- 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 https://www.osha.gov.
DOL-OSHA-DEP-2020-004 - This document does not have the force and effect of law and is not meant to bind the public in any way. This document is intended only to provide clarity to the public regarding existing requirements under the law or agency policies.
January 31, 2020
Mr. Carey E. Olson
Moore, Ingram, Johnson, and Steele, LLP
326 Roswell Street
Marietta, GA 30060
Dear Mr. Olson:
Thank you for your correspondence to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration's (OSHA) Directorate of Enforcement Programs regarding tagging transmission lines covered under OSHA's standard at 29 CFR 1910.269, Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution. Specifically, your request pertains to 29 CFR 1910.269(m)(3)(ii), which requires the employer to: (a) ensure that all switches, disconnectors, jumpers, taps, and other means through which known sources of electric energy may be supplied to the particular lines and equipment to be deenergized are open; and (b) render such means inoperable, unless its design does not so permit, and then ensure that such means are tagged to indicate that employees are at work. 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.
In your letter, you state that compliance with the requirements of 29 CFR 1910.269(m)(3)(ii) "can often be impractical due to the location on the top of a structure, which can often be 30 feet or higher from the ground." You ask two questions regarding compliance with 29 CFR 1910.269(m)(3)(ii).
Question 1: Is it permissible to use a location on the structure or pole that is accessible from the ground if it is clearly visible from where an operator would be operating the switches, disconnectors, jumpers, taps, and other means of disconnect?
Response: 29 CFR 1910.269 (m)(3)(ii) requires the tag to be at the switch or other disconnecting means. However, in some circumstances, employees may be better protected by tags placed where they would be obvious to workers attempting to reenergize a tagged circuit. For example, an employee on the ground using an insulated hook stick to operate a cutout mounted on a utility pole may not be able to see or read a tag placed on the elevated cutout. A tag placed at a conspicuous location on the pole near ground level would be more obvious to that employee.
Consequently, OSHA will consider a violation of 29 CFR 1910.269(m)(3)(ii) to be a de minimis condition1 under the following circumstances:
- The disconnecting means are located at an elevated location, such as near the top of a utility pole;
- Tags are placed at a conspicuous location where they will be visible and obvious to anyone attempting to close the disconnecting means;
- The employer's procedures for deenergizing transmission and distribution lines and equipment explicitly describe the alternative location (such as: a location that is on the structure with the disconnects, that is visible at any angle from the tag, and that is at a height of 1.5 to 2.4 meters (5 to 8 feet) above grade);
- The employer's procedures for deenergizing transmission and distribution lines and equipment explicitly require employees reenergizing, or otherwise performing switching of, circuits or equipment to visually check for the presence of tags indicating that the disconnecting means is open for the protection of employees;
- The tag indicates that employees are at work as required by 29 CFR 1910.269(m)(3)(ii) and, if there are multiple disconnecting means on the same structure, the tag indicates which disconnecting means to which it applies; and
- The employer otherwise complies with 29 CFR 1910.269(m)(3)(ii) except for the location of the tags.
Question 2: With all switches, disconnectors, jumpers, taps, and other means of energy supply opened, conductors tested for absence of voltage, and grounds applied, would an alternate location for tags be permitted if workers wear insulating rubber gloves while working on or within the minimum approach distance of conductors?
Response: See response to Question 1 for the circumstances under which OSHA will consider an alternate location for tags to be a de minimis condition of 29 CFR 1910.269(m)(3)(ii). In general, follow OSHA standard requirements to determine whether the provision and use of insulating rubber gloves and other electrical protective equipment is required in particular situations. The use of the appropriate personal protective equipment and other electrical protective equipment enhances safety.
Thank you for your interest in occupational safety and health. We hope you find this information helpful. OSHAs requirements are set by statute, standards, and regulations. Our letters of interpretation do not create new or additional requirements but rather explain these requirements and how they apply to particular circumstances.
This letter constitutes OSHAs interpretation of the requirements discussed. From time to time, letters are affected when the Agency updates a standard, a legal decision impacts a standard, or changes in technology affect the interpretation. To ensure that you are using the correct information and guidance, please consult OSHA's website at https://www.osha.gov. If you have any further questions, please feel free to contact the Directorate of Enforcement Programs at (202) 693-2100.
Patrick J. Kapust, Acting Director
Director of Enforcement Programs
1 OSHA's de minimis conditions policy is that if an employer complies with the clear intent of a standard but deviates from its particular requirements in a manner that has no direct or immediate relationship to employee safety or health, then the condition will be considered to be de minimis.