New Safety Rule for Public Employers

Earlier this year, the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Board announced a public hearing to discuss proposed changes to California’s workplace safety standards. The topics under discussion were of specific interest to public employers because of the specific labor code sections affected. For example, one of the changes being considered was an expansion in the types of respirators employers could provide to emergency responders for use in situations that fall under the Aerosol Transmissible Disease Respirator Exception. That particular change hasn’t yet been approved – perhaps because it would have created too much ambiguity for employees in the respirator selection process in an emergency.

Hold Those Poles

The other change discussed in the meeting has been approved and goes into effect this July. It is a lot more straightforward and should be easier to implement with a little extra training. The new standard impacts the material handling procedures in the high-voltage electrical safety section of the labor code. Interestingly, the safety change has to do with non-electrical hazards from falling poles. According to the board meeting notice, this is a pretty common problem. “Utilityrepresentatives indicate that poles are frequently damaged or compromised from accidents related to motor vehicles hitting them. It is important that suchpoles or pole sections are secured not only during the actual lifting/hoisting process but also in preparing these poles for removal.”

What Prompted the Change?

The Sacramento Municipal Utility District received a citation in 2010 for failing to secure a pole that had been struck so hard that it broke off and was dangling from the wires overhead. The pole slipped through the power lines and hit an employee on the ground, causing a serious injury. The utility company skated on a technicality since the pole wasn’t actually being hoisted by a crane when the accident occurred. The new rule closes that loophole. It’s pretty simple, “Damaged or unstable poles, or sections of poles shall be guyed, braced or otherwise securely supported during pole removal operations.”

This change requires employers to identify the hazard correctly and take appropriate action to limit the danger. At the same time, it doesn’t require any new safety equipment. The tools used to secure the poles are those already in common use in the industry. All in all, it’s a minor change but one that makes work sites safer for public employees. If you need assistance in updating your training program to include this revised standard, give us a call!