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.

December 19, 2006

Mr. Alan E. Scales
Safety Department
Fairchild Semiconductor International
333 Western Avenue
MS 01-31
Portland, ME 04106

Dear Mr. Scales:

Thank you for your June 6, 2006, letter to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA's) Directorate of Enforcement Programs. You had questions regarding OSHA's Selection and use of work practices standard, 29 CFR 1910.333, as it relates to "continuous industrial processes" and the infeasibility of de-energizing equipment under certain circumstances. Your paraphrased scenario, question, and our response follow.

Scenario: The manufacturing of our products involves many discrete pieces of equipment whose individual processes are part of the overall manufacture of integrated circuit components. For example, we have ten pieces of manufacturing equipment fed out of a 480-volt three-phase panel. A new project requires that additional feeders and a 225-ampere circuit breaker be added to the panel to supply a new piece of equipment. To perform the work in a de-energized state, it requires the power to the panel must be disconnected and appropriate LOTO devices applied. This activity would result in the shutdown of the ten pieces of equipment, causing a significant interruption to our ability to manufacture integrated circuits.

Question: Is the panel considered part of a "continuous industrial process," thus allowing the work to be performed while the panel was energized using electrical safe work practices, as per Note 2 in §1910.333(a)(1)?

Response: It appears that your panel is not part of a "continuous industrial process." The term "continuous industrial process" was derived from its use in the National Electrical Code (NEC). In the NEC "continuous industrial process" is used in the context of situations where the orderly shut down of integrated processes and equipment would introduce additional or increased hazards.
1 Therefore, to qualify for the exception found in Note 2 of §1910.333(a)(1), the employer must, on a case-by-case basis, determine if the orderly shutdown of the related equipment (including the panel) and processes would introduce additional or increased hazards. If so, then the employer may perform the work using the electrical safe work practices found in §§1910.331-1910.335, including, but not limited to, insulated tools, shields, barrier, and personal protective equipment. If the orderly shutdown of the related equipment and processes would not introduce additional or increased hazards, but merely alter or interrupt production, then the de-energization of the equipment would be considered feasible, and the exception found in Note 2 of §1910.333(a)(1) would not apply. Based on the limited information you provided, it does not appear that de-energization of the panel in question would introduce additional or increased hazards.

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.

Sincerely,



Richard E. Fairfax, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs

 

 


1 While the term "continuous industrial process" is used only once in the body of the NEC, the index directs the reader to four locations where the provisions are applicable to "continuous industrial processes." See NEC 2003, Sections 240-12, 230-95 Ex. 1, 430-44, and 240-3(a) [ back to text ]