A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Setting Up an Electrical Safety Program (Part 2 - Principles)

May is Electrical Safety Month which is a good time to review your company’s Electrical Safety Program (ESP). Electrical safety does not start with the employees, it starts with management before the first employee steps into a facility to conduct any task. It is impossible to properly train employees in electrical safety in any facility without it. There can be no improvement in electrical safety without a well-established and documented ESP. Management must first determine central safety principles when setting up the program. Section 110.5(E) of NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® requires that the principles be identified. What is a principle? One definition of the term is a fundamental, primary, or general law or truth from which others are derived. This is perhaps the best definition of how the term should be applied in NFPA 70E.

Management must commit to protecting employees by establishing principles. Principles are the broad statements of how electrical safety will be handled within the facility. NFPA 70E, Annex E includes some things that could be used as a safety principle. Principles could include the following.

  1. Achieving a zero-injury facility
  2. Inspecting and evaluating all electrical equipment
  3. Maintaining electrical equipment’s integrity
  4. Assessing employee abilities
  5. Documenting procedures
  6. Planning every job
  7. Identifying electrical hazards and reducing the associated risk
  8. Anticipating unexpected events before tasks are started
  9. Establishing an electrically safe work condition as the primary safe work procedure
  10. Protecting employees from recognized electrical hazards
  11. Using the right tools for the job
  12. Addressing all employee safety concerns
  13. Auditing the principles, policies, and procedures

NFPA 70E does not set principles. It is the employer’s responsibility to do so for their facility. Principles must be documented to form the basis for detailed safe work procedures. For example, a detailed procedure would address what is involved under the principle of planning every job or task. Care should be taken when setting principles since they are typically not changed by the nature of being a safety principle. The principles must be considered whenever a policy or procedure is developed. Most importantly, management must allow employees to work under the documented principles to advance safety in the workplace.

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Christopher Coache
Senior Electrical Engineer

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