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.

July 2, 2015

John Boren
3633 Wareham Drive
Thompson Station, TN 37179

Dear Mr. Boren:

Thank you for your correspondence to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), Directorate of Enforcement Programs. You requested that OSHA provide an interpretation or specific guidance regarding requirements for the use of flexible wiring. We apologize for the delay in responding.

Question 1: Is §1910.305(g) intended to cover "flexible cords" and "flexible cables"? Or is it "flexible cords" and "cables"?

Response: OSHA intended §1910.305(g) to cover "flexible cords and cables." OSHA drafters specifically chose to use the language "flexible cords and cables" as opposed to "flexible cords" and "flexible cables."

Question 2: What is the difference between a cable and a cord?

Response: Subpart S does not define "cable" or "cord." However, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) which publishes a consensus standard, on which Subpart S is based, but which OSHA does not enforce, offers guidance on the meaning of these terms. Specifically, NFPA 79-2012(1) provides the following definitions:

Flexible Cable - A cable or special cable manufactured with flexing or constant flexing properties.
Cable - A combination of conductors insulated from one another with a common covering that is not a cord.
Cord - Two or more flexible insulated conductors enclosed in a flexible covering that provides mechanical protection.

Question 3: Are romex-type (NM-sheathed), armored-cable (type AC), or metal-clad (type MC) cables considered "flexible" cables?

Response: Subpart S does not include a list of which cables constitute "flexible" cables. And, §1910.399, Definitions, does not define "flexible cable." Nevertheless, §1910.305(g)(1)(ii) provides a list of the ways in which flexible cords and cables may be used, and §1910.305(g)(1)(iv) includes a list of locations where the flexible cords specifically permitted in §1910.305(g)(1)(ii), may not be used. These provisions offer guidance as to whether the cables about which you inquire could be considered flexible cables. NFPA 70 also provides information on industry-accepted uses for these types of cables, which OSHA would accept if such use complies with §1910.305(g).

Question 4: What flexible cords and cables does §1910.305(g) address?

Response: Section 1910.305(g) covers flexible cords and cables that meet the requirements set forth in the provision. Specifically, §1910.305(g)(1)(i) provides that flexible cords must be approved for conditions of use and location. Moreover, §§1910.305(g)(1)(ii) and 1910.305(g)(1)(iv) set forth uses for such cords and cables and locations where such cords and cables may not be used. Therefore, whether a flexible cord or cable is covered by §1910.305(g) is determined by these requirements.

Question 5: Under what conditions might the use of flexible power cords as permanent wiring be an acceptable/permissible use of flexible wiring?

Response: In accordance with §1910.305(g)(1)(iv)(A), unless specifically permitted otherwise in section §1910.305(g)(1)(ii), the use of flexible cords and cables is prohibited as a substitute for the fixed wiring of a structure. Section 1910.305(g)(1)(ii)(A) through (L) provides ways in which flexible cords and cables may be used; and section §1910.305 (g)(1)(iv)(A) through (F) provides ways flexible cords may not be used.

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 Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100.

Sincerely,

 

Thomas Galassi, Director
Directorate of Enforcement Programs


(1) NFPA publishes numerous documents which OSHA refers to as national consensus standards. National consensus standards are typically not enforceable by OSHA, but may be used as reference material in standards writing, or as a means and method of compliance with various OSHA standards. In the preamble to the final electrical standard, OSHA notes that NFPA 70 is the foundation Subpart S. See https://www.osha.gov/pls/oshaweb/owadisp.show_document?p_table=FEDERAL_REGISTER&p_id=19269

The existing standard is based on a national consensus standard, the 1979 edition of Part I of NFPA 70E, entitled Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces.