Occupational safety can be an extremely complicated and sometimes vague subject matter. How one contractor interprets a code or law can be entirely different than how another contractor does. This is why OSHA encourages workers to submit questions on certain safety regulations, in which they will provide their interpretation.

If you are interested in submitting a question to OSHA, click here.

Below are recent questions that are pertinent to our members:

Q. Does OSHA require electrical equipment to be tested by a Nationally Recognized Testing Laboratory (NRTL) (such as Underwriters Laboratory, Inc.)?  What if the NRTL is not able to test the equipment, because it is of a specialized nature?

A. All electrical equipment, except those kinds which no NRTL accepts, certifies, lists, labels, or otherwise determines to be safe, must be "approved" as that term is defined. 

Electrical equipment for which there is no NRTL is unable to list, is acceptable to OSHA if the equipment is inspected or tested by another Federal Agency, or by a State, municipal, or other local authority responsible for enforcing occupational safety provisions of the NEC and found in compliance with the provisions of the NEC as applied to subpart S of 29 CFR 1910 standards. 

Custom made equipment which is designed, fabricated for, and intended for use by a particular customer does not have to be approved if it is determined to be safe for its intended use by its manufacturer.  

To read the complete OSHA Interpretation, please click here.   

Q. On several occasions I have seen, a scaffold with an eccentric load of one or more concrete blocks for a man standing on a cantilevered deck located on the other side of the scaffold. Is this practice permissible under §1926.451(c)(1)(iii)?

A. In the scenario involving an eccentric load on a cantilevered portion of a platform, the qualified person's design must conform to OSHA regulations. The use of the masonry blocks as what appear to be improvised counterweight indicates that, in the scenario described, the scaffold, has not been adequately secured against tipping in accordance with §1926.451(c)(1)(iii).

To read the complete OSHA interpretation, please click here

Q. Does OSHA require equipment to be listed or certified before installation?

A. OSHA Regulation 1910.403(a) states: All electrical conductors and equipment shall be approved.  The definition of approved and acceptable suggests the equipment must be certified or listed or otherwise determined to be safe by a qualified testing laboratory or approved by a federal or state municipality or other local authority.

Q. Does Part 1926 Subpart K require that all 120-volt, single-phase outlets have ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection? Also, does Subpart K say that outlets with voltages above 120 volts do not have to be protected from ground faults?

A. The answer to both questions is no. Section 1926.404(b)(1)(i) provides: (b) Branch circuits -- (1) Ground-fault protection (i) General. The employer shall use either ground fault circuit interrupters as specified in paragraph (b)(1)(ii) of this section or an assured equipment grounding conductor program ["AEGCP"] as specified in paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section to protect employees on construction sites. [Emphasis added.] These requirements are in addition to any other requirements for equipment conductors.

Therefore, under paragraph 1926.404(b)(1)(i), the employer is required to provide ground fault protection -- either by the use of ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) or by the use of an assured equipment grounding conductor program. Note that there is no voltage limit to this requirement.

Please click here to read OSHA's complete interpretation.

Q. Does OSHA believe that an employer has a duty to provide employees working with mechanical machinery a workplace free from the influence of alcohol or illicit drugs? 

A. OSHA strongly supports measures that contribute to a drug-free environment and reasonable programs of drug testing within a comprehensive workplace program for certain workplace environments, such as those involving safety-sensitive duties like operating machinery. Such programs, however, need to also take into consideration employee rights to privacy.

Please click here to read OSHA's complete interpretation.

Q. Is an employer required to designate employees who have been trained in first aid to be first aid responders?

A. 29 CFR 1910.151(b) provides that "In the absence of an infirmary, clinic, or hospital in near proximity to the workplace which is used for the treatment of all injured employees, a person or persons shall be adequately trained to render first aid," the standard does not require an employer to designate any employee to render first aid. The standard, as presently worded, does not explicitly require that an employee or employees be both trained AND required by the employer to render first aid. OSHA has chosen to interpret the standard as imposing a training requirement but not a designation requirement. 

Please click here to read OSHA's complete interpretation.

Q. If NM cable is used (non-metallic sheathed cable) when installing temporary wiring, OSHA 29 CFR 1926.405(a)(2) (Subpart K, Electrical) does not specifically state the minimum distance at which wiring must be secured. Would securing temporary wiring every 10 feet violate any provision within Subpart K?

A. OSHA used the National Electrical Code (NEC) to answer this question. NEC 2005 section 590.4 (J), Temporary Installations states:

Cable assemblies and flexible cords and cables shall be supported in place at intervals that ensure they will be protected from physical damage ...

Please click here to read OSHA's complete interpretation.

Q. Can electricians wear safety glasses with conductive metal frames?

A. Safety glasses with conductive metal frames are generally not considered to present an electrical hazard unless the worker is working with his face close to energized parts. In this case, a face shield or appropriate glasses over the metal frame optical glasses should be worn.

Click here to read OSHA's complete interpretation.

Q. Are you prohibited from using electrical tape to repair extension cords on the job site?

A. Tape may not be used to repair significant damage to cord jackets. Repair or replacement of a flexible cord (depending on its gauge) is required when the outer jacket is deeply penetrated (enough to cause that part of the cord to bend more than the undamaged part) or penetrated completely, or when the conductors or their insulation inside are damaged.

Click here to read OSHA's complete interpretation.

Q. Can hard hats be worn backwards?

A. ANSI only tests and certifies hard hats to be worn with the bill forward. Hard hats worn with the bill to the rear would not be considered reliable protection and would not meet the requirements of 29 CFR 1926.100 (a) and (b) unless the hard hat manufacturer certifies that this practice meets the ANSI Z89.1-1969 requirements.

Click here to see OSHA's complete interpretation.