The Picture of Health and Safety

By Tom O'Connor | Apr 15, 2020




Workers in the electrical industry face countless specialized hazards. A number of specific Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulations provide protections against these. There are nonspecific hazards as well, such as sanitation, illumination and housekeeping, and OSHA has general regulations for these broad concerns that can affect workers across the construction and general industries. They are found in OSHA’s 1926 construction industry standard’s subpart C and D, general safety and health provisions, and its 1910 general industry standard’s subpart D, walking-working surfaces, and subpart J, general environmental controls.


With regard to sanitation, all construction and general industry workplaces require potable water. In construction, the focus is having an adequate supply of drinking water and preventing contamination. Containers must have a tap. Dipping is not allowed, and a common cup is prohibited.

For permanent work sites (i.e., general industry), employers must also provide water for “washing of the person, cooking, washing of foods, washing of cooking or eating utensils, washing of food preparation or processing premises, and personal service rooms.” Nonpotable sources of water, such as for industrial or firefighting purposes, must be marked as such.

Toilets and lavatories (sinks) must be available to all employees. The exception is mobile employees in construction if they have transportation to access other facilities nearby. For general industry and construction sites without transportation, toilets must be provided in accordance with Table 1926.51(c)(1), Table D-1 (construction) and 1910.141(c)(1)(i) Table J-1 (general industry). For 20 or fewer employees, one toilet is needed. If a site has 200 employees or more, one toilet seat and one urinal is required for every 40 workers; 200 and more employees necessitates one toilet seat and one urinal per 50 workers.

Table J-1 counts the number of water closets (rooms with a toilet and sink) per number of employees. For jobs with 1-15, one is needed; 16–35 requires two; 36–55 necessitates three, and this chart goes up to 111–150, which requires six. It is important to add one fixture for each additional set of 40 employees.

Along with toilets, lavatories are required in the same locations. They must have soap and hot, cold and/or tepid running water for cleaning. Clean paper or cloth hand towels or air blowers need to be provided for drying.

OSHA’s sanitation rules also describe conditions for showers, food handling in the workplace, waste removal and vermin control. Employers must provide showers if mandated by other regulations. No eating or drinking is allowed in toilet rooms or areas where toxic materials are present. Waste must be removed. For enclosed spaces, reasonable efforts need to be made to keep insects, rodents and other vermin out.


Illumination is another general environmental concern when working. The construction standard offers a table identifying the number of foot-candles of light needed depending on the task. A foot-candle is a unit of illumination equal to the light given by a source of one candle at a distance of 1 foot. This is a complex measure. Other factors—such as source intensity, distance, air purity and the color of surrounding floors, walls and ceilings—can have an impact. It is best to use a light meter and compare it with the requirements in OSHA’s Table D-3.

In areas of operation, 5 foot-candles are needed; general construction plants and shops, equipment rooms and more necessitate 10 foot-candles and first aid stations, infirmaries and offices require 30 foot-candles.


Last, but of no lesser concern, is general housekeeping. Debris accumulation can cause trip and fall hazards. Combustible scraps, oily rags or other refuse can create fire hazards, and other garbage can generate irritating and toxic odors while attracting vermin. OSHA’s housekeeping standard 1926.25 requires removal of waste at regular intervals to avoid these hazards. For general industry, housekeeping is addressed specifically in various standards. However, looking at it from a broader perspective, the general industry regulation on walking-working surfaces 1910.22 mandates all surfaces be “kept in a clean, orderly, and sanitary condition.” This even mandates for the removal of snow and ice.

Knowing and following general safety, health and environmental controls is one of the many ways to keep yourself, others and the work site safe.

About The Author

O’CONNOR is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm. Reach him at [email protected].

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