By James L. Curtis and Craig B. Simonsen

We had previously blogged on OSHA’s adoption of its new 428 page updated “Electric Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution” rules. 79 Fed. Reg. 20316 (April 11, 2014). It has now issued an “Interim Enforcement Policy” for the new rules.

According to Dr. David Michaels, the Assistant Secretary of Labor for Occupational Safety and Health, “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.” OSHA believes that “this long-overdue update will save nearly 20 lives and prevent 118 serious injuries annually.”

As we noted earlier, the updated standards included new or revised sections for host and contract employers to share safety-related information with each other, and with employees. Sections for improved fall protection for employees working from aerial lifts and on overhead line structures are included. In addition, the standards adopt revised approach-distance requirements “to better ensure that unprotected workers do not get dangerously close to energized lines and equipment.” The final rules also add new requirements meant to protect workers from electric arcs.

The new Interim Enforcement Policy delays enforcement of most of the new requirements for employers who are complying with the existing General Industry rule. Under the Interim Enforcement Policy the new standards, which were to become effective on July 10, 2014, but for enforcement purposes, OSHA “will accept compliance with the prior version of 29 CFR 1910.269 (i.e., the version of that standard that was in effect on April 11, 2014) as compliance with revised 29 CFR 1910.269 and 29 CFR 1926, Subpart V until October 31, 2014.”

Accordingly, employers should examine their existing policies, procedures, and training programs to ensure that they meet the October 31, 2014, compliance deadline.