Don't Work Energized, NECA Speaker Urges

Only two reasons are acceptable for working energized, NECA national safety director Wesley Wheeler said.

ANAHEIM, Calif. -- The NSC Learning Lab on the expo floor at this year's National Safety Congress and Expo was a busy place Oct. 17, with all of the day's sessions drawing good crowds. Wesley Wheeler, safety director for the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) and a former safety director for an electrical contractor firm, had a capacity crowd for his presentation on employer and contractor responsibilities for electrical safety and meeting the NFPA 70E standard.

"It is the contractor's responsibility for enforcement of safety policies," Wheeler said. He discussed the macho attitude some in the industry have and the fact that too many work energized when they should not. "How many contractors tell you, 'Well, we've got a 70E policy: We don't work energized.' Well, they're lying," he said, "because you can't do troubleshooting or commissioning without what? Energized work."

Wheeler said the U.S. Department of Energy, in 10 CFR 851, has adopted, at a minimum, the 70E 2004 edition, marking the first time that a federal agency has adopted a consensus standard into law. And it says that, whatever is the current version of 70E that a contractor recognizes, that's the version its workers need to follow, he said.

He said the 2018 version of 70E has moved the well-known hierarchy of controls from a note into mandatory text. Only two reasons are accepted for doing energized work, he explained: Not doing it energized will create a greater hazard, or not doing it energized is infeasible.

"It's not worth it to work energized," Wheeler summed up.

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