Earlier this year, OSHA announced several changes to standard 1910.269, Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution standard. Several of the announced changes impact individuals who must wear FR (flame-resistant) and AR (arc-resistant) workwear in order to protect them from the dangers of flames and electric arc. Enforcement by OSHA of these changes starts as early as October 2014 and continues during 2015.
But how will these new standards impact the textile industry? The almost 1,000-page document is more than most employers will have the time to read. Hugh Hoagland, senior managing partner of E-Hazard, which provides electrical safety training, arc flash studies and electrical safety audits, and Rich Lippert, director of business development, protective markets, Glen Raven Technical Fabrics LLC, Glen Raven, N.C., reviewed the document in an effort to help companies understand what the changes will mean for them.
“The language is more precise and specific than it was before,” Lippert says. “It goes a long way to eliminate and minimize opinions in terms of one aspect of our workwear. Before OSHA came up with these new standards, it was up to the employee to source the right gear. The new language in the standard states specifically that the employer must provide workwear for the employee when he/she is faced with these FR and/or AR hazards.” Lippert points out that while the previous standard mandated PPE workwear depending on the hazards, the burden was on the employee to be sure they were properly outfitted. While many employers already provided proper workwear for their employees, some did not. Now the burden shifts onto the employers to know which workwear is needed and to supply it.
Industry impact, Lippert surmises, is that the new standard will cause employers to review work site hazards to make sure they understand exactly what the risks are and how they can be addressed with the proper workwear—and that will mean conducting a third-party safety audit. “As an employer, you don’t want to conduct the audit yourself,” Lippert says. “It’s best to hire a third-party company to do the risk site analysis and based on that analysis, take the necessary steps to put your employees in the proper PPE (personal protection equipment).”
Read E-Hazard’s side-by-side comparison of the prior and current standards, “Comparison of Changes for New OSHA 1910.269 Standard.”