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 21, 2006

Mr. Edgar R. Mings
Business Manager
International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, Local 196
2400 Big Timber Road
Bldg. B, Suite 208
Elgin, IL 60123

Dear Mr. Mings:

Thank you for your February 15, 2006, letter to Michael Connors, Regional Administrator for OSHA's Region V. Your inquiry has been transferred to the Directorate of Enforcement Programs and the Directorate of Construction at OSHA's National Office. You had questions regarding entry into manholes and vaults and OSHA's standards for electric power generation, transmission, and distribution in general industry and construction, 29 CFR §1910.269 and Subpart V of 29 CFR §1926, respectively. This response addresses your inquiries as they relate to OSHA's general industry standard, 29 CFR §1910.269. The Directorate of Construction is preparing a response to your inquiries as they relate to Subpart V of 29 CFR §1926. Your paraphrased inquiries and our responses follow.

Question #1: Who is qualified to enter a manhole or vault?

Response: For the purposes of your inquiry, we will assume the entry into the space is to perform work covered by 29 CFR §1910.269. First, employees performing work covered by this standard must, at a minimum, have received the training required by 1910.269(a)(2). Second, if the vault or manhole meets the definition of an "enclosed space," as found in 1910.269(x)
1, then any entry into the space would be governed by the requirements found in 1910.269(e) and 1910.269(t). Any person entering an enclosed space or acting as an attendant to an enclosed space entry must, in accordance with 1910.269(e)(2), have been "trained in the hazards of enclosed space entry, in enclosed space entry procedures, and in enclosed space rescue procedures." If the hazards associated with the space cannot be eliminated through the precautions in paragraphs (e) and (t) of 1910.269, then entry into the space must meet the requirements of paragraphs (d) through (k) of 29 CFR §1910.146, OSHA's Permit-required confined spaces standard. The requirements of 1910.146 also apply when an employee enters an enclosed space to perform tasks not covered by 1910.269, OSHA's Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution standard. Paragraph (g) of 1910.146 contains training requirements for permit required confined space entry.

Question #2: Who is qualified to enter and perform work in an underground manhole or vault with energized electrical conductors (12 kV and above)?
2

Response: Work with electrical conductors energized at 12 kV in a manhole or vault must be in compliance with 29 CFR §1910.269, OSHA's Electric power generation, transmission, and distribution standard. As noted earlier, training requirements for employees engaged in these operations are found at 1910.269(a)(2) and 1910.269(e)(2). Additionally, if an employee is working on exposed energized parts or is near enough to them to be exposed to the hazards they present, the employee must be a "qualified person," as required by 1910.269(l)(1), which includes having received additional training specified at 1910.269(a)(2)(ii).

Question #3: If a third party inspects the manhole or vault and the manhole or vault is deemed safe, what qualifications does it take to enter the confined space?

Response: Regardless of who performs the determination that the hazards within the space have been eliminated, the qualifications of the entrant do not change. If it is an enclosed space, as per 1910.269(x), then all of the requirements found in 1910.269(e) apply in full, including the training requirements for the entrant.

Question #4: If a third party inspects a manhole or vault that contains energized electrical conductors (12 kV and above) and the third party deems the space safe, what qualifications must the employee entering the space possess?

Response: As noted in the response to Question #3, regardless of who performs the determination that hazards do not exist, the entrant must possess the training required by 1910.269(a)(2)(ii) to enter the enclosed space. If the employee is working on or near exposed, energized parts, then the employee must be a "qualified person" as required by 1910.269(l)(1), which includes having received the training for "qualified persons" required by the standard at 1910.269(a)(2)(ii).

Question #5: Does it matter if the energized conductors (operating at 12 kV or above) are insulated?

Response: No.

Question #6: Would the individual entering the manhole or vault with the energized conductors (12 kV and above) need to know the minimum approach distances (MADs) to be compliant with the standard's requirements?

Response: If the energized conductors are exposed and the employee is working on them or near enough to them to be exposed to the hazards they present, then 1910.269(a)(2)(ii)(C) requires that the employee, a "qualified person," be trained in the MADs for the voltages involved.

Question #7: What qualifies an individual to work inside the MADs?

Response: An individual working inside the MADs must be a "qualified person," as required by 1910.269(l)(1), and must have received the required training found at 1910.269(a)(2)(ii), but must also must meet the requirements found at 1910.269(l)(2) (i.e., the employee must be insulated from the energized parts, such as through the use of rubber insulating gloves and sleeves where sleeves are required; or the part must be insulated from the employee and from any other conductive object at a different potential; or the employee must be insulated from any other exposed conductive object, such as during live-line bare-hand work).

Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. 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.

if you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Office of General Industry Enforcement at (202) 693-1850. if you have further questions regarding OSHA's Voluntary Protection Programs, please call the Office of Partnerships and Recognition at (202) 693-2213.

Sincerely,



Richard E. Fairfax
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

Cc: Michael Connors, Regional Administrator
      Gary Anderson, Area Director

 

 


1 29 CFR 1910.269(x) defines an enclosed space as "[a] working space, such as a manhole, vault, tunnel, or shaft, that has limited means of egress or entry, that is designed for periodic employee entry under normal conditions, and that does not contain a hazardous atmosphere, but that may contain a hazardous atmosphere under abnormal conditions." 1910.269(x) also defines what would constitute a hazardous atmosphere. [ back to text ]

 

 

 

 


2 The standard, at 29 CFR 1910.269(x), defines "exposed" as "[not] isolated or guarded." The standard defines "guarded" as "[c]overed, fenced, enclosed, or otherwise protected by means of suitable covers or casings, barrier rails or screens, mats, or platforms, designed to minimize the possibility, under normal conditions, of dangerous approach or accidental contact by persons or objects." The note to the definition provides that "[w]ires, which are insulated, but not otherwise protected, are not considered guarded." [ back to text ]