If you’re reading this, it’s likely that you work in a fleet management role. Your mechanics and drivers don’t do line work, install phone lines, bury gas lines or dig up high-pressure water lines. But what if they service equipment in the vicinity of craft workers who do perform those tasks? Are they exposed to hazards not related to their direct responsibilities? If so, what is your responsibility as their manager? This article is about educating supervisors regarding hazard evaluation. Where your people work and the hazards they face while on the job are your responsibility. So, following is an example that demonstrates how OSHA’s expectations with regard to your responsibility to your employees may exceed the agency’s written rules in ways you may not be aware of.
There is an employer who is a transmission-distribution contractor; the business also has a telecommunications (telcom) division. The employer’s lineworkers must wear arc flash protective clothing required by OSHA, but as far as he knows, his telcom employees are not required by the OSHA rules to wear arc flash protective clothing. However, because of an incident involving some of his telcom employees, the employer became concerned. He wondered, why don’t telcom employees have to wear arc flash protective clothing, and should they be wearing it? Keep in mind that arc flash protective clothing is not the same thing as flame-resistant (FR) clothing. Welders, wrecker operators and traffic control professionals wear safety vests and bibs that are considered flame-resistant. Flame resistance is the quality of a material designed for protection from exposure to fire or flame, not electrical arcs. OSHA requires that arc flash protective clothing also must be flame resistant to ensure clothing does not continue to burn after exposure to an electrical arc. In addition, flame resistance is required for the outer layer of clothing worn by a worker who could be exposed to a heat source that could ignite that outer layer. There has been confusion over the years, so it is important to recognize that use of the term “FR” on a traffic vest label does not mean the vest is arc protective; it is only flame resistant. It’s a habit to use the term FR when referring to arc flash protective gear, but we all need to understand the difference in labeling.