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PROPERTY & CASUALTY
AUG 19, 2020
Electrical Safety Standards and Program Assessment
Electrical Safety Standards
Electricity is one of those mystical things that confounds many people. But even the experts have their hands full, because as technology evolves, so do the standards that govern the safe installation of electrical systems.
Who Sets the Codes and Standards for Electrical Safety?
There are multiple sets of industry codes and standards developed by both government and safety constituencies. They include the following:
National Electric Code (NFPA 70) and NFPA 70E
The National Electric Code (NEC), has been adopted by all but three states (AZ, MO and MS) as of July 2020 and is formally revised every three years. This standard sets the minimum requirements for safe electrical wiring and equipment installations and was developed by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).
NFPA 70E is the standard for electrical installations in the workplace. This standard covers all aspects of electric installations that could impact employee safety and is administered by NFPA.
Think about how the use of electricity has changed since the NEC was initially drafted in 1897. Home and business use of electricity has grown exponentially, which has resulted in increased injuries and deaths.
By studying these accidents, government agencies and testing labs develop data on emerging safety issues. Then, third parties develop potential solutions to address these risks, which in turn are validated for efficacy by testing labs. Once the new technology or other solutions are validated, NFPA develops new proposed code as part of the revision process, which in turn must be accepted by participating states. Examples include the addition of Tamper Resistant Receptacles, Arc Fault Circuit Interrupters and Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters into the standards, all of which have reduced the risks associated with working with electricity.
While these standards are not enforceable as laws, most states have adopted them and the “authority having jurisdiction” inspects for compliance.
Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA)
OSHA developed broad guidelines for electrical safety under two areas: General Industry and Construction. The government’s standards are also based on the NEC, as well as NFPA 70E. This integration also means that OSHA is an additional entity that can ensure compliance with the standards.
Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE)
This international organization developed a standard in 2002 for performing arc flash hazard calculations and defines the practice for performing detailed arc flash calculations. Although not mandated by NFPA 70E as the required calculation process, this standard has become the accepted industry practice and helps determine the appropriate personal protective equipment needed for the application.
How Does Your Electrical Safety Program Stack Up?
With so many evolving industry standards, you may wonder how well your electrical safety program complies. And, it never hurts to step back and see if your program is covering the areas of most exposure to your employees.
The good news is that the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI) has you covered. They provide an online organizational self-assessment to help you evaluate how well your safety program fares against the various standards and industry best practices. The assessment will walk you through questions covering the following:
You can access the assessment
Following the assessment, you can access any of the many safety tools, videos, and programs that the organization makes available at their website. Which brings us full circle: know the electrical safety standards; assess your program against the standards; revise as appropriate.