Manufacturers of tools and equipment used by electrical industry professionals should take note of new rules governing the design and manufacture of this equipment. On April 11, 2014, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued a final rule governing construction and maintenance of electricity generation, transmission, and distribution installations.1 For the most part, the rule focuses on regulating conduct to encourage worker safety. But several provisions also impose design and labeling requirements on manufacturers that produce tools and other items used in construction and maintenance of electrical installations. The final rule sought to, among other things, harmonize disparate OSHA regulations governing construction (Part 1926) and maintenance (Part 1910).
Revised sections impose design requirements on the following construction tools and equipment:
- Protective equipment: 29 CFR §§ 1910.137 and 1926.97 govern electrical protective equipment like gloves and other insulating gear. The rule requires this equipment to bear certain labels and stand up to prescribed voltages and currents. OSHA expects that some of the tests required by these sections "will normally be performed by the manufacturer during the design process."
- Fall protection: Sections 1910.269(g) and 1926.954 govern personal protective equipment with a focus on protecting workers from falls. Besides prescribing minimum fall heights and the like, these regulations also target fall-arrest systems. The components must be made from durable materials such as steel and should be designed not to fail after exposure to electric current.
- Ladders: Sections 1910.269(h) and 1926.955 govern ladders and platforms, which must be designed to withstand certain loads.
- High-voltage Tools: Sections 1910.269(j) and 1926.957 govern tools used on live electrical components, which must be designed to withstand high voltages.
Businesses that design, manufacture, or use equipment on electrical installations should review this final rule and consider its business impact. For example, supplier agreements may implicitly mandate compliance with these new provisions if they include provisions specifying that electrical protective equipment and tools be fit for use in this industry. And manufacturers and designers should review their advertising statements to ensure accuracy regarding whether these goods are "OSHA compliant."2
Most of the final rule's provisions take effect on July 10, 2014. Impacted businesses with questions about these rules should consider working with OSHA counsel to account for these changes when assessing litigation and compliance risk.