Implementing NFPA 70E at your Facility

A safe electrical work environment includes proper installation, safe electrical work practices, and an effective, ongoing electrical maintenance program.

SOME 600 workers are electrocuted annually, and electrocution is the fourth-leading cause of workplace fatalities in the United States. If you have employees working on or near exposed energized electrical parts, electrical safe work practices are essential.

Historically, unsafe equipment and unsafe conditions are responsible for approximately one-third of all electrical incidents and injuries. The remaining two-thirds of electrical injuries and incidents are caused by unsafe acts (i.e., workers interacting unsafely with equipment). Therefore, this article primarily will address Safety-Related Work Practices outlined in Chapter 1 of the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace--2004 Edition. Requirements contained within chapters 2-4 are also included.

A written procedure is necessary to document electrical safe work practices applicable to qualified persons at your facility. This article covers the major requirements of NFPA 70E that should be included in this written procedure.

Chapter 1: Safety-Related Work Practices

Chapter 1 specifies electrical safe work practices for both qualified and unqualified workers, defined as:

Qualified Person: One who has skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of the electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training on the hazards involved. This is typically an electrician or maintenance employee who has the responsibility of working with or around energized electrical conductors. It is important to understand that a worker who has been trained to perform an electrical task might be qualified to perform that task yet still be unqualified to perform any other task. The characteristics of being qualified and unqualified are task-specific.

Unqualified Person: One who is not a qualified person. This includes machine operators, process operators, and maintenance employees who do not perform work on or around exposed energized electrical conductors.

Article 110: General Requirements for Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices
Article 110 covers electrical safety-related work practices and procedures for employees who work on or near exposed energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. Major provisions of article 110 are summarized here, at right.

Article 120: Establishing an Electrically Safe Work Condition
Article 120 requires that employers implement lockout/tagout procedures to safeguard employees from exposure to electrical hazards while they are working on or near energized electrical conductors or circuit parts.

Article 130: Working on or Near Live Parts
Article 130 states that electrical conductors shall be deenergized before an employee works on or near them unless the employer can demonstrate that deenergizing introduces additional or increased hazards or is infeasible due to equipment design or operational limitations. Typical examples include, but are not limited to, interruption of life support equipment, deactivation of emergency alarm systems, and shutdown of hazardous location ventilation equipment. If work must be performed on energized conductors, a shock hazard analysis and flash hazard analysis must be performed. (For more information on performing a flash hazard analysis, please refer to my August 2005 article in Occupational Health & Safety: "NFPA 70E: Performing the Electrical Flash Hazard Analysis.")

Chapter 2: Safety-Related Maintenance Requirements
Electrical equipment is very reliable, in most cases. Sometimes, however, this reliability is taken for granted. A comprehensive electrical equipment maintenance program improves electrical system reliability and thereby reduces workers' exposure to electrical hazards.

Chapter 2 addresses safety-related maintenance requirements for electrical equipment and installations, or parts of either, for the safety of employees who work on, near, or with such equipment. Chapter 2 includes the following articles:

Article 200

Introduction

Article 205

General Maintenance Requirements

Article 210

Substations, Switchgear Assemblies, Switchboards, Panelboards, Motor Control Centers, and Disconnect Switches

Article 215

Premises Wiring

Article 220

Controller Equipment

Article 225

Fuses and Circuit Breakers

Article 230

Rotating Equipment

Article 235

Hazardous (Classified) Locations

Article 240

Batteries and Battery Rooms

Article 245

Portable Electric Tools and Equipment

Article 250

Personal Safety and Protective Equipment

Chapter 3: Safety Requirements for Special Equipment
Some companies have unique electrical applications that differ from general industry. These unique applications may expose employees to specific electrical hazards. Chapter 3 covers specific electrical safety installation requirements and safety-related work practices and procedures for employees who work on or near specialized electrical equipment in the workplace. Chapter 3 includes the following articles:

Article 300

Introduction

Article 310

Safety-Related Work Practices for Electrolytic Cells

Article 320

Safety Requirements Related to Batteries and Battery Rooms

Article 330

Safety-Related Work Practices for Use of Lasers

Article 340

Safety-Related Work Practices: Power Electronic Equipment

Chapter 4: Installation Safety Requirements
NFPA 70 (the National Electrical Code®) contains electrical installation requirements to protect people from electrical hazards during normal conditions. The requirements in chapter 4 contain sections of the National Electrical Code® that contain installation requirements regarding issues that affect employee safety. Chapter 4 includes the following articles:

Article 400

General Requirements for Electrical Installations

Article 410

Wiring Design and Protection

Article 420

Wiring Methods, Components, and Equipment for General Use

Article 430

Specific Purpose Equipment and Installations

Article 440

Hazardous (Classified) Locations

Article 450

Special Systems

Summary
The likelihood of an incident with one of your workers involving an electrocution or electric arc flash is significantly reduced by maintaining a safe electrical work environment that includes three major components: proper installation, safe electrical work practices, and an effective, ongoing electrical maintenance program.

This article appeared in the June 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

This article originally appeared in the June 2006 issue of Occupational Health & Safety.

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