White House Regulatory Office Releases Final Rule Covering Electrical Power Safety(1)

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By Bruce Rolfsen  

Dec. 23 --A review of the draft final rule to protect workers constructing and repairing high-voltage power lines was completed Dec. 20 by the White House Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, ending an examination that lasted 18 months, according to an OIRA statement.

The final rule, Electrical Power Transmission and Distribution; Electrical Protective Equipment standard (RIN 1218-AB67), is now back with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

The next step is expected to be publication of the final rule in the Federal Register. An OSHA spokesman told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 23 that a publication date hadn't been set.

OSHA has been working on the regulation for more than a decade, holding a small business review in 2003 and a number of public hearings, most recently in 2009.

OSHA hasn't released any information about what changes, if any, were made to the regulation during the OIRA review. The regulation aims to revise portions of the general industry power transmission standard (29 C.F.R. 1910.269) and the construction standard for power transmission and distribution (29 C.F.R. 1926 Subpart V). Some requirements haven't been updated in more than 37 years.

During the OIRA process, power industry and union representatives twice met with White House and OIRA officials to discuss their concerns and what they hoped the rule would say.

Charles Kelly, the Edison Electrical Institute's director of safety and human resource issues, attended both sessions. EEI represents investor-owned electric utilities.

“We just hope that the review took into consideration the joint issues that industry and labor agreed upon and recommended to OSHA,” Kelly told Bloomberg BNA Dec. 23.

In a document submitted to OIRA in 2012, EEI said the two main issues of mutual concern are minimum approach distances for high-voltage lines and equipment and requirements for flame-resistant and flash arc-resistant clothing. In both cases, EEI said, industry consensus standards have been developed and published in the 2012 edition of the National Electric Safety Code. EEI suggested that OSHA not deviate from those standards.

 

To contact the reporter on this story: Bruce Rolfsen in Washington at brolfsen@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Jim Stimson at jstimson@bna.com