A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Setting Up an Electrical Safety Program (Part 8 - Awareness)
Some electrical safety requirements in NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® are overarching concepts. Section 110.5(D) is one such requirement. An electrical safety program (ESP) must be designed to instill awareness and self-discipline in employees. By learning awareness and self-discipline, employees will begin to accept that their actions are often among the primary causes of injuries. The employer must develop policies and procedures that flesh out the requirement to achieve this safety goal.
Training employees to be vigilant of the electrical hazards lurking in the workplace is difficult. There are things that every employee should know for their safety. For example, recognizing when a flexible cord is damaged is a skill everyone can benefit from. An employee operating an overhead electric crane needs focused training to know specific hazards and warning signs that may be present. An ESP must contain policies, procedures, and a training program to address this. Having awareness of potential hazards serves no purpose if there is no awareness on how to avoid the hazard. Requiring an employee to conduct a task that exposes them to a reported hazard or to a hazard that they are not trained to avoid will quickly undermine a well-intentioned ESP. Awareness also means awareness of others around oneself. Employees need to be aware of how their work affects the safety of others. Employees should be taught to help others be aware of hazards and inappropriate behavior that puts someone at risk. Management must be committed to encouraging this awareness.
Self-discipline, the other half of the requirement, is also difficult to teach. The ESP program must incorporate policies that encourage and remind employees that safety starts with them. Requiring and allowing an employee to choose safety is the first step. They are the only one who knows if they are wearing meltable undergarments. They can recognize that they are suffering fatigue after six hours into a double shift or are suffering from an illness that puts them at risk. They are solely responsible for properly donning personal protective equipment. They must be taught that their action or inaction will decide the outcome of day. This takes commitment from management. An employee who has the awareness and self-discipline to report that proper tools are not present onsite must not be reprimanded for waiting to be given the appropriate equipment nor should the task be given to an employee willing to risk safety.
Teaching by example goes a long way in complying with these requirements but first it takes a well-developed ESP to lay the foundation for electrical safety. As a safe work practice standard, NFPA 70E does not detail how to instill these principles in an employee. Not all training methods or concepts are appropriate for every workplace or every employee. The employer must decide how to incorporate awareness and self-discipline into an ESP and the best way to pass that information to their employees. It is the ESP policies and procedures that employees will be trained to follow not the NFPA 70E requirement for awareness and self-discipline.