October 26, 2010
Navigating NFPA 70E: The Standard Code For Electrical Safety In The Workplace
Since roughly 2003, employers across the country started to become more educated about a somewhat confusing electrical safety code, NFPA 70E. Much of this was due to some significant electrical injuries that were captured on a security camera in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. Since these incidents were captured on video, employers had a firsthand look at what electrical explosions could do, and OSHA offices throughout the Midwest slowly began to enforce this sometimes-confusing workplace safety topic.
Employers generally have choices when it comes to how they implement a safety program, and experience has taught us that unless employers truly research this code and seek experienced sources, they may find themselves in a state of false compliance. NFPA 70E Code covers protective clothing, hazard labeling, training, Arc Flash safety and equipment requirements, but interpretation of the code can differ from company to company.
In the past three years, Faith Technologies has helped dozens of employers revamp their NFPA 70E programs to deal with the daily challenges of safety in the workplace. There are a few key recommendations we have when each employer enters into an NFPA 70E audit. To eliminate employee risks, some crucial aspects we feel must be considered when re-evaluating your NFPA 70E program include:
- Do your homework! Network with other safety directors, contact your local safety councils (i.e. including the Wisconsin Safety Council) or the safety council in your area for input on the topic, and recognize that this code is written in an ambiguous manner and therefore no single opinion is the only opinion to rely on for your decisions.
- It is highly recommended to spend time evaluating your electrical Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) programs and evaluate equipment labeling from an electrical maintenance point of view. Most LOTO programs are machine specific and therefore labeling does not support true NFPA 70E needs.
- Invest time to evaluate what your staff consists of and who you would like to consider “qualified employees.” This becomes one of the largest challenges in your program development and can be the most politically challenging task.
Every company should position safety as an important part of their organization’s structure. It is essential for both company leadership and employees to be educated and have the resources to answer the question, “Are we, or are we not, in compliance?”
In future blogs, we will dig deeper into examples of “false compliance” and help showcase more examples of how to create a sound overall program.
Make it a Safe Day!