you need additional information, please do not hesitate to contact us by fax at: U.S. Department of Labor, OSHA, Directorate of Construction, [Office of Construction Standards and Guidance], fax # 202-693-1689. You can also contact us by mail at the above office, Room N3468, 200 Constitution Avenue, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20210, although there will be a delay in our receiving correspondence by mail.


Russell B. Swanson, Director
Directorate of Construction