Author(s): Jeff Sargent. Published on March 2, 2015.

A FEW YEARS AGO, I wrote a Journal column discussing the creation of two certification programs associated with NFPA 70E®, Electrical Safety in the Workplace®. I concluded by telling readers that more details were on the way. I wasn’t incorrect—just a little premature.

At the time, it was thought the programs were close to being ready for prime time. In fact, more work was needed before these two very important certification programs could be offered to the public. A professional credential associated with NFPA 70E had to be done right and it had to be meaningful. After all, the goal of these programs is to promote the safety mission of this important industry standard.

NFPA staff, along with volunteer subject-matter experts, worked out the important details that make the NFPA Certified Electrical Safety Compliance Professional (CESCP) and Certified Electrical Safety Worker (CESW) programs the industry gold standards for certification. The CESCP program was launched in mid-2013 and targets persons whose job responsibilities include oversight of a workplace electrical safety program. Program development, as well as implementation and assurance of ongoing compliance with the electrical safety program within their company or facility, would be part of the typical job description of someone holding this certification.

In January, NFPA launched the CESW program for professionals who work on electrical equipment and circuits, including construction electricians, maintenance electricians, and other electrical workers. These workers perform tasks that expose them to hazards that can result in serious injury or death.

The term “qualified person” is defined in the 2015 edition of NFPA 70E as “one who has demonstrated skill and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to identify and avoid the hazards involved.” The revised definition aligns with the one used by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. The importance of this change is that workers cannot be considered “qualified” until they demonstrate the skills and knowledge to safely perform a specific electrical task. Holding a professional credential such as an electrical certification or license does not in and of itself demonstrate that the holder is a “qualified person”; an effective electrical safety program within a company or contracting firm is critical to making sure that workers exposed to electrical hazards are qualified.

This is where the new NFPA certifications fit in. A relevant professional credential such as the NFPA certification can be used as an empowering tool in developing and maintaining an electrical safety program within a company or contracting firm. Specific education and practical experience requirements are needed to qualify to take the certification exams, and maintaining certification is achieved through meeting ongoing training and practical application requirements.

The mission of NFPA 70E is simple: make the workplace electrically safe. Knowledge of this standard provides a solid platform on which to create and maintain that electrically safe workplace. Holders of the CESCP and CESW certifications have demonstrated an ongoing competency in understanding what is necessary to make a workplace electrically safe, and they are especially qualified to develop, manage, and maintain a company’s electrical safety assets.

Jeffrey Sargent is a regional eletrical code specialist for NFPA.