In addition to the OSHA Transmission and Distribution (T&D) standard, citations for violating excavation, aerial lift, fall protection and other standards are common.
Power line construction comes with some risks. Utilities and construction companies that ignore relevant OSHA regulations designed to protect workers may face repercussions. These regulations aren’t limited to OSHA T&D standard 1910.269 (electric power generation, transmission, and distribution). In fact, between October 2020 and September 2021, the most citations issued under NAICS Code 237130 — Power and Communication Line and Related Structures Construction were for violations of the following five standards.
Standard 1926.651: Specific Excavation Requirements
This standard includes a wide range of regulations related to excavation. Some examples: determining the estimated location of utility installations prior to digging; having an appropriate means of egress for trench excavations that are 4 feet deep or deeper; having a warning system for mobile equipment that approaches an excavation; testing for hazardous atmospheres; and having emergency rescue equipment at the ready when hazardous atmospheric conditions exist or may develop. The standard also dictates the use of support systems.
Standard 1926.0453: Aerial lifts
Using aerial lifts safely during transmission line construction is critical. According to this standard, workers on the lift must wear a harness and lanyard attached to the manufacturer designated anchorage point on the boom or basket. Boom and basket load limits specified by the manufacturer must not be exceeded. Belting off to an adjacent pole, structure or equipment while working from an aerial lift isn’t allowed. Brakes must be set, and when outriggers are used, they must be positioned on pads or a solid surface. An aerial lift truck must not be moved when the boom is elevated in a working position with workers in the basket, unless the equipment was designed for that use case.
Standard 1926.200: Accident prevention signs and tags
This standard covers the use of danger signs, caution signs, safety instruction signs and other signs, as well as the use of accident prevention tags, which must be employed as a temporary means of warning workers of an existing hazard, such as defective tools or equipment. Signs must be visible when work is being performed and must be removed or covered promptly when the hazards no longer exist.
Standard 1926.502: Fall protection systems criteria and practices
OSHA includes requirements for several different types of fall protection systems in this standard. Guardrails, for example, must be 42 inches (plus or minus 3 inches) above the walking or working level and may require the use of midrails and balusters. When safety nets are used, they must be inspected, tested and installed no more than 30 feet below the working level. Personal fall protection systems must meet OSHA requirements for connectors, strapping, anchorages, etc.
Standard 1926.20: General safety and health provisions
According to this standard, no contractor or subcontractor may require workers to work in surroundings or under conditions that are unsanitary, hazardous or dangerous. In addition, employers must take all precautions necessary to prevent accidents. That includes training workers on hazards, providing the necessary personal protective equipment and appointing competent persons to make frequent and regular inspections of the jobsite, materials and equipment. Only workers who are trained or experienced in operating equipment and machinery may use it.
Power line construction is essential but potentially dangerous work. To mitigate the risks to your employees and avoid fines, review the OSHA electrical transmission and distribution standards as well as the other standards employers have been cited for to ensure that you’re in compliance.