In a general context, a “qualified person” has a very broad definition. Outside of the codes and standards world, qualified means having the qualities, accomplishments, etc. that fit a person for a specific function, office or the like. In the electrical construction industry, codes and standards define “qualified person” in the context of how the requirements use the term.
A number of rules in the National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace require qualified persons to perform a task or an installation. Both define qualified persons, and the definitions they use are quite similar. The objective of the NEC and NFPA 70E is to provide some detail about what constitutes a qualified person, as referred to in the Code and standards, and clarify with emphasis that the NEC and NFPA 70E neither determine who is qualified nor indicate who should perform the work. This is beyond the scope of both the NEC and NFPA 70E.
To start, the definitions of qualified person in OSHA CFR Regulations 1910 (general industry) and 1926 (construction) provided the basis for the more specific definitions contained within the NEC and NFPA 70E.
For 1910 purposes, OSHA defines the term as someone who has both a certification and industry experience. The construction regulation 1926 contains a bit more criteria, which includes a recognized degree, certificate or professional standing, or demonstration of related abilities by extensive knowledge, training and experience. The key difference is the demonstrated abilities must be related to the project or work.
Many rules in the NEC and NFPA 70E use the term qualified person. If a term appears in more than one article of the Code or NFPA 70E, the NEC Style Manual indicates it should be included in Article 100 (definitions). The NEC and NFPA 70E definitions of qualified persons compare as follows:
NEC Article 100 Definition
One who has skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of the electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to recognize and avoid the hazards involved.
NFPA 70E Article 100 Definition
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 and avoid the hazards involved.
It is important to understand the differences and the context in which they are used in the NFPA electrical standards.
These standards do not regulate a person’s qualifications or credentials in the craft, nor should they. Regulating agencies establish requirements for specific construction industry licenses, certification or other credentials. These are typically at the state or local levels and simply require an industry credential to perform work legally in that particular jurisdiction. It is generally not the job of the authority having jurisdiction (as referred to in the codes and standards) to determine qualifications and determine who is or is not qualified. That responsibility generally rests with owners, employers and sometimes an applicable regulating agency.
When used in the NEC, “qualified person” primarily relates to the ability to understand the equipment and installations covered, recognize hazards involved through training, and attain compliance with NEC rules when performing installations.
The definition in NFPA 70E differs slightly in that it includes requirements for demonstrating the appropriate knowledge and skillsets and require such persons to have received safety training to identify and avoid electrical hazards. But to whom should these knowledge and skillsets be demonstrated? In the case of electrical safety in the workplace, it is usually the employer. The employer is responsible for worker safety, but employers and employees share this responsibility. Employers (electrical contractors) are responsible for assigning qualified persons to perform tasks and operations within the knowledge and skillsets. Workers can be qualified in one area and unqualified in others. Employees have a responsibility to know the limits of their own qualifications and should admit when they are not qualified to perform a particular task or function.
In the safety system, there is often a breakdown here, and it may lead to risks. Qualified persons must have experience, knowledge, skills and safety training, and most important, they must understand the limits of their own qualifications and should admit when they need additional training.