In their mission to save lives and reduce loss, the National Fire Protection Association has developed nearly 300 standards and codes to eliminate risks and minimize the harm caused by fire, electrical, or related hazards. NFPA 70E, titled the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, establishes requirements that protect workers from electrical hazards like shock, electrocution, arc flash, and more. The code is dependent on both NFPA 70, the National Electrical Code and NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance. NFPA 70E however is the only that details safe work practices.
Controlling hazard exposure is critical for workplace safety and NFPA 70E stresses the importance of using the Hierarchy of Hazards. Completely eliminating the hazard from the area is the most effective control strategy but is not always an option. The next most effective control as identified by the hierarchy is substitution; could a high voltage machine be replaced with one less hazardous? Engineering controls are next on the list and include things like machine guards and other design features that isolate workers from the hazard. The last two types of controls recognized are also the two least effective: administrative controls (training, work procedures, etc.) and personal protective equipment (PPE).
Performing a risk assessment and evaluating the facility for electrical hazards before work begins is a requirement of NFPA 70E. During a risk assessment, you will tour the facility and take note of any electrical or safety issues that must be addressed. For each hazard, you will want to evaluate potential exposure controls and implement what would be most effective for your facility. Finally, any electrical equipment that poses a danger to workers must be assessed for shock risk and arc flash risk to ensure you are adequately prepared for either of these emergencies.
Arc flashes, a type of electrical explosion, are one of the most dangerous occupational hazards to exist. Because arc flashes can cause death, third-degree burns, concussions, permanent hearing damage, and other serious injuries, NFPA 70E provides extensive and detailed requirements for the prevention of, response to, and protection from arc flash. It contains critical information for protecting workers from arc flash, including shock boundary calculations, required personal protective equipment (PPE), and a guide for determining the Hazard/Risk Category.
Another key component covered by NFPA 70E is lockout / tagout. LOTO relies on visual cues (physical locks and tags) to keep employees from performing maintenance on or servicing n energized machine. In a lockout / tagout system, the individual working on a machine will disconnect al sources of energy and ensure stored energy is released. A lock or tag is then affixed to the equipment that lets others know the machine is being worked on and cannot be powered up. An effective LOTO program includes written procedures for electrical systems, documented training for employees, the appropriate equipment, necessary PPE.
It is important for electrical contractors, electricians, engineers, and other industry professionals to understand NFPA 70E. Because of how dangerous electricity can be, this standard is crucial for protecting workers from shock, burns, and injury while on the job.