Author(s): Derek Vigstol. Published on September 1, 2019.

In Compliance | NEC

Electrical safety for a non-electrical audience


Electrical safety often gets viewed by non-electrical occupations as an “electrician thing” or as that small piece of an OSHA 10 or OSHA 30 class. The truth is that many non-electrical occupations need every bit of electrical safety training that electricians and electrical maintenance technicians do. A recent training for a group of individuals involved in the plumbing, pipefitting, and mechanical trades showed me just how important electrical safety training, as well as NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, are for this group.

Early on the first day of a two-day NFPA 70E training, we discussed one concept of electrical safety that the attendees asked for clarification on. In fact, what they were looking for was guidance on how to comply with the concept of a “qualified person.” Because many of the safety-related work practices found in NFPA 70E depend on the worker being a qualified person, many of the long-held beliefs in these occupations did not comply with what NFPA 70E lays out. In order to set the foundation for the rest of the class, we needed to take a deeper look at how NFPA 70E defines a qualified person, which is “one who has demonstrated skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to identify the hazards and reduce the associated risk.”

There are two parts to this definition that are very important: that the person has proven that they possess a knowledge of the construction and operation of the equipment to be worked on and the skills to work on this piece of equipment, and that the person has received safety training on how to identify the hazards and reduce the risk associated with the task being performed.

The first part of the definition, “demonstrating the skills and knowledge,” seemed to raise more questions than it answered. “Who do I have to prove this to? Who determines what a sufficient level of knowledge and skill is? How can I do this if I am on a service call by myself?” The questions just kept coming, so we needed to simplify our response since this was a new concept for this audience. We explained that some entity, usually their customer, is requesting the work be performed. Then somebody, usually a supervisor, is responsible for assigning the individual to perform the work. The entity assigning the worker must ensure that if the task requires a qualified person, the worker assigned to the task must be qualified for the work being performed. In order to do this, the worker must have demonstrated their skills and knowledge to the entity assigning them the task.

The second half of this definition is based on the qualified person having been trained to recognize hazards and how to protect themselves and others from the hazards that exist. This is where NFPA 70E training comes in. However, NFPA 70E doesn’t spell out who can provide this training or what qualifications a trainer must have in order to teach workers about electrical hazards and how to reduce the associated risks. Again, this comes down to the entity that is making the determination that a worker is a qualified person. Due diligence must be undertaken to ensure that a person is being trained effectively.

Who ensures that this actually happens? Ultimately, it is the employer of the qualified person, but this is also a function of the host/contract employer relationship that sometimes gets overlooked. It is the responsibility of the contract employer to understand and comply with all of the electrical safety-related procedures; the host employer is still responsible for overseeing any work being performed on their watch. Therefore, the host employer must also do their due diligence to ensure that the contract employer’s qualified persons have taken the needed steps to be deemed qualified.

This doesn’t mean that the host employer must also make the determination of whether an employee is qualified. Instead, the contract employer must provide documentation that the contract employees have taken adequate training and have proven their skills and knowledge related to the electrical equipment to be worked on. This information is required by NFPA 70E to be documented, and the process for this should be outlined in the company’s electrical safety program.

Lastly, it is important to know that, because of the nature of determining a qualified person, there is no way to create any sort of general qualified-person credential that employees can carry with them to prove they are qualified. However, there are credentials that can be used by employers as a tool to assist in making the determination. Take for instance the Certified Electrical Safety Technician® certification program; while this credential in no way deems a person qualified, it is nevertheless a way for an employee to demonstrate that they have taken the proper training and have gained the needed knowledge to identify hazards and control the risk. Combined with licensing and work experience, an employer can get a sense of where an employee is at in order to make the qualified person determination. 

Derek Vigstol is an NFPA technical lead, Electrical Tech Services. NFPA members and AHJs can use the Technical Questions tab to post queries on NFPA 70 at