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Norris Impacted by OSHA Standard Revisions

Bruce Vitosh--General Manager and CEO

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 In April 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) standard was modified for the electric power generation, transmission and distribution industry.  OSHA said the existing standard was outdated and needed to be updated to be consistent with general industry standards.   The OSHA changes will impact the District financially and change the fall protection and clothing requirements for District employees.

 Employees performing work that involves electric power transmission and distribution facilities are exposed to a variety of significant hazards, such as fall, electric shock and burn hazards that can cause serious injury and death.  OSHA estimates that the revisions will prevent 20 fatalities and 118 serious injuries annually throughout the electric industry. 

 There are varying compliance dates for the revisions with many of them requiring compliance by April 1, 2015.  The District takes safety very seriously and will do whatever is necessary to ensure that all employees return home safely to their families after their work is complete.  If the additional costs associated with the OSHA standard revisions results in a safer work environment for our employees, then the District’s funds expended for OSHA compliance will have been prudently spent.

 District and Contractor Communications

 In order to improve safety when contractors are working with electric utilities, OSHA has specified the information that must be communicated prior to performing any work.  The District must provide specific details regarding District electric facilities and associated hazards.  Contractors have a responsibility to disclose unanticipated hazardous conditions that they discover to the District.

 Fall Protection

 The OSHA standard requires electric utilities to protect employees from fall hazards while working on aerial lifts, poles, towers and similar structures that exceed heights of four feet.  Depending on the type of work being performed, District employees are required to use one of three fall protection systems:

1)  personal fall arrest, which slows the descent of the                employee in the event of a fall;

2)  fall restraint system, which prevents the employee from        falling any distance; or

3)  work-positioning equipment, which allows the employee      to work with both hands free by using a body belt or       
     harness attached to an elevated work surface.

  The District currently provides employees with the necessary safety equipment to perform their work.  In 2015, the District will be required to purchase new fall protection systems at a cost of approximately $50,000.  With the new fall protection requirements, the majority of the District employees will be required to learn how to climb while using the new fall protection equipment.  The hours spent climbing poles with the new fall protection equipment will result in additional training costs in 2015.  Fortunately, some of the employees the District recently hired were trained to climb with the new fall protection equipment through their college courses. 

 Minimum Approach Distance

 The OSHA standard requires the District to establish minimum approach distances that employees must maintain from exposed energized facilities, without wearing rubber insulating gloves and sleeves.  The OSHA changes replace existing tables in the standard with formulas to calculate minimum approach distances and provides guidance based on common conditions for work near exposed energized facilities.

 Arc-Flash Protection

 The OSHA standard requires the District to review the District's current arc-flash hazards to ensure that arc-flash protection meets the requirements.  The District will appropriately modify the arc-flash protective equipment requirements, if changes are necessary.

 Fire Retardant Clothing

 The OSHA standard requires that the District must provide fire retardant clothing for employees.  The District has been providing fire retardant clothing for our employees since 2008.  There is one change with in the OSHA standard that will impact the clothing worn by District employees.  Cotton undershirts will no longer meet OSHA requirements.  Therefore, the District will be providing fire retardant undershirts to all impacted employees.  The additional cost to the District in order to meet the requirement is estimated to be $7,000 annually.

 

 

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