BEFORE THE

OCCUPATIONAL SAFETY AND HEALTH APPEALS BOARD

DEPARTMENT OF INDUSTRIAL RELATIONS

STATE OF CALIFORNIA

In the Matter of the Appeal of:

CITY OF LOS ANGELES
DEPARTMENT OF WATER AND POWER

111 North Hope Street, #745D
Los Angeles, CA 90012

                                             Employer

Docket No. 96-R4D1-670

 

 

DECISION AFTER
RECONSIDERATION

The Occupational Safety and Health Appeals Board (Board), acting pursuant to authority vested in it by the California Labor Code, and having granted the petition for reconsideration filed in the above-entitled proceeding by City of Los Angeles, Department of Water and Power (Employer), makes the following decision after reconsideration.

JURISDICTION

Between October 4 and 6, 1995, a representative of the Division of Occupational Safety and Health (the Division) conducted an accident investigation at a place of employment maintained by Employer at 666 South La Brea, Los Angeles, California (the site). On February 29, 1996, the Division issued to Employer a citation alleging a serious violation of section 2811 [electrical warning signs] of the occupational safety and health standards and orders found in Title 8, California Code of Regulations. No civil penalty was proposed.

Employer filed a timely appeal contesting the existence of the alleged violation.

After a hearing before an administrative law judge (ALJ) of the Board a written decision was issued on July 30, 1997, denying the appeal.

On September 3, 1997, Employer petitioned the Board for reconsideration of the ALJ’s decision. On October 17, 1997, the Board granted Employer’s petition and stayed the ALJ’s decision pending reconsideration. The Division did not file an answer.

ISSUE

Was Employer required by section 2811 to post a high-voltage warning sign on the door of each of the metal cabinets enclosing exposed high voltage energized parts, rather than only on the door to the room containing the cabinets?

EVIDENCE

The Board has taken no new evidence and relies upon its independent review of the record, including the tape recording of the hearing and the exhibits in making this decision. The "Summary of Evidence" on pages two and three of the ALJ’s decision is incorporated here by reference.

Employer supplies water and power in the City of Los Angeles. The inspection site was a room at a General Telephone facility known as Commercial Station 282. The door to the room was kept locked and a high voltage warning sign was posted on the outside of the door. Inside the room were at least three separate metal cabinet enclosures, each containing high-voltage (4,800 volts or more) energized electrical parts. There were no high-voltage warning signs on the doors of the metallic enclosures. Thinking that one of the enclosures labeled "light disconnects" contained only low-voltage (120 and 240 volts) energized parts, an employee opened the door of the enclosure and attempted to test the voltage on its parts using a voltage gauge designed to test low-voltage systems only. The voltage gauge exploded upon contact with a high-voltage part, injuring the employee. The Division cited Employer for not posting a high-voltage warning sign on the doors of the cabinets containing high voltage energized parts.

FINDINGS AND REASONS
FOR
DECISION AFTER RECONSIDERATION

Section 2811, part of the High Voltage Safety Orders, provides in pertinent part that "[p]ermanent and conspicuous warning signs shall be posted on all doors or gates that provide access to enclosures containing [high-voltage] exposed energized parts and conductors." (Emphasis added.)

Employer argues that, in the context of this case, the term "doors or gates" in section 2811 applied only to the door through which the employees entered the room where the metal cabinets "containing exposed energized parts and conductors" were located. Employer argues that the only reasonable understanding of the words "access to" in section 2811 is that they refer only to approaching the exterior of enclosures, and would not reasonably be understood to refer to doors allowing entry into the enclosures. Employer argues that section 2811 applies only to the outer door, and is for the purpose of preventing persons not qualified in electrical work from entering the room where the electrical cabinets were located.

The word "access" does not refer only to approaching the exterior of the cabinets in the room in which the metal cabinets were located. The relevant definition in Webster’s Third International Dictionary defines access as "permission, liberty, or ability to enter, approach, communicate with, or pass to and from." (Emphasis added.) Employer argues that section 2811 applied to this site, on another employer’s premises, only for the purpose of preventing unqualified persons, i.e., persons not assigned by Employer to work on its electrical equipment, from entering the room housing the high voltage enclosures. Section 2706 of the High Voltage Safety Orders, governing their application, states:

These High-Voltage Electrical Safety Orders apply to all electrical installations and electrical equipment operating or intended to operate on systems of more than 600 volts between conductors and to all work performed directly on or in proximity to such electrical installations . . ."

The High Voltage Safety Orders are clearly aimed at protecting employees who are assigned to work directly on electrical equipment. For such "qualified persons," the most important meaning of "access to" electrical installations is entry into the enclosures’ interiors. The Board therefore finds Employer’s arguments unpersuasive.

The purpose of enclosing electrical equipment is to "prevent persons from accidentally contacting energized parts." A warning sign posted only on the door of this room, where the high voltage equipment is located within the enclosures would not serve the full purpose of section 2811, protecting employees from the hazard of "exposed energized parts and conductors." The cabinets are metal enclosures or housings installed by Employer for the purpose of "prevent[ing] persons from accidentally contacting [the] high-voltage energized parts [in the cabinets]." Passing through the door to the room did not give employees direct access to exposed energized parts of high voltage systems. An employee had to open the doors on the metal cabinets to make contact with the energized parts inside the cabinets.

The Board therefore finds that section 2811 required high voltage warning signs on the doors of the individual enclosures containing exposed high voltage electrical equipment.

DECISION AFTER RECONSIDERATION

Employer’s appeal is denied. A violation of section 2811 is affirmed.

BILL DUPLISSEA, Member MARCY V. SAUNDERS, Member

SIGNED AND DATED AT SACRAMENTO, CALIFORNIA - June 15, 2000