The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, regulates workplace safety by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education, and assistance. OSHA officially formed on April 28, 1971, the date that the OSH Act became operative. The Occupational Safety and Health Act allows OSHA to issue workplace health and safety regulations. These regulations include limits on chemical exposure, employee access to information, requirements for the use of personal protective equipment, and requirements for safety procedures.
Hazard assessments are required to identify and address existing conditions that pose actual or potential safety hazards. Once identified, hazards can be eliminated or otherwise addressed by using (1) engineered design changes, (2) procedural/administrative controls (such as lockout/tagout (LOTO)), (3) personal protective equipment (PPE), (4) insulating protective equipment (IPE), or (5) other appropriate means or a combination of methods to protect workers from safety hazards.
OSHA’s hazard assessment requirements that affect electric power workers include:
- The “269” standard, which requires that before any work begins, current worksite conditions that could affect safety be identified. This includes potential hazards associated with a task, such as electrically-related exposures (for example, contact and flash), as well as anything occurring or present in the general area that could present a hazard. Other typical hazards that need to be addressed include hot or cold pipes, nearby work done by others, moving traffic, weather conditions, confined/enclosed spaces, falls, trench cave-ins, pole-top and manhole rescue needs, and other activities or conditions that could present a hazard.)
- And 1910.132, which requires that employers complete a hazard assessment to identify the potential hazards to eyes, face, head, feet, and hands and the personal protective equipment (PPE) needed for a task. Most utilities have already addressed this requirement and implemented general policies and procedures for wearing hard hats, safety shoes, safety glasses, gloves, hearing protection, etc.
Once the hazards have been identified through a hazard assessment, workers must be made aware of such hazards and how they will be addressed. This hazard information is provided to workers through required job briefings, which supplement any employer-provided training. Job briefings, also known as “tailboards” or “toolbox talks,” communicate any existing or potential hazards to workers before a job begins or if hazards or potential hazards are discovered while working. If unanticipated hazards are discovered, work must stop, a new hazard assessment must be conducted, and a new job briefing held before work resumes.