What is the Foundation of an Effective NFPA 70E Implementation?

By Jay Smith

This is a question that I hear frequently while discussing NFPA 70E on the road. Perhaps this is because the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace is so broad? Or because the electrical equipment and electrical safety devices are constantly changing and improving, hence why the NFPA 70E Committee addresses these changes and updates the standard every 3 years as part of keeping up with current technology and safety concerns?

As we all know, the key objective of the NFPA 70E standard is to reduce human exposure to the hazards of shock, arc flash, and arc blast while working on or near exposed electrical conductors or circuit parts that are or can become energized. The standard provides effective guidance to help you protect your most important assets, but the truth is that organizations need to establish a solid foundation for an effective implementation, no matter what the reasons are behind the question.

In this context, it is important to understand that 5 critical areas are key enablers of the NFPA 70E objectives (and the foundation of an effective implementation):

1. Electrical Safety Program: The Electrical Safety Program is a document that directs activity appropriate to the risk associated with electrical hazards.

The key here is to drive awareness of the potential electrical hazards, instilling safety principles and controls, while describing key aspects of the plan such as risk assessments, training, audits and inspections, job safety planning, incident investigations, etc. A strong Electrical Safety Program can help foster a strong safety culture.

2. Safety Training Plan: An Electrical Safety Training plan needs to be in place for employees exposed to electrical hazards when the risk associated with that hazard is not eliminated or reduced to a safe level. The extent of the training provided is determined by the level of risk to the employee, and the type of training can be in a classroom, on-the-job, or a combination of the two.

An important factor here is the difference between a qualified and a non-qualified worker. A qualified worker is simply someone who is trained and knowledgeable about the equipment and work method that he/she is performing. He/she must be able to identify the associated electrical hazards and be familiar with the proper use of precautionary techniques and procedures, insulating and shielding materials and tools, and PPE, required to mitigate them. Qualified workers need to keep their training up-to-date. It is also important to note that a person can be considered qualified with respect to certain equipment and tasks but still be unqualified for others. All unqualified workers need to be trained to become familiar with any electrical safety-related practices necessary for their safety.

3. Hazard Assessment & Mitigation: The hazard assessment process identifies the risks associated with an employee’s exposure to electrical hazards and implements risk controls according to the hierarchy of control methods (elimination, substitution, engineering controls, awareness, administrative controls, and PPE).

An important factor here is the difference between being able to establish an electrically safe working condition (a state in which an electrical conductor or circuit has been disconnected from energized parts, locked/tagged in accordance with established standards, tested to ensure the absence of voltage, and grounded if determined necessary), or working when an electrically safe working condition cannot be established. When work is performed under the later conditions, an energized electrical work permit is required, and safety-related work practices are required to safeguard employees from injury when they are exposed to electrical hazards, including both shock risk assessment and arc flash risk assessment before any person is exposed to those hazards.

4. Job Safety Plan: Before starting each job that involves exposure to electrical hazards, the employee in charge needs to complete a job safety plan and conduct a job briefing with the people involved.

The key here is to ensure that the job safety plan is documented and completed by a qualified person. The job safety plan should include a description of the job and the individual tasks, and identify the hazards associated with each task. The job briefing needs to review the job safety plan and the information on energized electrical work permit if a permit is required.

5. Preventive Maintenance: Electrical equipment and overcurrent protective devices need to be maintained to reduce the risks of failure for the safety of the employees who work exposed to electrical hazards.

An important factor here is that the maintenance needs to be in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions or industry consensus standards. Maintenance, tests, and inspections need to be documented.

As discussed before, the NFPA 70E standard provides effective guidance to help organizations protect their employees from electrical hazards, but in order for you to establish an effective foundation for its implementation, you will need not only to focus on these 5 critical path areas, but also understand how they can be tailored to fit your organization’s own unique needs and constraints.

To learn more about the that 5 critical areas of an effective NFPA 70E implementation, register for our upcoming webinar here on Tuesday, April 17th at 1:00 pm EST / 10:00 am PST.

Jay has been with Lewellyn Technology for 17 years and is currently in the role of the national account executive. His expertise in electrical safety qualifies him to be a speaker at national events and corporate summits, as well as writing articles on electrical safety.

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