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.

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Christopher Coache
Senior Electrical Engineer

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