Millions of construction workers work with or near electricity and electrical equipment each day; however, not all of these workers have a strong familiarity with the actual hazards of electricity. In order to provide employers and workers with a guide for eliminating electrical hazards, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) publishes NFPA 70E, the recognized standard for electrical safety in the workplace. Although the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not enforce this standard, the agency can and does use the NFPA 70E to support violations of its General Duty Clause.
For this reason, it’s important for every employer in the construction industry with workers who deal with electricity to stay up to date with NFPA 70E. This standard is revised every three years based on suggested updates from the general public, professional associations and experts, and NFPA’s 70E committee. In this brief editorial, we’ll be reviewing everything you need to know about the 2021 edition of NFPA 70E® — the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®. If you need any further assistance in understanding this standard, please reach out to an Alabama OSHA lawyer.
Related: 6 Electrical Hazards on the Jobsite
Article 110: General Requirements
Article 110 of NFPA 70E entitled “General Requirements for Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices” covers electrical work practices and procedures for employees who work on or near exposed energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. If the requirements in this article are applied appropriately, exposure to electrical hazards should be greatly reduced. These requirements also act as a crucial aid in protecting employees that are or will become exposed to energized electrical conductors or circuit parts.
In NFPA 70E-2021, this article has been revised to incorporate other general requirements for electrical safety-related work programs, practices, and procedures from other articles in order to emphasize their importance. For example, the general principles of lockout/tagout from Section 120.2 and energized work requirements from Section 130.2 have both been moved over. The article also contains a new subsection that mandates an employer’s electrical safety program to include an electrically safe work condition policy. Is your electrical safety program in need of review following these updated requirements? Get in touch with an OSHA attorney as soon as possible.
Table 130.5(C): Likelihood of Arc Flash Incident
NFPA 70E Table 130.5(C) estimates the likelihood of occurrence of an arc flash incident for alternating current (AC) and direct current (DC) systems in an arc flash risk assessment. The firm column lists types of tasks, such as reading a panel meter while operating a meter switch, while the second and third columns list the condition of the equipment and the likelihood of an arc flash incident. The condition of the equipment is critical to the arc flash risk assessment as it greatly impacts the likelihood of an arc flash incident.
The 2021 edition of NFPA 70E includes a revised edition of this table due to a number of employees misusing the standard. While the standard is used to guide employees into making better calls about the likelihood of an arc flash incident, it is never intended to make individual determinations on a piece of equipment. The new table now consists of more than 30 AC and DC tasks to determine arc flash likelihood, including the initial operation of a circuit breaker or switch after installation and again after maintenance performed on the equipment. It also lists tasks as either normal or abnormal as a risk assessment condition.
Article 360: Safety-Related Requirements for Capacitors & Annex R: Working with Capacitors
Capacitors are used in many different systems on the construction worksite, including conveyors, heating, cooling, and airflow. While they have always been included in the NFPA 70E, the 2021 edition gives them their own article and annex with Article 360 entitled “Safety-Related Requirements for Capacitors” and Annex R entitled “Working With Capacitors.” This decision was made after careful deliberation between the public, electrical industry, and technical committee, which eventually decided that a full, dedicated article to stored-energy capacitors was necessary.
With the wide variety of alternate energies, there is a great deal of capacitor systems being used, and, similar to a battery, these systems still have power even when shut off. To prevent electrical hazards when working with capacitors, this new article contains several sections outlined below:
- Stored Energy Hazard Thresholds
- Specific Measures for Personnel Safety
- Establishing an Electrically Safe Work Condition for a Capacitor(s)
- Grounding Sticks
All of these sections are designed specifically with the intent of safeguarding the employees working with capacitors that exceed 100 volts.
Article 130: Work Involving Electrical Hazards
Last but certainly not least, two sections of Article 130 entitled “Work Involving Electrical Hazards” have been revised for the 2021 edition of NFPA 70E — 130.1: General and 130.2: Energized Electrical Work Permit. The result is an article more focused on safety-related work practices, assessments, procedures, and precautions for when an electrically safe work condition can’t be established. Elements and exceptions of a work permit are also included.
Once again, although OSHA has not incorporated NFPA 70E into the CFRs, you can be cited for not complying with this standard under 29 CFR 1910.335(a)(1)(i). Compliance with NFPA 70E is your best bet at ensuring compliance with the relevant OSHA standards. If OSHA has determined that compliance with this standard would have prevented or lessened an injury received on your jobsite and you have been subsequently cited under the General Duty Clause, it’s important to consult a Michigan OSHA defense lawyer as soon as possible to protect your business.
Disclaimer: The information contained in this article is for general educational information only. This information does not constitute legal advice, is not intended to constitute legal advice, nor should it be relied upon as legal advice for your specific factual pattern or situation.