While taking time to look at the construction year ahead, don’t forget safety. While preparing your 2006 Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) Form 300A, Summary of Work-Related Injuries and Illnesses (posting deadline Feb. 1), reflect on changes needed to prevent future accidents. Review industry OSHA citations for the previous year as well. They provide insight to problems that can be avoided in the coming year. Upcoming revisions to safety standards also need attention. Changes in OSHA and industry consensus standards can have a great impact on the way jobs are performed. With an annual outlook in place, projects and daily plans that are compliant with current safety practices can be more easily established.

The electrical construction industry continued to be cited for the same hazards in 2005 as in the past. The top 10 violations included electrical wiring, fall protection, scaffolding and ladder violations.

Hazard communication, excavation, training and personal protective equipment violations followed. All of these standards, commonly an issue for electrical contractors, should be reviewed. If a printed copy of the Code of Federal Regulations containing the standards is not available, consult the OSHA Web site at www.osha.gov.

The standards scheduled for revision, which are critical to electrical operations, can be separated into two categories: power line construction and general electrical construction. OSHA’s Subpart V Electric Power Transmission and Distribution, Electrical Protective Equipment standards, the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers Inc. (IEEE) consensus standard, and the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC) are key to power line contractor operations.

Proposed changes to the General Industry Electrical Standards in Subpart S will have a great effect on contractors performing building maintenance work. The Subpart S revisions are closely linked with the recent release of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 70E Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces. NFPA 70E has already proven to be an issue for contractors performing electrical construction and maintenance work.

The original Subpart V rules were established in 1971. The proposed rule for 2006 will add provisions related to host employers and contractors, flame resistant clothing, fall protection in aerial lifts, and training. It will also include other updates to make it consistent with the corresponding General Industry Standard, 1910.269.

In addition, the revisions are linked to updates planned for the construction standard for electrical protective equipment. At the time this article was written, OSHA approved an extension for the standard revision process. The new comment period closes Jan. 11, 2006, and the Public Hearing is scheduled for March 6, 2006. The NESC is revised every five years. The next revision, 2007 version, is scheduled for release Aug. 1, 2006.

Electrical contractors working on wiring in buildings will want to focus on Subpart S. Although Subpart S is a General Industry Standard, the application to electrical contractors is twofold. First, these standards apply when maintenance work is performed. Second, Subpart S reflects NFPA 70E changes, which OSHA has already used to justify General Duty citations to contractors for unsafe practices when performing electrical work.

Like the NFPA 70E standard, the revised Subpart S will address design safety standards for electrical systems, safety-related maintenance and work practice requirements, and safety requirements for special equipment.

Other standards revisions are scheduled. They include payment for personal protection, confined space in construction, etc. These standards have varying impact on electrical work and may or may not be completed soon. However, one set of standards that might see more attention regardless of its revision status is the emergency preparedness standards.

Based on what happened with Hurricane Katrina in late summer 2005, OSHA will be focusing on company emergency preparedness. Be sure to have emergency plans and equipment in place in 2006 and beyond.

After these items are reviewed, consider how they factor into your overall plan for safety. The annual outlook offers general safety concepts for the year. Yearly planned projects require an outlook specific to each and the hazards that will be faced.

A safety outlook for a project is needed to ensure the company is prepared to address associated hazards. A daily safety outlook should be provided to employees by conducting tailboard or safety talks specific to the hazards ahead that day. Each outlook leads to the next from annual to project to daily. Safety is a part of each day of every year. EC

O’CONNOR is with Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Based in Waverly, Pa., he can be reached at 607.624.7159 or joconnor@intecweb.com.