Hartley Webb, a MEMIC Safety Specialist, tells me OSHA is inspecting and citing workplaces—under the General Duty Clause—that are not in compliance with the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E Standard.
If your workplace has electricians, mechanics or technicians that work near live electric circuits (exceeding 50 volts to ground), then they are at risk of electrocution as well as injury from arc blast and arc flash. If a tool or piece of equipment accidentally contacts live electricity, the “welding-style” flash that occurs is very hazardous. A pea-sized piece of copper expands as it vaporizes to a volume of over 36 cubic feet or the equivalent of two, average-sized refrigerators. The heat during this arc event reaches up to 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit (roughly four times the temperature of the Sun’s surface).
Due to these hazards, the NFPA established procedures for working on or near energized electrical systems. These procedures are titled NFPA 70E – Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. The standard covers how to avoid and protect workers from electrical hazards during maintenance and installation procedures.
In part to keep pace with this national consensus standard, OSHA updated their General Industry Electrical Standard (1910 Subpart S) and published the final rule in the February 14, 2007 Federal Register. An excerpt from the summary follows:
“The Agency has determined that electrical hazards in the workplace pose a significant risk of injury or death to employees, and that the requirements in the revised standard, which draw heavily from the 2000 edition of the National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces (NFPA 70E), and the 2002 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC), are reasonably necessary to provide protection from these hazards.”
The regulation went into effect on August 17, 2007 and can be viewed at:
In addition, a 2009 update of the NFPA 70E is slated for release this September. The standard is not free and must be purchased. You can buy and view a summary of improved work practices and key changes to the standard on the NFPA website:
I’m sure this update will raise some questions about electrical work within your organization, but you need to temper potential frustration and look at it as "Are we, or aren't we, in compliance?"