OSHA Brings Electrical Rule Up to 'Current' Practice: For the First Time since 1981, the Agency Is Updating Its General-Industry Electrical Installation Standard

By Cable, Josh | Occupational Hazards, March 2007 | Go to article overview

OSHA Brings Electrical Rule Up to 'Current' Practice: For the First Time since 1981, the Agency Is Updating Its General-Industry Electrical Installation Standard


Cable, Josh, Occupational Hazards


OSHA's revisions to Subpart S of 29 CFR Part 1910 "draw heavily from the 2000 edition of the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces (NFPA 70E) and the 2002 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC)," the agency explained in a final rule published in the Feb. 14 Federal Register.

According to the agency, changes to Subpart S focus on safety in the design and installation of electric equipment in the workplace. The updated standard includes a new, alternative method for classifying and installing equipment in Class 1 hazardous locations; new requirements for ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs); and new provisions on wiring for carnivals and similar installations.

The final rule also replaces the reference to the 1971 NEC in the mandatory appendix to the general-industry powered platform standard--found in Subpart F of 29 CFR 1910--with a reference to OSHA's electrical installation standard. The final rule becomes effective Aug. 13.

"The Forefront" of Technology

In the Federal Register notice, OSHA explained that its existing electrical installation standard is based on the 1979 edition of Part 1 of NFPA 70E, which has been revised several times since 1981, when OSHA last updated its electrical installation requirements.

The Federal Register notice explained that OSHA officials and other stakeholders wanted Subpart S "to reflect the most current practice and technology in the industry."

"Consensus standards like the NEC and NFPA 70E provide nationally recognized safe electrical installation requirements," the agency says. "Additionally, the consensus process used in developing the 2000 edition of NFPA 70E--Part 1 of which is based on the NEC--ensures that requirements contained in that standard are current and at the forefront of electrical safety technology."

Critics: Rule Will Be Outdated

OSHA asserted that during the public comment period, "the vast majority" of stakeholders who weighed in--including the American Society of Safety Engineers and the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association--expressed support for OSHA's efforts to update Subpart S. …

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