For decades, protections for workers in the power transmission industry went largely unchanged, leaving these workers vulnerable to the dangers of both falls and the unique challenges the power sector presents. In the past two years, though, new standards impacting vertical engineered lifelines have brought a revolution in safety within this industry.
Electric Power Generation, Transmission and Distribution
It started in 2014, when the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did something it hadn’t done in more than 40 years — revise standards for electric power generation, transmission and distribution installations. For those in the power sector, the OSHA CFR 1910.269 Final Rule made finding the right solution, and partner to work with, a top priority, since not all manufacturers make products compliant with the new ruling.
The new regulation represented nothing less than a 180-degree shift from the ability to free climb towers to stringent guidelines for fall protection, designed to save lives and prevent serious injuries. The ruling also addressed numerous other potential threats to workers in the power sector. Of particular note are areas covering communication requirements and arc-flash protection:
- Mandatory host employer, contract employer, and employee exchange of safety-related information was put in place to ensure open communication to ultimately improve workplace safety. Before any work begins, host employers are obligated to tell contract employers about anything pertaining to the safety of a project. The contract employers, in turn, must pass that information on to their employees in a standard-compliant way.
- Workers at risk for electric arc hazards must now use arc flash-rated personal protective clothing and equipment meeting requirements to withstand an arc flash. This clothing and equipment have to bear an arc rating at least as high as the estimated heat energy calculated.
Organizations had until March 2015 to comply with this OSHA ruling.
Even more change is on the way, as the American National Standards Institute (ANSI)/American Society of Safety Engineers (ASSE) Z359.1 received a revision that will take effect in 2017. During the past decade, a variety of new standards had been added under the Z359 umbrella, but many manufacturers avoided adapting to these individual guidelines by claiming overall compliance with Z359.1. That’s not enough anymore; now equipment must meet all standards in the Z359 family.
Specifically, Z359.16, which regulates Climbing Ladder Fall Arrest Systems, is relevant to workers in the power industry using vertical engineered lifelines, as it covers everything from the design to removal of these systems. The changes from the 2007 requirement include a panic grab with secondary locking mechanism and an anti-inversion feature.
To ensure manufacturers are up to code, employers should get to know all the new standards to assess their current equipment and confirm any products they purchase offer the greatest level of compliance and protection.
Finding the Right Partner
Key to any power company is the reassurance that a fall protection provider can offer design solutions and efficacy when integrating fall protection into their power generation systems. Look for providers with expertise and industry-leading technologies providing key advantages, including
- Systems that are OSHA and ANSI compliant
- Proven experience fitting towers in diverse locales, providing insights that can be instrumental to the success of projects
- A commitment to exceeding requirements and standards on every level
- Safe, yet easy-to-use, technologies
Feedback from climbers shows they prioritize simplicity when it comes to a vertical lifeline system. They prefer a system that is ergonomically similar to free climbing but provides 100 percent fall protection while complying with OSHA regulations. Demonstration installations are suggested to enable linemen to understand this point for themselves. The more traditional “double-hook” climbing, requiring “industrial athletes” to hook and unhook lanyards at each anchor point as they progress up the tower not only takes more time and energy but has also been linked to repetitive stress injuries.
Look for a supplier with a team used to dealing with larger projects, including elements such as:
- Solutions for towers of varying ages, construction and configuration
- Components, drawings and load calculations along with recommendations and engineering support in order to gain client signoff
- Overseeing of training and installation
The team should also be used to responding rapidly to requests during pilot programs or trials, including points such as handling onsite adaptations that require engineering approval, along with installation changes from approved drawings.
Updated standards are transforming the power transmission industry; choosing an equipment provider that can keep up will help ensure you’re compliant — and your workers are as safe as possible.