Electrical Safety in the Workplace: Understanding the NFPA 70E Standard

worker checking electrical panel

Ensuring the safety and wellbeing of all personnel is a top priority for any organization, and this includes avoiding injury caused by electricity. As such, organizations need to abide by the NFPA 70E standard, which sets forth important guidelines on working safely with hazardous energy sources. This standard helps protect employees from electrical incidents by emphasizing the need for proper assessment, planning, and implementation.

Furthermore, NFPA 70E requires that employers provide their staff with adequate safety clothing and equipment, as well as training on working safely with electricity. It also mandates safety inspections before any work begins. All of these measures are essential for ensuring hazardous energy sources are handled safely and efficiently.

Understanding the NFPA 70E Standard

The NFPA 70E Standard, also known as the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, was developed in cooperation with the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). It was created to protect personnel from shock and arc flash hazards when working on or around energized electrical equipment. It provides safety-related requirements and guidance that are designed to reduce employee exposure to hazardous energy levels during routine maintenance and other activities. OSHA has adopted the NFPA 70E standard as a reference in their regulations and requires employers to comply with it.

The standard applies to all employees who might be exposed to hazardous energy levels while working on energized electrical equipment, including qualified workers, supervisors, and anyone else involved in the work. It also applies to all types of electrical equipment such as transformers, service controllers, motors, switchgear, and wiring systems.

Hazard Identification and Risk Assessment

To make sure that workers are safe around electrical equipment, certain measures must be taken. This includes identification of hazards, conducting a risk assessment and understanding the hierarchy of controls.

Identifying Electrical Hazards in the Workplace

This process involves identifying potential threats to electrical systems and components, such as improperly installed wiring or equipment, exposed wires, faulty outlets/connectors, overloaded circuits and improper grounding. It is important to take action before an accident occurs. Employers must ensure that their employees are properly trained in recognizing potential hazards and know how to safely address them.

Conducting a Risk Assessment to Determine the Level of Risk

A risk assessment is a systematic process used to determine the likelihood of an adverse event occurring. This involves analyzing the electrical system/components, identifying potential hazards, assessing how likely these hazards are to occur, and determining what steps need to be taken to mitigate the risk.

Understanding the Hierarchy of Controls for Mitigating Risk

The hierarchy of controls is a tool used to determine how best to reduce the risk associated with hazards. It starts with eliminating potential risks altogether, followed by substituting less hazardous systems/components, engineering controls that restrict access or limit exposures, administrative controls that focus on employee training and education, and finally personal protective equipment in the case of unavoidable risks.

NFPA 70E Standard Latest Updates

The NFPA 70E Standard has recently been updated with new information and guidelines that are important to understand when it comes to electrical safety and arc flash compliance.

  • Article 110: Some requirements under Article 110 have been reorganized, which includes the move of general principles of lockout/tagout (from Section (120.2) and electrically safe work condition and energized work requirements (from m Section 130.2). A new subsection, 110.5(K), requires that any electrical safety program should include a policy on establishing electrically safe work condition.
  • Article 130: Some sections (130.1 and 130.2) have been rewritten to keep the focus of this article on the requirements related to work involving electrical hazards.
  • Table 130.5(C): To reflect the data in the Informational Note’s resource document accurately, revisions were made to the energy thresholds for electrical equipment and systems in laboratories. To prevent the duplication of information from the new Article 360, information on the capacitive circuit threshold has been deleted.
  • Article 360: Article 360 is newly added and focuses on the safety-related requirements for capacitors.

Legal and Regulatory Compliance

It is paramount that companies follow the legal and regulatory requirements for electrical safety. Non-compliance will result to fines, legal action, and possibly loss of business.

All electrical equipment must be safe and suitable for the intended purpose. This includes compliance with safety standards, such as IECs or UL/CSA standards. Electrical installations must also meet national regulations. These usually include having a qualified electrician carry out periodic inspections to ensure the safety of the electrical installation. All electrical equipment must be properly maintained to ensure it remains safe and complies with regulations. This includes regular testing, cleaning, and repairs as necessary.

Depending on the local laws, companies may be subject to fines or other sanctions for not complying with electrical safety regulations. In some cases, non-compliance with legal requirements can result in criminal prosecution. Non-compliance may affect public trust, leading to a loss of customers and a decrease in profits.

Best Practices for Ensuring Compliance with Regulations

  • Hire Qualified Professionals: Have a qualified electrician install, inspect, and maintain all electrical equipment.
  • Train Staff: Educate your staff on the importance of compliance with safety regulations, as well as how to identify potential issues.
  • Undergo Inspections: Regularly have certified professionals come in and assess the safety of your electrical system, to ensure it is up to standard.
  • Keep Records: Document all tests, inspections, and maintenance activities in order to prove compliance with legal requirements if needed.

Understanding the NFPA 70E standard and implementing an effective electrical safety program is crucial for creating a safe workplace. By identifying electrical hazards, conducting risk assessments, using appropriate PPE, and promoting a strong safety culture, employers can mitigate risks and prevent electrical incidents. Compliance with legal and regulatory requirements is also important to avoid penalties and ensure worker safety. As new technologies emerge, it is essential to integrate them into electrical safety programs while maintaining best practices. With a comprehensive approach to electrical safety, employers can prioritize the well-being of their workers and create a culture of safety.

The material provided in this article is for general information purposes only. It is not intended to replace professional/legal advice or substitute government regulations, industry standards, or other requirements specific to any business/activity. While we made sure to provide accurate and reliable information, we make no representation that the details or sources are up-to-date, complete or remain available. Readers should consult with an industrial safety expert, qualified professional, or attorney for any specific concerns and questions.


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Author: Herbert Post

Born in the Philadelphia area and raised in Houston by a family who was predominately employed in heavy manufacturing. Herb took a liking to factory processes and later safety compliance where he has spent the last 13 years facilitating best practices and teaching updated regulations. He is married with two children and a St Bernard named Jose. Herb is a self-described compliance geek. When he isn’t studying safety reports and regulatory interpretations he enjoys racquetball and watching his favorite football team, the Dallas Cowboys.