Train and train again: Stay compliant with NFPA 70E 2015

What does NFPA 70E 2015 specify when it comes to electrical safety training?

The 2015 updates to NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace demand close attention. Besides replacing the term "hazard analysis" with "risk assessment" throughout – and delineating all of the elements of this mandatory comprehensive risk assessment – the latest iteration of the standard broadens requirements for electrical safety training.

This training component is crucial for any plant looking to ensure OSHA compliance: OSHA requires that employers document and implement an electrical safety program that addresses exposure to not just known existing hazards but also those likely to exist in the workplace. Further, the program must be made available to any employee who might be exposed to electrical hazards.

What else does NFPA 70E 2015 specify when it comes to electrical safety training? Key points:

  • All employees who are exposed to electrical hazards where the risk has not been reduced to a safe level (where there are no exposed energized conductors and equipment is essentially stagnant) must receive risk and avoidance training. This includes a broad swath of personnel – from janitors to office workers. Training requirements vary based on the employee's role, of course, but known or potential exposure to electrical hazards should be recorded in job description for anyone who plugs into an electrical outlet.
  • Personnel in any industry who work on or around or who interact with electrical equipment (AC or DC voltages of 50 volts or more) or who are responsible for safety in the workplace must receive electrical safety training. If a worker doesn't receive proper safety training and is subsequently injured in an electrical incident, a plant manager can be held criminally liable.
  • Employees must be trained about boundaries, risk avoidance, and PPE for shock and arc flash following formal assessments of the risk for each of these hazards.

It's important to note that although NFPA 70E is a voluntary standard, some states and industries with more-restrictive occupational health and safety laws mandate compliance. And during a site inspection, OSHA can request records documenting that hazard assessments were performed.

Meeting NFPA 70E 2015's specifications is a multifaceted, continuous process. Safety training must evolve as a facility does – as new electrical equipment is added, for example, and as workforce turnover is experienced. For more on meeting these challenges, see our new special report, "Great Power, Great Responsibility."

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