Anyone who works in high-risk situations, such as a skilled trade or in certain maintenance roles, understands the real danger of hazards at the worksite. This is why OSHA standards are in place — to protect individuals on the job from the serious threats around them. The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® is one such standard, designed to protect workers from electrical harm that can happen from an arc flash or an arc blast. What exactly is the OSHA 70E standard? What do you need to know about the regulations in order to be in full compliance with laws? To help answer these questions, here’s a look at the specifics of NFPA 70E and what OSHA requires:
What Is NFPA 70E?
Essentially, NFPA 70E is a set of specific electrical safety regulations for how workers can be kept safe while they work on or near exposed electrical conductors or circuit parts that could become energized. It provides appropriate work practices designed to safeguard workers from injury.
Why Does It Matter?
NFPA 70E matters because it gives employers specific information about how to obey OSHA, both protecting employees and complying with regulations. Its safety practices are designed to minimize risks for employees, meaning fewer burns, injuries, electrocution, etc. And protecting employees is not only good for them; it’s also good for your business, as you lower workers’ compensation costs and avoid costly noncompliance penalties.
Is Electrical Safety That Big of a Deal?
The fact is, every year, thousands of workers visit burn centers with injuries sustained in arc flash accidents — as many as 10 a day in arc blast situations. The injuries that can occur because of electrical contact can be incredibly serious, even fatal. Electrical testing can help avoid this.
What Is Required by OSHA?
Compliance with OSHA 70E standards means protecting electrical workers as well as reducing the risk of fines if and when an accident occurs. In order to comply fully with OSHA requirements, the NFPA 70E standard is helpful. Here is what is required:
Electric Hazard Analyses: According to NFPA 70E, hazard analyses must be performed in order to keep workers from electrically unsafe situations. These analyses are usually done by experienced, registered engineers, and they reveal what hazards are present in order to direct employers toward appropriate protective equipment.
Personal Protective Equipment: OSHA requires that employers provide workers with appropriate electrical protection equipment that guards the specific parts of the body that will be exposed during work. This may include clothing as well as equipment designed to shield workers from shock and arc flash hazards.
Proper Labeling: Equipment must be labeled appropriately in order to warn workers of potential arc blast hazards. This means every panel is marked with an ANSI-approved warning label that highlights potential dangers. Based upon the requirements of a specific facility and its analyses, labels designate each potential area of concern.
What Happens If You Don’t Comply?
Not only does ignoring NFPA 70E increase your risks at the job site, but it also makes you liable for a citation. OSHA will likely cite non-compliance with regulations that require protective equipment in situations with electrical hazards. Though the regulations are in general terms, NFPA 70E is essentially the “how to” of OSHA standards, so ignoring it may lead to hefty fines. Here are some typical issues that lead to citation:
Your workplace exposes employees to hazards without protection.
- Those hazards cause or are likely to cause injury or death to workers.
- Your company was aware of the hazard and didn’t do anything.
- You ignored options for correcting the hazards and allowed hazards to continue.
Will Following NFPA 70E Protect Me from OSHA Citations?
OSHA regulations require employers to provide work environments that are free of the hazards known to cause death or other serious harm. Therefore, OSHA can cite businesses for allowing unsafe conditions even when there aren’t specific regulations that address those conditions. So what NFPA 70E provides is a clear hazard standard — when your company follows it and takes appropriate precautions, it gives evidence that you are attempting to obey OSHA rules.