Ask the Expert, Electrical Safety

Ask the Expert: Regulatory Requirements for Electrical Panels

In our latest installment of Ask the Expert, brought to you by the team of industry experts at EHS Hero®, we look at a recent question from a subscriber asking whether OSHA standard 1910.303 includes all electrical panels. See what the experts had to say.

Q: Does OSHA standard 1910.303 include all electrical panels (i.e., electrical cabinets on machinery, electrical disconnects and breaker panels), or is it strictly related to breaker panels?

OSHA standard 1910.303 clearance requirements apply to many types of electrical equipment, not just breaker panels. Though the OSHA rule and interpretation letters of the rule do not specifically include the terms electrical cabinets, electrical disconnects, or breaker panels, the rule does state at 29 CFR 1910.303(g)(1), “[s]ufficient access and working space shall be provided and maintained about ALL [emphasis added) electric equipment to permit ready and safe operation and maintenance of such equipment.” That section of the rule at 1910.303(g)(1)(i) further states that wherever workers may be exposed to energized equipment during examination (e.g., testing), adjustment, service and maintenance operations must meet minimum clearance requirements that ensure workers can access the equipment safely (e.g., all equipment doors or hinged panels must be able to open at least 90 degrees).

There are examples and definitions of the type of equipment subject to clearance requirements.

The rule at section 29 CFR 1910.399 defines equipment as “material, fittings, devices, appliances, fixtures, apparatus, and the like, used as a part of, or in connection with, an electrical installation.” It defines service equipment as “one or more circuit breakers, switches and fuses and accessories, connected to the load end of service conductors to a building or structure, intended to constitute the main control and cutoff of the supply.” The rule sets minimum headroom clearances of working spaces around “service equipment, switchboards, panelboards, or motor control centers.” Switchboards, panelboards, and distribution boards installed for the control of light and power circuits, and motor control centers shall be located in dedicated spaces and protected from damage. There are specific clearance specifications for “dedicated spaces” for such equipment in the rule at 29 CFR 1910.303(g)(1)(ii).

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