SAFETY SOLUTIONS: Compliance with 70E Electrical Standards
Are you in compliance with 70E electrical standards?
This is the question being asked by OSHA compliance
officers when they visit your facility. The
Department of Labor (OSHA) estimates that there are, on
average, 9,600 serious electrical shock and burn injuries
each year. OSHA also estimates approximately one fatality
per day due to electrocution.
The main reasons for employees being injured on the
job is lack of a good safety program and training employees
in the requirements of NFPA 70E. Another reason is
employers have not conducted an arc flash analysis of
their equipment and have failed to mark/placard their
electrical systems accordingly.
Workers must be trained in what the labeling means
and how to apply the information on the equipment. One
of the first things OSHA does during a site inspection or
an accident investigation is to review the training records
for the company. Lack of training often is cited as a reason
for large fines. Who needs training? Virtually everyone.
Unqualified workers must be trained on the hazards
of electricity and how to avoid them and qualified workers
must meet the above requirements and other specific
requirements given in 29 CFR 1910.332 and 29 CFR
Some companies that provide on-the-job training do a
poor job of documenting that training. If you don’t document
it, it never happened. Include the training date, the
employee’s name and the topics covered, and have the
attendee initial or sign saying he actually took the training.
What is 70E?
Parts of 70E have been around since 1979. NFPA 70E:
Standard for Electrical Safety in the workplace is one of
many industry consensus standards developed by the
National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The NFPA, an
international nonprofit organization, develops voluntary
codes and standards using an open consensus process.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration
(OSHA) adopted new regulations on safe electrical work
practices in 1990. However, 70E is a topic of interest now
because the NEC and OSHA are referring to it in their documents,
and citations are now being written based on 70E.
Remember, OSHA only allows work on live electrical
parts under two special circumstances: (1) when continuity
of service is required, and (2) when de-energizing
equipment would create additional hazards. In all other
cases, lockout/tagout is the law.
NFPA 70E provides specific information to help companies
prevent or minimize exposure to all widely recognized
electrical hazards. Safety practices, such as those recommended
by NFPA 70E, help minimize employees’ risk of
burns, blindness, electrocution, electric shock and associated
falls. A decrease in employee injury and death rates
can reduce workers’ compensation costs and help companies
avoid noncompliance penalties.
Ten Steps to Success:
Thanks to Mr. Jim White, Training Director for
Shermco Industries Inc., for allowing use of his
information. Should you have questions on OSHA
regulations, or need more information on 70E
please feel free to contact me through the magazine.
For training in 70E or any other OSHA course,
visit our website at www.podojilconsulting.com. We
have certified OSHA and on-line courses available.
You can take a free test drive on many of these courses
- Develop a zero-tolerance policy toward energized
work. Get serious about no “hot work.” Troubleshooting,
infrared scans and the like are not considered to be energized
“work,” nor is operating electrical equipment in a
manner for which it was designed. However, this does not
eliminate the need for conducting an electrical hazard
analysis. Some tasks, such as racking circuit breakers,
even though they don’t seem to have a hazard associated
with them, actually do. Racking circuit breakers in and out
of their cubicles involves making and breaking electrical
connections (their stabs), which has the danger of arc flash. Therefore, some level of arc flash PPE is required
when racking breakers.
- Get out in the field or plant and see what your workers
are doing. Develop checklists or other methods for tracking
who is qualified to perform which tasks. Some companies
have gone so far as to conduct job task analysis. While they
can be somewhat expensive and time-consuming, they help
provide a blueprint of your employees’ activities.
- Train your employees. To be qualified to perform any
task, they must know the construction, operation and hazards
associated with certain types of equipment. Workers
may be qualified to do certain tasks, but unqualified to do
others. It is up to supervisors to know what employees can
- Develop safe work practices and procedures.
Energized electrical work permits, clearance procedures,
switching orders, etc., are not called for in
the regulations, but help document that the correct
steps were taken. This can be especially
important if there is an accident.
- Perform periodic safety audits. If your workers
know they will be subject to random safety audits,
they will try to keep up with safe work practices
- Implement job briefings. If the job scope
changes significantly, introducing new or different
hazards than what were first anticipated, conduct
another job briefing.
- Be very careful how you implement any safety
awards program. OSHA has issued numerous citations
when they believe the awards program discourages
accident reporting. Even if the program is
designed in good faith, make certain it cannot be
- Get up to speed on the regulations and the
NFPA Standard 70E, as well as the IEEE 1584-
2002, Guide for Performing Arc Flash Hazard
Calculations. What you don’t know could kill you.
- Document, document, document, everything.
If you don’t have it in writing, you never did it.
- Show good faith effort. This is one thing OSHA
really keys in on. If OSHA doesn’t think you’re serious
or, worse yet, thinks you’re trying to put one
over on them, watch out!
For more information, click on the author biography at the top of this page.