Electric arc safety
Both construction and general industry standards now include new provisions regarding flame-resistant clothing. The proposal also updates references to consensus standards in Sections 1910.137 and 1910.269. A new appendix (F) helps employers comply with the protective clothing requirements.
For the full text or PDF of the proposal, go to www.gpoaccess.gov, click on Federal Registers under Executive Resources, and browse the table of contents from back issues â€” 2005 â€” click Go â€” click Wednesday, June 15, 2005.
Significant risksRisks addressed by OSHAâ€™s proposal are significant. The 227,683 employees performing work involving electric power generation, transmission, and distribution are exposed to a variety of significant hazards, such as falls, electric shock, and burns. OSHA estimates 444 serious injuries and 74 fatalities occur annually among these workers.
Over a 45-year working lifetime, more than 14 of every 1,000 of these employees will die from risks such as electric shock, electrocution, electric arcs, fires, explosions, falls and being struck by, struck against, or caught between objects.
Burn injuries are very serious and costly. Eighty-four percent of reported burn injuries were fatalities or required hospitalization, according to OSHA research. Eighty-seven percent of the accidents for which the severity of the injury was noted involved third-degree burns â€” extremely painful and costly burns typically requiring skin grafts and leaving permanent scars.
FR clothing requiredOSHAâ€™s existing clothing requirement in Sec. 1910.269 does not require employers to protect employees from electric arcs through the use of flame-resistant (FR) clothing. It simply requires that an employeeâ€™s clothing do no greater harm.
Now OSHA believes the standard should be revised to require the use of flame-resistant clothing, under certain circumstances, to protect employees from the most severe burns.
OSHA reports the electric power industry is beginning to recognize this need â€” many employers now provide flame-resistant clothing to employees. Plus, ASTM is writing standards that provide for arc ratings of protective clothing, and the National Fire Protection Association also recognizes the need to protect employees working on energized equipment from the hazards posed by electric arcs.
Key provisionsHere are some key provisions regarding protective clothing in OSHAâ€™s proposal:
- (A) The employee is subject to contact with energized circuit parts operating at more than 600 volts,
- (B) The employeeâ€™s clothing could be ignited by flammable material in the work area that could be ignited by an electric arc, or
- (C) The employeeâ€™s clothing could be ignited by molten metal or electric arcs from faulted conductors in the work area.
According to OSHA research, much of the flame-resistant clothing available today comes with an arc rating. An arc rating indicates that a fabric is not expected to transfer sufficient thermal energy to cause a second-degree burn when tested under standard laboratory conditions exposing the fabric to an electric arc that radiates an energy at or below the rating.
Specifically, OSHA wants to know:
Are there types or weights of protective clothing that employees typically wear outside of work? Do employers restrict the types or weights of protective clothing that employees are allowed to wear outside of work?
Do employers typically provide the types of protective clothing required by the proposal at no cost to employees? Do some employers provide certain types or weights of protective clothing at no cost to employees, while requiring other types or weights of protective clothing to be paid for by employees? Should OSHA include an employer-payment requirement for heavier weights or particular types of protective clothing, but not lighter weights or other types?
If so, what weights or types of protective clothing should be exempt from an employer-payment requirement?