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OSHA Sets Final Rule on Electric Safety

Electrical fires and electrocutions are a significant risk to workers in construction, factories, and other industrial jobs. After a decade of effort, the Occupational Safety Health Administration (OSHA) has finally published a rule containing new safety requirements to prevent hazards in the workplace. The rule primarily focuses on developing and sharing safety procedures, minimizing distance to electrical sources, and protective gear. Safety advocates are touting the rule as a significant step in the right direction to keep workplaces free from injury and to protect the lives of workers.
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OSHA is the federal agency charged with making safety rules and ensuing compliance to protect the health and safety of the nation’s workers. The electrical safety rule will be pivotal in establishing safety guidelines and in holding negligent companies accountable in the event of an accident. Our Boston workers’ compensation attorneys are dedicated to protecting the rights of America’s workforce. We are committed to helping injured workers and their loved ones collect rightful benefits in the event of an accident or injury. Our lawyers are also committed to raising awareness and in staying abreast of legal issues and trends that impact worker safety.

Workplace safety authorities have been urging the codification of industry policies and guidelines. According to sources, the OSHA rule codifies what many industry leaders are already doing, including requiring safety gear for individuals who climb poles and use bucket trucks. Industry leaders say that the codification of the new rule clarifies any regulatory uncertainties that have come to light since 2005. The safety community has been awaiting a codification since OSHA proposed it.

Industry leaders testified at large public hearings and will hold a webinar to instruct businesses on how to comply with the new rules. Prior to the codification, there was no clear protocol on how contractors could share information on work site conditions and job safety. Now employers who work with contractors must convey necessary information to contract employees. Employees will also be briefed on information sharing strategies to improve job safety.

The new rule formalizes safety practices to prevent falls, including default “free climbing” to climbing with fall protection. The issue is relevant to workers who climb poles, use bucket trucks or operate with certain horizontally moving equipment. When voltages run greater than 72.5, employers must calculate a safe distance from the energy lines based on a formula provided by OSHA. Prior to this new regulation, employers used a table provided by OSHA.

Another practice of “ground to ground glove” requires workers to go from ground to bucket truck and back down without removing gloves to protect against electrocution. Workers are also required to wear flame-retardant clothing when energized equipment could be flammable. In some cases, workers will be required to wear face shields. Those who have been following developments of the new rule have not been surprised at any of the mandates. Most were expected initiatives, but now have the backing of a rule, compliance and enforcement procedures. OSHA identified inconsistencies in the code in the power sector and has working on updating elements of confusion in the industry. The new rules will take effect in April of 2015.

Call the Law Offices of Jeffrey S. Glassman for a free and confidential consultation to discuss your workers’ compensation claim– 1-888-367-2900.

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