Labor & Industries and UST electrical work

An overlap in Washington’s electrical law and underground storage tank (UST) testing regulations means that all testing currently requires both an UST tester and a journeyman electrician.

Background

In 2020, an UST service provider was notified by the Washington Department of Labor & Industries (L&I) that unplugging an UST probe to conduct testing requires a journeyman electrician. In November of 2020, Ecology met with L&I to gain a better understanding of the relevant laws and regulations.

Laws and regulations

Electrical law (L&I)

RCW 19.28 defines all electrical work in Washington as regulated (requiring a journeyman electrician) unless an exemption has been granted by L&I.

UST regulations (Ecology)

RCW 70A.355 and WAC 173-360A includes regulating the operation and testing of regulated USTs in Washington. These regulations specify the testing frequency, along with the national certifications/licenses and manufacturer certifications needed by service providers who conduct the testing.

What does this mean for UST testing in Washington?

There is some overlap in the regulations. The electrical law requires a journeyman electrician to disconnect a low voltage probe so that it can be tested. The UST regulations require anyone conducting testing on a UST system to be certified as an UST Tester through the International Code Council (ICC) and comply with manufacturer certification, where applicable. We understand there are very few people, if any, who have UST ICC certifications, manufacturer certifications, and are journeyman electricians. This has created some uncertainty related to the testing of UST systems.

The UST testing frequency requirements support the prevention and detection of potential leaks into the environment. The testing protocols in the UST regulations need to be followed when conducting UST testing, even if those protocols include work regulated by L&I. The testing frequency requirements have not changed.

Options for service providers

  1. A group of UST stakeholders, including UST service provider companies, can seek an exemption from L&I under the Electrical law, RCW 19.28. 

  2. UST service provider companies can sign up ICC-certified testing staff as electricians-in-training, who could then disconnect low voltage probes for testing. This requires the work to be overseen by a journeyman electrician.

  3. UST service provider companies can hire a journeyman electrician, who would be overseen by ICC-certified staff, to connect and disconnect UST probes.