A PUBLICATION FOR ENGINEERS INVOLVED IN
ELECTRICAL CABLE INSTALLATION
Volume 19, March, 2004
Wipe Away Live-Line Tool Performance Problems
OSHA Regulation 29 CFR Part 1910.269 "Electric Power
Generation, Transmission, and Distribution" covers maintenance
and testing procedures for live-line tool "rods, tubes, and poles",
including hot sticks and non-conductive booms. The OSHA
standard presents formal procedures for testing live-line tools and
common sense procedures for maintaining them.
When "Non-Conductive" Isn't
How can a non-conductive fiberglass tool become conductive enough to pose an electrical hazard to
the user? This can happen when there has been physical damage to the tool allowing water ingress
and dielectric changes within the tool. This type of failure is not common, and is almost always
indicated by clear signs of physical damage on the outside of the tool (cracked casing, deformed or
popped rivet, etc.).
A more common cause of electrical failure is conductivity across the surface of the stick or boom. The
surface can become conductive from a dirt and moisture film even when the tool itself is in satisfactory
condition. The tool doesn't provide the electrical path, the contamination on the surface does.
OSHA Inspection and Testing
To address the potential of tool damage resulting in an unsafe condition, the OSHA standard requires
that the tool be removed from service and tested if any defect is found that could affect the "insulation
qualities or mechanical integrity" of the tool. The burden of deciding when such a defect is present is
placed on the user, who must inspect the tool before use. At a minimum, tools must be removed
from service and tested electrically every two years.
29 CFR Part 1910.269
To address the issue of dirt and surface contamination,
the OSHA regulation requires that the tool be wiped
clean (as w