BILL ANALYSIS                                                                                                                                                                                                    



                                                                    AB 1453


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          Date of Hearing:  April 27, 2015


                    ASSEMBLY COMMITTEE ON UTILITIES AND COMMERCE


                                Anthony Rendon, Chair


          AB 1453  
          (Rendon) - As Amended April 20, 2015


          SUBJECT:  Electrical corporations:  underground electrical  
          facilities:  worker safety


          SUMMARY:  This bill requires the California Public Utilities  
          Commission (CPUC) to adopt a rule regulating work performed in  
          underground electrical facilities by electrical corporations  
          that is consistent with certain worker safety protections.   
          Specifically, this bill:  


          a)Requires the CPUC, by January 1, 2017, to adopt a rule  
            regulating work performed in underground electrical facilities  
            by or on behalf of an electrical corporation that does all of  
            the following:


                 Prohibits work directly on energized underground  
               electrical equipment, and


                 Requires a qualified electrical worker to determine that  
               underground electrical equipment has been deenergized and  
               is in a mode that would make the equipment safe to be  
               worked on. 









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          a)Defines "underground electrical equipment" to mean equipment  
            energized in excess of 600 volts, and all or part of the  
            equipment is in an underground electrical facility.


          b)Defines "underground electrical facility" to mean a vault,  
            manhole, or other subsurface confined structure.


          EXISTING LAW:  


          1)Authorizes the CPUC, after a hearing, to require every public  
            utility to construct, maintain, and operate its line, plant,  
            system, equipment, apparatus, tracks, and premises in a manner  
            so as to promote and safeguard the health and safety of its  
            employees, passengers, customers, and the public.  (Public  
            Utilities Code Section 768)


          2)Authorizes the CPUC to prescribe, among other things, the  
            installation, use, maintenance, and operation of appropriate  
            safety or other devices or appliances, including interlocking  
            and other protective devices at grade crossings or junctions  
            and block or other systems of signaling.  (Public Utilities  
            Code Section 768)


          3)Authorizes the CPUC to establish uniform or other standards of  
            construction and equipment, and require the performance of any  
            other act which the health or safety of its employees,  
            passengers, customers, or the public may demand.  (Public  
            Utilities Code Section 768)


          FISCAL EFFECT:  Unknown.










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          COMMENTS:  


           1)Author's Statement:   "High voltage electrical work, defined as  
            more than 600 volts, is inherently dangerous.  When this work  
            is performed in confined spaces, like underground vaults, it  
            can be fatal if not done properly.  Even if not fatal,  
            high-voltage electrical contact can produce devastating  
            physical trauma.  According to the California Public Utilities  
            Commission, fatalities per utility are on the rise.  In 2008  
            there were nine; in 2013 - 14; and in 2014 - 16.  While not  
            all of these were due to high-voltage incidents in confined  
            spaces, if the vaults were de-energized those numbers would be  
            lower.  It should be noted that reported incidents and  
            injuries per utility have also risen substantially since 2008.  
             Deaths related to exposure to electrical current accounts for  
            around 4% of all occupational fatalities.  These deaths are  
            preventable.  Incidental contact to high-voltage current by  
            qualified, trained workers should not be fatal.  The purpose  
            of this legislation is to increase safety in underground  
            utility vaults and thereby reduce injuries and fatalities." 

           2)Background:   Under current law, the CPUC can require every  
            public utility to construct, maintain, and operate their  
            equipment in a manner to promote and safeguard the health and  
            safety of its employees, passengers, customers, and the  
            public.  In addition, CPUC Rule 20 sets policies and  
            procedures for the conversion of overhead power lines and  
            other equipment to underground facilities.  Under Rule 20,  
            undergrounding projects are financed by utility rate money,  
            combined with rate funds, local tax proceeds, or private  
            funds.  

             Furthermore, CPUC General Order (GO) 128 establishes rules for  
            the construction of underground electric supply and  
            communication systems.  GO 128 requires that systems be  
            maintained in such condition as to secure safety for workmen  
            and the public.  In addition, according to GO 128, any work  
            performed on communication facilities in substructures that  








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            contain energized electrical facilities must be performed by  
            qualified personnel, under the supervision of a qualified  
            electrical worker.  The GO defines "qualified" to mean  
            qualified by training and experience to be competent to work  
            on and recognize the hazards and exposure involved in the  
            lines and equipment being worked on.  Yet despite these rules  
            to ensure safe working conditions around electrified lines in  
            underground vaults, there continue to be deaths each year as a  
            result of workers coming into contact with such lines.

            This bill specifies that electrical equipment, such as  
            transformers and switches housed in underground facilities,  
            such as manholes and vaults, present an extremely hazardous  
            working environment if work is attempted while the equipment  
            is energized.  The bill notes that numerous fatalities and  
            serious injuries have occurred while work was performed in  
            underground electrical facilities while the equipment was  
            energized.  The work performed in underground electrical  
            facilities is done by both employees of the electrical  
            corporation and by employees of outside contracts.  But some  
            of these employees do not have the technical training to know  
            how to de-energize the equipment, such as performing a hot  
            scan or gas test to determine if the equipment has been  
            de-energized and the confined working environment has been  
            made safe.  The bill further specifies that only a qualified  
            electrical worker has the training and qualifications  
            necessary to ensure that an underground electrical facility  
            has been fully de-energized and that it is safe to proceed  
            with the work in the facility.  

            This bill requires the CPUC, by January 1, 2017, to adopt a  
            rule regulating work performed in underground electrical  
            facilities by or on behalf of an electrical corporation.  The  
            rule shall prohibit work directly on energized underground  
            electrical equipment and would require a qualified electrical  
            worker to determine that underground electrical equipment has  
            been de-energized and is in a mode that would make the  
            equipment safe to be worked on.  This would ensure that the  
            CPUC will have rules that will create safe working conditions  








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            in underground electrical utility vaults.  
            


            3)Arguments in Support:   According to the California State  
            Association of Electrical Workers and the Coalition of  
            California Utility Employees, the sponsors of the bill, "there  
            continue to be an unsettling number of injuries and fatalities  
            of electrical workers in underground vaults.  Within the past  
            three weeks alone, there have been two incidents, seriously  
            injuring three workers, including one fatally, while work was  
            being performed while the equipment was energized.  [This]  
            legislation, which prohibits work on energized underground  
            electrical equipment, will greatly enhance safety in this  
            confined space and save many lives."  
           


          REGISTERED SUPPORT / OPPOSITION:




          Support


          California State Association of Electrical Workers (Co-sponsors)


          Coalition of California Utility Employees (Co-sponsors)




          Opposition


          None on file.









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          Analysis Prepared by:Edmond Cheung / U. & C. / (916) 319-2083