- Standard Number:
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.
November 22, 2005
Mr. Mark Baker
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers
106 North Monroe Street
West Frankfort, IL 62896
Dear Mr. Baker:
Thank you for your August 28, 2005, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). You had a question regarding temporary wiring methods. This letter constitutes OSHA's interpretation only of the requirements discussed and may not be applicable to any questions not delineated within your original correspondence. Your paraphrased question and our response are provided below.
Question: When dealing with a piece or section of faulted underground cable, it can sometimes be a month or more before a crew is sent for repairs. Would it be an acceptable practice, under OSHA standards, to lay a 7,200-volt underground cable on top of the ground, as a temporary patch, for the piece or section of faulted underground cable until it can be repaired?
Response: Based on the information you provided in your letter, we believe your primary concern pertains to OSHA requirements that may apply to the practice of laying a 7,200-volt underground cable on top of the ground as temporary wiring for a piece or section of faulted underground cable, until the faulted cable is fixed. Secondly, your concern relates to the practice of laying the cable above ground over an extended period of time, sometimes over a month (which you indicated in your letter), and at least in one situation from your recollection, over six months (which you indicated during a telephone conversation with a member of my staff), before a crew is sent to repair the fault. You also indicated during the telephonic communication with a member of my staff that the employees are engaged in electric utility installation work.
The OSHA standard at 29 CFR 1910.269, Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution, covers the operation and maintenance of electric power generation, control, transformation, transmission, and distribution lines and equipment. In addition, the OSHA standards at 29 CFR 1926 Subpart V, Power transmission and distribution, cover the construction of electric transmission and distribution lines and equipment. Since the work in your scenario involves the supply side of the service point, this type of work would be covered under §1910.269 or Subpart V. However, neither §1910.269 nor Subpart V includes provisions addressing any enhanced risk of damage/degradation of the integrity of the insulation on temporary wiring after the work has been completed. Those standards, therefore, neither expressly prohibit the use of the temporary wiring described in your letter, nor specify a limit on how long it may be used.
However, in the absence of a specific standard covering a hazard, OSHA may issue a citation under Section 5(a)(1), the "General Duty Clause," of the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSH Act), if it determines that: 1) the employer failed to keep its workplace free of a hazard to which its employees were exposed; 2) the hazard was recognized either by the cited employer or the employer's industry; 3) the recognized hazard was causing or was likely to cause death or serious physical harm; and 4) there was a feasible and useful means available to correct the hazard.
Please note that while OSHA does not enforce national consensus or industry standards directly, OSHA may consider such standards, including the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC), published by the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers, Inc., when determining whether a hazard is "recognized" and whether there is a feasible means of abating such a hazard. For example, Rule 014A3 of the 2002 edition of NESC states, "Emergency installations shall be removed, replaced, or relocated, as desired, as soon as practical." This is evidence that the industry recognizes an enhanced risk of insulation damage/degradation associated with the prolonged use of temporary installations. Limiting the duration of use of such an installation would be one, but not necessarily the only, way of addressing this hazard.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. 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. 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 www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at 202-693-1850.
Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs