OSHA unveils new safety regs for power line workers

The Obama Administration on Tuesday rolled out new safety standards for workers on the nation’s power lines.

A final rule issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) reflects the first update in 40 years of regulations governing workers performing electric power generation, transmission and distribution work.

The agency estimates the regulations will save almost 20 lives and prevent 118 serious injuries annually, said assistant Labor Secretary David Michaels, who oversees OSHA.

"Electric utilities, electrical contractors and labor organizations have persistently championed these much-needed measures to better protect the men and women who work on or near electrical power lines,” Michaels said in a statement.

The new regulations include new fall-protection measures for workers on aerial lifts and on overhead line structures, and “approach-distance” requirements designed to keep unprotected workers from getting too close to energized lines.

The regulations also revise general industry and construction standards for electrical protective equipment, including new requirements that equipment made of materials other than rubber provide adequate protection from electrical hazards.

The rule would provide economic benefits totaling roughly $130 million annually, OSHA said. The rule is set to take effect in 90 days.