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Regulations Would Exclude Construction Industry, Electricians

December 1, 1987

WASHINGTON (AP) _ The government on Monday proposed new regulations aimed at reducing the number of workers electrocuted on the job in certain industries by 40 percent, but electricians and farm and construction workers would be excluded.

Officials from the Occupational Safety and Health Administration said the proposed ″performance-oriented″ requirements for training, protective equipment and inspections plus new restrictions on the use of electrical equipment could prevent more than 100 deaths each year from electrocution.

In addition, the new regulations should reduce the number of serious injuries among some 4.8 million at-risk workers from about 7,700 to 5,200 per year, the agency said.

The federal Centers for Disease Control found in a five-year study of occupational deaths in Texas that electrocutions were the fifth leading cause of on-the-job fatalities among male workers.

The OSHA regulations would require an hour of on-the-job training each year for an estimated 2.5 million workers considered to be among the most at risk to death or injury from electrical shock.

Among them are 660,000 maintenance repairers, 450,000 electrical equipment assemblers, 420,00 electronic and TV service technicians and 250,000 heating, air conditioning and refrigeration mechanics.

Such ″qualified persons″ as electricians are excluded because they supposedly are already familiar with the hazards of electricity.

The other 2.3 million manufacturing, transportation, wholesale and retail trade and service workers would have to undergo 15 minutes to half an hour of training annually. Agriculture and construction workers would be excluded from the proposed regulations, even though one government study said half of all electrocutions occur in the construction industry.

In addition, the proposed regulations would require employers to ″de- energize″ electrical equipment when it poses a hazard to workers. Further, the regulations set forth lockout and tagging procedures to prevent equipment from being re-energized while risks continue.

Signs, barricades and, if necessary, guards would have to be stationed to warn workers of nearby electrical hazards.

Altogether, OSHA estimates the new regulations will cost employers more than $90 million a year to implement.

Assuming there is no swell of opposition, OSHA hopes to issue final regulations next fall and put them into effect in early 1989, said Susan Fleming, a spokeswoman for the agency.

But Diane Factor, an industrial hygienist for the AFL-CIO, said, ″I think we are going to have some problems.″

While stressing that she has taken only a cursory look at the proposal, Ms. Factor said its emphasis on a ″performance-based standard could be a code word for not have a strict standard.″

OSHA in 1981 adopted safety regulations governing the installation of electrical equipment. However, the agency has few regulations on the books now addressing day-to-day work practices involving electrical equipment.

Excluding construction and the installation and maintenance of electrical equipment, OSHA estimates that about 250 workers a year are electrocuted on the job and that unsafe worker practices are responsible for more than half the deaths.

Those unsafe practices include everything from poor supervision to inattentiveness, such as a worker’s unawareness of a power line overhead while carrying a metal ladder.

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