OSHA answered two question in a recent letter of interpretation to an employer. I thought the "questions and answers" would be of interest to the group.
Here is Question #1. Feel free to comment or ask your own related question(s).
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?Answer:
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.
The first option for meeting the requirement that there be ground fault protection is by the use of GFCIs. The requirements for that option are spelled out in paragraph 1926.404(b)(1)(ii):
(ii) Ground-fault circuit interrupters. All 120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20- ampere receptacle outlets on construction sites, which are not part of the permanent wiring of the building or structure and which are in use by employees, shall have approved ground-fault circuit interrupters for personnel protection.
* * *
The other option for meeting the requirement that there be ground fault protection is by the use of an assured equipment grounding conductor program. The requirements for that option are spelled out in paragraph 1926.404(b)(1)(iii). While there are several applicable provisions of paragraph 1926.404(b)(1)(iii), we note two in particular:
(iii) Assured equipment grounding conductor program. The employer
shall establish and implement an assured equipment grounding conductor program on construction sites covering all cord sets, receptacles which are not a part of the building or structure, and equipment connected by cord and plug which are available for use or used by employees.
* * *
(B) The employer
shall designate one or more competent persons (as defined in §1926.32(f)) to implement the program. [Emphasis added.]
* * *
(F) The employer
shall not make available or permit the use by employees of any equipment which has not met the requirements of this paragraph (b)(1)(iii) of this section. [Emphasis added.]
In your letter you focus on the part of paragraph 1926.404(b)(1)(ii) -- the GFCI option -- that refers to 120-volt outlets being protected by GFCIs. That part of paragraph 1926.404(b)(1)(ii) means that the GFCI option, as written, was available only for 120-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacle outlets. Because there is no voltage limit to the requirement in 1926.404(b)(1)(i) to provide ground fault protection by one of the two listed options (GFCI or assured grounding program), as originally written the standard in effect required that outlets over 120 V had to be protected by an assured grounding program.
However, as we explained in our May 15, 2002, Mercuris
letter, the 120-V limitation for use of the GFCI option was put in the standard only because GFCIs for higher voltages were generally unavailable at the time the standard was promulgated. Since then GFCIs have become available for higher voltages. So, as we stated in Mercuris
, use of a GFCI to protect a circuit with a voltage higher than 120 volts would be acceptable to meet the paragraph 1926.404(b)(1)(i) ground fault protection requirement. It would be considered only a de minimis
* violation as long as the GFCI was designed to protect a circuit of that voltage.
In sum, under §1926.404(b)(1)(i), employers must provide ground fault protection. This requirement is not limited to 120-V outlets -- it applies to outlets with higher voltages as well. Employers have two options for meeting this requirement -- by using GFCIs designed for the particular voltage or by implementing an assured equipment grounding conductor program.
* Under OSHA's de minimis
policy, de minimis violations are those which have no direct or immediate relationship to safety or health. Consequently, no citation is issued.
Edited to add definition of de minimis
[This message has been edited by safetygem (edited 04-09-2005).]