As long as they don't perform electrical work, can unqualified workers enter generating stations, substations, manholes, vaults, and other restricted areas? According to the U.S. Department of Labor's Occupational Safety & Health Administration (OSHA), the answer depends — these individuals can open electrical equipment within restricted areas for visual inspection only. But because this task typically requires removing enclosures or guards, workers can be exposed to energized equipment greater than 50V, which is considered lethal. That's why OSHA mandates that any person entering restricted areas as defined by 1910.269 be trained as required by 1910.269(a)(2)(9) and (ii) in order to meet the definition of a qualified person contained in 1910.269(x).

OSHA Directorate of Enforcement Programs Director Richard E. Fairfax offers the following tips for employees who are not electrical workers, but whose work involves exposure to electrical hazards associated with the generation, transmission, of distribution of electrical power.

  • Know what is and is not safe to touch in the specific areas they will be entering.

  • Know the maximum voltage of the area.

  • Know the minimum approach distances for the maximum voltage within the area.

  • Be trained in the recognition and proper use of protective equipment that will be used to provide protection for them and in the work practices necessary for performing their specific work assignments within the area.

For more information on OSHA electrical safety requirements, visit www.osha.gov.