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NFPA 70E: Five key revisions for 2021

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Millions of people work with or near electricity or electrical equipment each day.

“We all work around electricity, but we may or may not have strong familiarity with the actual hazards of electricity,” said Hugh Hoagland, senior partner and co-founder of e-Hazard, an electrical safety training provider. “We get used to it. You don’t think about the actual hazard every time you do an electrical task, some of which are basically inane if nothing goes wrong. But they can be catastrophic if something goes wrong.”

To give employers and workers a “how to” guide for eliminating electrical hazards, the National Fire Protection Association has published the 2021 edition of NFPA 70E, its standard for electrical safety in the workplace. OSHA considers NFPA 70E “the primary consensus standard addressing electrical hazards.” Although OSHA doesn’t enforce NFPA 70E, the agency can use the standard to support violations of its General Duty Clause by showing that a hazard is recognized and a feasible means of abatement exists.

Associate Editor Barry Bottino discusses this article in the January 2021 episode of Safety+Health's “On the Safe Side” podcast.

So, any employer whose workers deal with electricity can benefit from staying up to date with NFPA 70E, which is revised every three years. Input on suggested updates comes from the general public, professional associations and experts such as Hoagland, and goes through NFPA’s 70E committee.

According to Hoagland, the ultimate goal of those who suggest NFPA 70E changes each cycle is twofold. “It’s worker safety and clarity,” he said. “We’re trying to make the standard more practical.”

NFPA Senior Electrical Engineer Christopher Coache said, “Over the last few cycles, the standard has taken steps for people not to misuse it and injure themselves. I like it because it’s easier for people to understand.”

The 2021 edition of NFPA 70E features five key changes.

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