The Importance of the NFPA 70E in Building Safety
Electricity powers almost every aspect of our world, and we couldn’t live without it, but for those who have to work in close proximity to energized parts, it proves an extremely dangerous aspect of their careers. In fact, in the two decades between 1992 and 2012, there were 6,000 fatal electrical injuries and a further 30,000 nonfatal injuries, and those working in construction and maintenance occupations make up the majority of these numbers. These statistics led OSHA to make electrical safety in the workplace their major priority, and since, numbers have steadily fallen.
As of 2018, the NFPA 70E is the newest edition of the workplace standard of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and it covers all the safety requirements for employees. It not only focuses on keeping workers safe but also in doing so without hindering their ability to do their jobs.
So why is it so important for workplaces and facility managers to ensure their buildings are up to the new standard?
The NFPA 70E has more thorough guidance on how risk assessment and preventative measures are taken, which significantly reduces the safety risk for employees in the workplace. Now, live work must be the very last available option to fix the issue, once all other possibilities have been ruled out.
Verification of an Electrically Safe Work Environment
Any other work must still be considered a hazard until a voltage test has proven that there is no hazard. The NFPA 70E guides employees through the steps to take to verify the area is electrically safe, rather than having to jump around Art.120 to find out what they needed to do as the followed steps elsewhere, as they previously did. Now, the process is laid out logically for employees to follow step-by-step, leading to fewer mistakes and fewer injuries.
Evolution of Risk Assessment
Before NFPA 70E’s introduction, working in a live situation brought out a bravado in workers with no one willing to voice their concerns about the risks involved, but now it is required that there is an extensive assessment of the risk of injury an employee may face. This brings about a major improvement in building safety for electrical engineers.
One aspect of the NFPA 70E that needs to be noted by all workplaces and facility managers is the requirement for their equipment to meet certain requirements (outlined in 130.2(A)(4)), specifically that they must be properly installed and maintained. Now, maintenance must be considered, and equipment cannot simply be set up and forgotten about until something goes wrong.
It’s crucial that workplaces provide the safest environments possible for electrical workers and engineers, not just to meet the legal standards but also to ensure that everyone makes it home in the same condition they left it in.