What You Can Control

NFPA 70E Hierarchy of Controls

Safety programs are living documents. The release of the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, offers an excellent prompt for a review of a company’s electrical safety program by employers and employees once it is updated. This is particularly true since there were several changes to the program requirements in NFPA 70E.  

Your safety program should provide direction on all aspects of electrical safety, describe methods for assessing risks, and offer employees guidance for using the controls. An ongoing review should ensure procedures are effectively implemented.

The 2018 edition of NFPA 70E requires electrical safety principles as part of the program. Annex E offers samples such as inspecting and evaluating equipment; maintaining insulation and enclosure integrity; planning every job and documenting first-time procedures; de-energizing; anticipating unexpected events; identifying electrical hazards and reducing associated risk; protecting employees from shock, burn, blast and other hazards; using the right tools for the job; assessing people’s abilities and auditing the principles. 

The requirements for controls and procedures remain the same as well. Informational references are also found in Annex E and are summarized in the tables to the right. New and amended clauses in NFPA 70E include an inspection to verify newly installed or modified equipment or systems comply with applicable codes, consideration of the maintenance of equipment and systems, and a risk assessment procedure that addresses identification of hazards and a hierarchy of controls.

Electrical Safety Program Controls

Special attention should be given to this hierarchy of electrical safety program procedures. The hierarchy, seen above, establishes that certain protective measures must be implemented or attempted first. The need for awareness and self-discipline has been in NFPA 70E, but the hierarchy offers a progression for these procedures. 

The consideration of human error as a separate control element introduces human performance as part of risk management. Human performance examines organizational, leader and individual performance as factors in accident prevention.

A new aspect of the 2018 edition is the requirement for procedures to address job safety planning and job briefing. This addition introduces job- or task-specific procedures. Job safety plan procedures require that they be completed by a qualified person and provide a description of the job and individual tasks, an identification of electrical hazards, a shock and arc flash risk assessment, work procedures, special precautions, and energy source controls. The plan must also be documented. A job briefing must cover the plan and energized electrical work permit (if required) with additional plans and briefings if there is a change in the scope of work.

Electrical Safety Program Procedures

To ensure procedures are effective, incident investigations have been added and audit procedures amended to expand the review. A procedure must be in place to investigate all electrical incidents, whether it results in a fatality, an injury or even a close call or near miss. The program’s principles and procedures must be audited every three years. A field audit and lockout/tagout audits must be performed at intervals not to exceed one year.

NFPA 70E offers references to other standards such as ANSI/AIHA Z10, American National Standard for Occupational Health and Safety Management Systems and IEEE 3007.1, Recommended Practice for the Operation and Management of Industrial and Commercial Power Systems. These additional standards should provide guidance.

NFPA 70E Hierarchy of Controls


About the Author

Tom O'Connor

Safety Columnist

Tom O'Connor is safety and regulatory affairs manager for Intec, a safety consulting, training and publishing firm that offers on-site assistance and produces manuals, training videos and software for contractors. Reach him at toconnor@intecweb.com.


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