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Department & Division News

OSHA Standards

Safety standards published by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) require employers to provide appropriate electrical protective equipment to employees working in areas where there are potential electrical hazards, and dictate that the equipment must be used.

These regulations also require employers (including the Postal Service) to develop Electrical Work Plans for facilities where employees may be exposed to energized electrical circuits while performing maintenance work during the installation, operation, maintenance, modification, repair, and servicing of new or existing electrical equipment.

The plan must be written, and must outline the procedures and training necessary to ensure that employees are protected from serious injuries that could result from potential electrical shock and “arc flash hazards.”

The Electrical Work Program [NFPA 70E] developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) requires employers to perform a Hazard Risk Analysis,whichmust include procedures to protect employees who work in close proximity to live electrical circuitry.

The NFPA standard outlined in Chapter 70E assesses the “arc flash hazard” associated with various levels of voltage and amperes, and determines the physical boundary of the hazard. It outlines standards for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) to protect employees working inside the boundaries. The standards developed by the NFPA, the largest organization in the world focused on preventing death and injury from fires and burns, are recognized by OSHA as “consensus standards.”

The NFPA 70E requires employees working on live circuitry to wear flame resistant (FR) protective garments wherever there is possible exposure to an electric arc flash . Most FR clothing comes with an “arc rating,” which corresponds with the hazard/risk category of any particular job. By adhering to the guidelines of NFPA 70E, the Postal Service can greatly minimize the risk of injury and protect its employees from injury or death.

NFPA 70E is the first standard to require employers to identify arc flash hazards in the Hazard Risk Analysis and to require employers to address the hazard by providing proper Personal Protective Equipment.

This is a significant development for workers, because most severe burn injuries and fatalities are caused by non-flame resistant clothing that ignites and continues to burn.

Flame resistant clothing will self-extinguish, thus limiting the injury; body areas under non-FR clothing are often burned more severely than exposed skin.

OSHA’s Subpart S, Electrical Standards, which requires employers to provide PPE when employees work on live circuitry, took effect on Aug. 13, 2007. NFPA 70E provides the "how to.”

For information on how to file OSHA complaints regarding electrical hazards, click here.

For additional information on flame-resistant clothing, visit WestexInc.com.

Train-the-Trainers Guide to Electrical Safety for General Industry