The National Fire Protection Agency’s (NFPA) standard for electrical workplace safety, NFPA 70E, undergoes updates every three years in an effort to keep employers and workers safely in compliance with OSHA 1910 Subpart S and OSHA 1926 Subpart K. The standard aims to reduce on-the-job exposure to shock, arc flash and arc blast. The 2018 edition of NFPA 70E went into effect in August.
According to the 2017 edition of “Injury Facts,” an online statistical data resource from the National Safety Council, exposure to electricity resulted in 154 workplace fatalities and 1,850 cases with days away from work in 2014.
In general, injuries in 2016 cost the US $967.9 billion, with 44.5 million injuries, and over 161,000 preventable deaths.
The revised NFPA 70E prominently highlights the Hierarchy of Controls within the standard, emphasizing the acts of risk identification and mitigation before the job begins.
Starting with the most effective controls and proceeding to the least effective, the hierarchy, as defined by NIOSH, flows as follows:
- Engineering controls;
- Administrative controls; and
- Personal protective equipment.
For incident energy exposures of 1.2 cal/cm2 to 12 cal/cm2, the standard requires the use of hard hats, hearing protection, and leather footwear, as well as one item from each of these groups:
- Long-sleeved shirt and pants, coverall, or arc flash suit;
- Arc-rated face shield, arc-rated balaclava or arc flash suit hood;
- Heavy-duty leather gloves, arc-rated gloves or rubber-insulating gloves with leather protectors; and
- Safety glasses or safety goggles.
The NFPA fact sheet states that the core objective is practical, accomplishable electrical safety that results in the employee going home safe at the end of the day. The risk controls discussed in this standard are not impractical or unrealistic; they are sound, viable, workable applications of safety procedures and policies to be implemented
by the employer and employee.