A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Setting Up an Electrical Safety Program

Are employees trained on the requirements of NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® or are they trained on your Electrical Safety Program (ESP) requirements which are based on NFPA 70E? Someone must be trained on the NFPA 70E requirements to assure that the ESP complies. But an employee who gets exposed to an electrical hazard during the workday does not need to be specifically trained on NFPA 70E. It is your documented ESP that provides direction to each employee on what is necessary to protect themselves from the electrical hazards in your specific workplace.

NFPA 70E is the 10,000-foot view for developing an ESP. Protecting employees from electrical hazards involves more than NFPA 70E details. The employer is required to establish procedures, conduct risk assessments, protect employees from electrical hazards, and provide appropriate PPE. However, NFPA 70E does not detail how to achieve this in a specific workplace. It is the employer’s responsibility develop an overall ESP that directs activity appropriate to the risk associated with electrical hazards in the workplace. An employer must establish, document, and implement safety-related work practices and procedures. Those are the procedures and practices that an employee must be trained to follow. An ESP that requires that employees follow NFPA 70E for electrical safety issues is not an established ESP. Do you have the required ESP? Does that ESP include what NFPA 70E requires?

Most people consider Article 130 to be the most important NFPA 70E article. I don’t believe that for most employees. Articles 105 and 110 are perhaps the most important since that is where the responsibility to protect employees resides. An employer must be committed to improving electrical safety no matter where an employee works. Overriding principles to protect employees must be established. Management must provide guidelines for protecting employees. To establish safety-related practices and procedures, the employer must understand the electrical hazards and risks their employees face as during assigned daily tasks.

This is the first of a twelve-part series that will run through Section 110.5, Electrical Safety Program. Section 110.1 sets the goal of an ESP. The requirement is synonymous with the OSHA requirement that employees not be exposed to known hazards. This requires that the ESP include the priority be that at a hazard be eliminated before an employee is exposed to it. Under NFPA 70E, this means eliminating the hazard by design, installation, or an electrically safe work condition. Without a statement in the ESP and commitment to achieve elimination, exposure to hazards will be considered part of remaining employed. It will lead to improper justification for energized work. Several of my blogs have discussed that an authorization to work energized due additional hazards, increased risk, or infeasibility is often unwarranted. Just having the words in the ESP do not provide safety. Employees are occasionally directed to expose themselves to hazards as a matter of expediency, revenue, or pressure regardless of the ESP. Employees must know that management stands behind the policy regardless of the situation. Does management allow an employee to follow the documented ESP and remove hazards so that they increase the likelihood of returning home unharmed?

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Christopher Coache
Senior Electrical Engineer

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