AUTHOR: Christopher Coache

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A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: An authority having jurisdiction for a standard not adopted by law

Sorry that I have been away for some time, but 2020 was a year of challenges. I have been writing this blog mostly on a bi-weekly basis for four years. This is the first blog that will be published monthly. I hope you will continue to find the information and views beneficial in your continued effort to increase electrical safety in your workplace. My last blog (October) pointed out that if a standard is adopted into law, it is a government agent who typically becomes the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ). That blog also pointed out that although the NEC is typically mandated, there are many electrical installations not inspected by the government AHJ. Are there AHJs for a standard that is not legislated? NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® is such a standard. Product standards are another example. These standards contain requirements but do not have a government AHJ to enforce them. Who has the responsibility for verifying compliance with the requirements if these non-legislated standards are used? The requirement to use NFPA 70E is often directed by an employer through their electrical safety program. Their purpose for using NFPA 70E is to help them meet federally mandated obligations to provide a workplace that is free from known electrical hazards. It is probable that the electrical safety program will fail if management directs that NFPA 70E be utilized without assigning AHJs. No one will develop safe work practices, no one will audit electrical safety practices or keep procedures current, no one will inspect in-house installations, and no one will train employees or verify their qualifications. You get the point. Most employees will not accept such responsibility on their own. Someone must be assigned these tasks but NFPA 70E often does not mention an AHJ. The overall enforcement (AHJ) for NFPA 70E is therefore the employer. It is their responsibility to establish, document, and implement the safety-related work practices and procedures required by NFPA 70E and to provide employees with training in safety related work practices and procedures. The CEO is not going to do this. Upper management may require using NFPA 70E, but they are not the AHJ for specific requirements. They are not inspecting the daily condition of equipment, they are not evaluating safety procedures for establishing an electrically safe work condition, they are not verifying an employee’s method of donning of PPE, nor are they evaluating the qualifications and training of individual employees. If the employer mandates the use of NFPA 70E without addressing the necessary AHJs for the requirements, everything from the electrical safety program to unqualified persons and contract employees are at risk. As discussed in my blog, you are the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ), everyone is an AHJ for NFPA 70E at some time. However, most employees will not accept the role without being notified by management that the AHJ responsibility is theirs. NFPA 70E does not assign an AHJ for any requirement just as the often-mandated NEC does not assign an AHJ. Anyone can be assigned an AHJ for any standard or for any requirement contained in that standard. It is the employer’s responsibility to specify who the AHJ is for inhouse electrical installations, for PPE, for employee qualifications, for documented work procedures, for field audits, or any of the other items that need to be verified. An AHJ should be qualified to oversee their assigned responsibilities and must be knowledgeable of the requirements to determine compliance. The employer decides this just as they decide who is qualified to be hired for a position or perform any other task. The documented electrical safety program is a good place to assign the AHJs for what occurs in the facility. Even with a policy to follow NFPA 70E, there is no way to comply with it without an assigned AHJ. Are there AHJs at your facility? Next time: Why is assigning an authority having jurisdiction so difficult? Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code® (NEC®)? Subscribe to the NFPA Network to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: What Makes Someone an Authority Having Jurisdiction.

The concept of an authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) has been in safety standards for a very long time. It is important that the persons using a standard understand what is required in order to determine compliance with the standard. NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®  and all other NFPA standards define an AHJ as an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure. An AHJ need not be a government employee. I have written about the AHJ for NFPA 70E in previous blogs, presentations and in the NFPA 70E handbook. Based on the questions I receive; it seems as if many do not understand how to enforce the requirements of a standard. Any standard that contains requirements must be applied by someone and someone must verify that the requirements have been correctly applied. The person verifying that the requirements have been correctly applied is the AHJ. Standards can be required by a governmental body often through legislation. The National Electrical Code® (NEC®) is an example of such a standard. Many states, counties, cities and towns require that all electrical installations comply with the NEC. Typically, the government requires a permit before installation and an inspection by a government electrical inspector to verify compliance with the NEC. This government inspector is the AHJ for these initial electrical installations. In a commercial or industrial facility, subsequent installation of electrical equipment or modification of the distribution system is often not done under a government permit nor is this inspected by the government AHJ. In residences, it is not uncommon for the permitted and inspected initial electricalsystem to be modified or additional equipment added without the government inspection. The NEC assigns the responsibility for making interpretations of the rules, for deciding on the approval of equipment and materials, and for granting the special permission contemplated in several rules to an AHJ regardless of when an electrical installation takes place. Does your management invite a government AHJ to inspect and approve the installation of a new subpanel, the move of a production line, the retrofit for a breakroom, the extension of a circuit, or the addition of a backup generator in your facility? Frequently, that is not the case. If a government electrical inspector is not invited, is it still necessary to verify compliance with the NEC requirements? It would be unexpected to find someone who believes the NEC requirements could be ignored. If the requirements can't be ignored, someone must determine compliance with the NEC. Right or wrong, a non-government person at your company becomes the AHJ for electrical installations and is responsible for determining the NEC compliance and safety of the installation. It is usually a disadvantage for an installer to inspect their own work. Even with a government AHJ responsible for the initial installation and an assigned facility AHJ for subsequent facility installations, there is an obligation for an employer to verify that maintenance, repair, or modification of the initial equipment does not create an unsafe electrical condition. It is not surprising that an employee may use what is available rather than what is required for a safe installation. A smaller wire gauge for a short circuit extension, a conduit coupling intended for another type of conduit, a missing cover bolt not replaced, or a lug not properly torqued are things that have occurred during repair. Who does management appoint as the AHJ to inspect such things? Electrical inspections are not to assign blame but to confirm that electrical equipment is installed and maintained in a manner that safeguards persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity. Without verifying compliance, employees are at risk during the performance of their assigned work tasks and associated interaction with electrical equipment. Without an AHJ performing this important step regarding electrical safety, there is a risk of exposure to electrical hazard whether flipping a light switch, operating production line equipment, riding an elevator, or plugging in a coffee pot. It is also not possible to comply with the requirements of NFPA 70E without verification that the installation and maintenance conforms to safety standards and manufacturer's specifications. Who has your management documented and assigned the responsibility for being the AHJ for the safety of the electrical installations? Next time: There are authorities having jurisdiction for a standard that is not adopted into law. For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange. Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code® (NEC®)? Subscribe to the NFPA Networkto stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.
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A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Why NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace Does Not Include Incident Energy Calculations.

I often get questions on which standard, equation or computer program should be used to calculate the incident energy when the incident energy analysis method is used. Some argue that the information should be in NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace or they use the Annex D equations without understanding their applicability. NFPA 70E covers electrical safety not calculating incident energy. Science and testing have shown that an energy of 1.2 cal/cm2 is enough to cause a second-degree burn to exposed skin. That is the limit used in NFPA 70E as the basis for arc-flash protection in an electrical safety work program. Employers must protect employees from this thermal hazard. An incorrectly applied equation will not change the fact that the system presents a thermal hazard to the employee. How to calculate the energy is beyond the scope of NFPA 70E since the 1.2 cal/cm2 threshold is, for the application of NFPA 70E, absolute. There is a lot of science that goes into converting electrical system parameters into incident energy for any given piece of equipment. IEEE 1584, Guide for Performing Arc Flash Hazard Calculations is probably the most used standard for calculating incident energy. That guide went through a revision and NFPA 70E Annex D information has been updated to reflect that. Users of the 2021 NFPA 70E will find that Annex D summarizes IEEE 1584-2018. This was done in order to protect people from themselves. It was never intended that the information in the NFPA 70E annex be applied without proper use of the entire IEEE 1584 standard. However, unqualified persons were solely using the NFPA 70E annex for calculation methods. NFPA 70E does not require the use of any specific calculation method but does require that the arc-flash boundary be established at 1.2 cal/cm2. One equation is not applicable to all equipment or electrical systems. NFPA 70E Annex D provides information on several incident energy calculation methods. IEEE 1584 points out that there are other methods which could be used. Calculation methods have specific limitations on the type of electrical system and equipment as well as for many of the parameters used in the equation. Using any equation, computer software or contract company does not absolve an employer from making sure that an appropriate equation is used to calculate the incident energy as accurately as current methods permit. An employee's life depends on it. For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange. Hear personal stories of people impacted by electrical incidents through NFPA's Faces of FireTM/Electricaleducation campaign that was created in collaboration with the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors and raises awareness about electrical hazards in the workplace. Next time: Comparing four decades of electrical fatalities. Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code (NEC)? Subscribe to the NFPA Networkto stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.
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A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: The 2021 Edition of the Standard

If you haven't been keeping up with the NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace revision cycle, the 2021 edition was issued June 1, 2020 with an effective date of June 21, 2020. Independent standards development organizations, such as NFPA, and the standards they publish play a major role in protecting the public from injury or death. For those of you who took part in the process whether by submitting inputs and comments, attending the draft meetings, or by being a member of the technical committee, NFPA thanks you for your participation. For the 2021 edition, Article 110 was revised to incorporate the general requirements for electrical safety-related work programs, practices and procedures from other articles. References to arc-resistant switchgear has been changed to arc-resistant equipment to address the use of other types of arc-resistant equipment. Article 360, Safety-Related Requirements for Capacitors and Annex R, Working with Capacitors were added to address specific electrical safety requirements unique to capacitors. Annex D, Incident Energy and Arc Flash Boundary Calculation Methods was revised to reference IEEE-1584-2018 as a method of calculation. Throughout the standard there are other changes so be sure to check for those that might affect your electrical safety program. Information regarding not only this new edition but earlier editions, providing input to the next edition and asking a technical question is available on the NFPA 70E web page at For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange. Next time: Why NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace does not include incident energy calculations. Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code (NEC)? Subscribe to the NFPA Networkto stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Equipment Labeling is Not the Same as Performing a Risk Assessment

I receive many questions from companies in the process of implementing an electrical safety work program. Can their own employees conduct risk assessments? Who should they hire? How do they know if an organization is qualified to do the work? While I am unable to answer those questions, my recent blog about knowing what is involved with risk assessments can help provide some guidance. Equipment is required to be labeled with the highest voltage and incident energy or PPE category. This worst-case condition can be used for 100 percent of tasks associated with the equipment. However, another of my Electrical Safety Month blogs discusses how a risk assessment could address tasks performed within that equipment. There is a difference between providing a label to attach to equipment and performing a risk assessment. Which was the contractor hired to perform? Since most contract organizations use the more detailed incident energy analysis method rather than the PPE category method, there are two quick checks you can use to determine which one the contractor delivered. One check comes from 130.5(B). If equipment condition and maintenance is not questioned, the contractor is simply providing a label. Be aware that information on that label might create an unsafe condition for the employee. Another quick check is in 130.5(G). If the contractor did not address tasks conducted closer than the typical working distance, they are likely only providing a label. If they ask about the tasks to be performed on the specific equipment then provide the incident energy at the hand position, for example, they might be providing more than a label. Neither of these checks verify that a proper risk assessment has been performed but you are being provided with additional information necessary to conduct an assessment and develop safe work practices. These quick checks may help determine if the contractor performed the work that they were hired to perform. Determining the maximum voltage or incident energy is identification of electrical hazards. Risk assessments are much more involved and assessments for specific tasks are typically not conducted by a contract company. Providing labels or calculating incident energy at the hand position is not a confirmation that a contractor is qualified, or that a proper assessment was performed. There are many other things you must verify when hiring a contractor to conduct such work. Make sure that you do your homework before hiring someone to be responsible for your employee's safety. Next time: The 2021 edition of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code® (NEC®)? Subscribe to the NFPA Networkto stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: The Employee's Responsibility

What are the primary NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® requirements for an employee? Section 105.3(B) lists one. An employee must comply with the safety-related work practices and procedures provided by the employer. Public Law 91-596, “Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970” SEC. 5.(b) requires that each employee comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to the Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct. Most employees do not know the law but expect that their employer ensures that they are following it. One way for them to comply with respect to electrical hazards is to follow NFPA 70E. However, the employee's compliance with the law is typically dependent on the quality of the employer's electrical safety program.>  An employee has a great responsibility after being trained to use and follow the safety-related work practices and procedures for the tasks assigned. Once out in the workplace conducting daily assigned tasks, employees make decisions to apply that training and the steps detailed in the provided procedures. Following documented procedures is the easiest part of the employee's responsibility. However, the employee's safety is not solely addressed by following procedures. Safety training, safe work practices, and safety policies also include things often not part of the detailed work procedure for the assigned task.  The employee's training should teach them to recognize that new technology, new types of equipment, or changes in procedures affect their safety. They must recognize that their skills may not be sharp if they have not performed the task regularly. They must recognize that safety-related work practices not normally used during regular job duties may necessitate additional training. Although the employer must document employee training, the employee should question their training if job duties change.  Employees must be instilled with an awareness of potential electrical hazards and the self-discipline to control their own safety when working around electrical hazards. Awareness is entirely dependent on the employee. An employee must always be alert where electrical hazards might exist. An employee must recognize that they are impaired due to illness, fatigue, or other reason. Even a supervisor may request that the employee perform a task not originally assigned and the employee must recognize that that changes during the work that might affect their safety. The employee must be alert that reaching blindly into areas affects their safety.  The employee's training must also address illumination. The employee must realize that they should not enter a space unless the lighting enables them to perform the work safely. They must also use their training to recognize that a task should not be performed if insufficient lighting or an obstruction prevents them from seeing the location where the task is be performed. The employee is responsible for applying the training that conductive articles of jewelry and clothing should not be worn within the restricted approach boundary or where they present an electrical contact hazard. Only the employee can handle conductive materials, tools, and equipment in a manner that prevents unintentional contact with energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. The employee must apply the training to secure doors and hinged panels to prevent their swinging into them. The employee's training directs them to keep the working space clear to permit safe operation and maintenance of electrical equipment. Qualified and unqualified employees must use their training to anticipate equipment failure and that they should be protected from those hazards by suitable barricades and other alerting techniques.  The training provided to an employee must address these issues and more. Following detailed procedures is relatively easy. Following electrical safety principles and practices that were provided during training is a little more difficult for employees. The safe work practice that conductive jewelry not be worn should be discussed during training but it is typically not addressed in a detailed procedure. However, the employee is responsible for applying that safe work practice daily. Safety training must be provided by the employer. It is the employee's consistent use of this training that will dictate if they will be returning home uninjured at the end of the day. Remember, it is the law. Next time: Is the contractor printing labels or are they doing risk assessments. Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code® (NEC®)? Subscribe to NFPA Network to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.
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