How to Comply With OSHA Electrical Protective Devices Requirements

Date First Published on SafetySmart Compliance: March 3rd, 2012
Topics: Electricity |

OSHA electrical PPE requirements are contained not only in Subpart S, but as part of the PPE requirements for General Industry in Subpart I, specifically the Electrical Protective Devices standard (Sec. 1910.137). Here’s a look at what each requires.


What Kind of Equipment the Standard Covers

The OSHA Electrical Protective Devices (1910.137) standard sets out requirements for the design, selection, use and testing of different forms of rubber insulating protective equipment, including:

  1. Rubber insulating line hoses;
  2. Rubber insulating covers;
  3. Rubber insulating blankets;
  4. Rubber insulating gloves;
  5. Rubber insulating blankets; and
  6. Rubber insulating hoods.

Electrical Equipment Criteria

There are 5 types, or classes of rubber insulating equipment, based on their characteristics and how much voltage they can protect against. OSHA sets out technical standards items of each class of equipment must meet and how it must be tested and retested:


Class Maximum Use Voltagea-c-rms (1) Retest Voltagea-c-rms (2) Retest Voltaged-c-rms (2)
0 1,000 5,000 20,000
1 7,500 10,000 40,000
2 17,000 20,000 50,000
3 26,500 30,000 60,000
4 36,000 40,000 70,000


(1) Maximum use voltage = a-c voltage (rms) classification which designates maximum nominal design voltage of energized system that may safely be worked

(2) Proof-test voltage must be applied for at least 1 minute but no less than 3 minutes

The class of each item must be clearly marked. For gloves, all markings must be on the cuff of the glove.

Rubber insulating equipment must also comply with one of the following ASTM standards:


ASTM D 120-87, “Specification for Rubber Insulating Gloves”;

ASTM D 178-93 (or D 178-88), “Specification for Rubber Insulating Matting”;

ASTM D 1048-93 (or D 1048-88a), “Specification for Rubber Insulating Blankets”;

ASTM D 1049-93 (or D 1049-88), “Specification for Rubber Insulating Covers”;

ASTM D 1050-90, “Specification for Rubber Insulating Line Hose”;

ASTM D 1051-87, “Specification for Rubber Insulating Sleeves”.


Equipment is also subject to rigorous testing requirements under Sec. (b)(2)(viii), (b)(2)(ix) and (b)(2)(xi) of the OSHA standard. The employer must certify that equipment has been certified in accordance with these testing requirements, list the equipment that passed the tests and the date of passage.

Use, Maintenance & Inspection of Electrical Protective Equipment

Tests and inspections are required to ensure that rubber insulating equipment is free of “harmful physical irregularities.” Surface irregularities due to imperfections on forms or molds or because of inherent difficulties in the manufacturing process and that may appear as indentations, protuberances or imbedded foreign material are okay if:

  • The indentation or protuberance blends into a smooth slope when the material is stretched; and/or
  • Foreign material remains in place when the insulating material is folded and stretches with the insulating material surrounding it;

Insulating equipment must be removed from service and may not be used if:

  • It has a hole, tear, puncture or cut;
  • Ozone cutting or ozone checking (the cutting action produced by ozone on rubber under mechanical stress into a series of interlacing cracks);
  • It has a foreign object;
  • It reveals any of the following changes in texture: swelling, softening, hardening, becoming sticky or becoming inelastic; or
  • It has any other defect that damages its insulating properties.

Insulating equipment must be stored in a location and manner that protects it from light, temperature extremes, excessive humidity, ozone and other “injurious substances and conditions.”

Protector gloves must be worn over insulating gloves. Exception: Protector gloves need not be used with Class 0 gloves, under limited-use conditions, where small equipment and parts manipulation necessitate “unusually high finger dexterity.”

Insulating equipment that doesn’t pass inspection or electrical testing can’t be used by workers. Exceptions:

  • Rubber insulating line hose may be used in shorter lengths with the defective portion cut off;
  • Rubber insulating blankets may be repaired using a compatible patch that results in physical and electrical properties equal to those of the blanket;
  • Rubber insulating blankets may be salvaged by severing the defective area from the undamaged portion of the blanket as long as the resulting undamaged area of the blanket is no smaller than 22 inches x 22 inches (560 mm x 560 mm) for Class 1, 2, 3 and 4 blankets;
  • Rubber insulating gloves and sleeves with “minor physical defects,” such as cuts, tears or punctures in the area between the wrist and reinforced edge of the opening may be repaired with a compatible patch with properties equal to those of the surrounding material;
  • Rubber insulating gloves and sleeves with “minor surface blemishes” in the area between the wrist and reinforced edge of the opening may be repaired with a compatible liquid compound.
  • Repaired equipment must be retested before a worker uses it.


Electrical work is also subject to the requirements of the Personnel Safety standard (Sec. 1910.137). Employees working in areas where there are potential electrical hazards must be provided with and use appropriate electrical protective equipment.

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Protective Equipment Required

Protective equipment must be maintained in a safe, reliable condition and periodically inspected or tested, as required by the PPE standard (Sec. 1910.137). The insulating capability of protective equipment that’s subject to damage during use is protected, e.g., via use of an outer covering of leather.

Employees must wear nonconductive head protection wherever there’s a danger of head injury from electric shock or burns due to contact with exposed energized parts. Employees must also wear protective equipment for the eyes or face wherever there’s danger of injury to the eyes or face from electric arcs or flashes or from flying objects resulting from electrical explosion.

Tools & Equipment Required

Each employee working near exposed energized conductors or circuit parts must use insulated tools or handling equipment if the tools or handling equipment might make contact with such conductors or parts. If the insulating capability of insulated tools or handling equipment is subject to damage, the insulating material must be protected.

Fuse handling equipment, insulated for the circuit voltage, must be used to remove or install fuses when the fuse terminals are energized. Ropes and handlines used near exposed energized parts must be nonconductive.

There must be protective shields, protective barriers or insulating materials are used to protect each employee from shock, burns or other electrically related injuries while the employee is working near exposed energized parts which might be accidentally contacted or where dangerous electric heating or arcing might occur.

When normally enclosed live parts are exposed for maintenance or repair, they must be guarded to protect unqualified persons from contact with the live parts.

Alerting Techniques

You must use the following alerting techniques to warn and protect employees from hazards that could cause injury due to electric shock, burns, or failure of electric equipment parts, including safety signs, safety symbols, or accident prevention tags are used to warn employees about electrical hazards.

Barricades must be used in conjunction with safety signs where necessary to prevent or limit employee access to work areas exposing employees to uninsulated energized conductors or circuit parts. (Conductive barricades may not be used where they might cause an electrical contact hazard.)

Finally, you must station attendants to warn and protect employees if signs and barricades don’t provide sufficient warning and protection from electrical hazards.