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Some promising announcements related to building and life safety were made this week in the UK.


The secretary of state for Housing, Communities, and Local Government introduced a new £1 billion Building Safety Fund (more than 1.2 billion USD) on May 26 to assist with the removal of non-ACM (non-aluminum composite) cladding on high rise residential buildings. The funding will be added to the £600 million (approximately $660,000 USD) set aside in 2019 to pay for the replacement of unsafe exterior walls on buildings over 18 meters (roughly 59 feet) that do not meet building regulations, according to a prospectus for the fund.


The funding for 2020-2021 is designed to alleviate the burden on leaseholders who are being asked to foot significant bills for the removal of combustible exterior wall assemblies, including plastic-laden cladding and insulation, on private high-rise buildings. Additionally, the monies can be used to offset siding costs in public buildings where assessments would have otherwise been passed along to renters. As part of the launch this week, the government stressed that landlords must cover renovation costs without increasing rent for their tenants.


On the same day, UK officials announced that changes had been made to building safety regulations—specifically the guidance known as Approved Document B. The new mandate calls for high rise residences over 11 meters tall (about 36 feet) to be sprinklered and feature consistent wayfinding signage. Current regulations in the UK call for sprinklers at 30 meters (about 98 feet) and taller. The lower height requirements go into effective on November 26.


The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government press release also stated that the housing secretary, mayors, and local leaders are committed to ensuring that critical building safety improvements continue during the coronavirus pandemic.


NFPA has heavily reported on the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire that took 72 lives when fire rushed up the side of a 24-story apartment building that included ACM cladding and other combustible exterior wall components. In the three years since that tragedy, UK officials and business owners have come under fire for dragging their feet on code enforcement, non-compliant cladding removal efforts, the remediation costs reportedly being passed on to tenants, lax code enforcement, and other infractions.


In response to the deadly fire, NFPA developed a risk assessment tool for existing building stock with combustible exterior walls. The incident has also been covered extensively in NFPA Journal, including a recent NFPA Journal article on the difficulty of obtaining data related to facade fires and a new Learn Something New video that highlights the persistent global problem of facade fires. Grenfell was also a key factor in NFPA creating the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, which identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards.


The steps being taken by elected officials in the UK show progress in addressing the components of the Ecosystem, in particular investment in safety and government responsibility.

In light of the mass protests in Minneapolis, NFPA Journal Podcast is running an episode that first aired on January 12, 2016, which explores the many implications of civil unrest and mass protests for city fire departments. Most of the audio in the episode is from fire officials in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, who discussed their experiences putting out fires amid gunshots and other challenges during the dramatic protests that occurred in their cities after two African American citizens were killed by police officers in 2014 and 2015. The presentations are from the 2015 NFPA Responder Forum.

 

Listen to the podcast here.

 

Additionally, a November/December 2016 NFPA Journal article, "Civil Action," explored how a fire chief in Charlotte, North Carolina, dealt with the fatal police shooting of a black man and subsequent protests in that city in September 2016. The chief was coincidentally attending the 2016 Urban Fire Forum at NFPA headquarters when he was notified of the shooting, and the Metro Chiefs had been discussing past protests. (Read the white paper they endorsed here.)

 

Now, similar events to the ones that occurred in Ferguson in Charlotte are unfolding again.

 

Last night, demonstrations erupted in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in response to the death of a 46-year-old African American man named George Floyd. Video had emerged days earlier of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face-down on the road. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

 

As part of the protests that followed, angry citizens have looted stores and set numerous fires, including to a police precinct. While the demonstrations have been most pronounced in Minneapolis, protests have erupted across the country, including in Louisville, Kentucky, Denver, Colorado, and New York City.

 

On the re-aired NFPA Journal Podcast you’ll hear the accounts from firefighters involved in responding to the protests in Ferguson and Baltimore. They share what they learned, and how they did their jobs in the face of a very difficult situation.

OSHA requires employers to provide their employees with a working environment that is free from known and recognized hazards. That is the law and there is no getting around it. For the electrical world, in order to do this, an employer must develop an electrical safety program. This program becomes the blueprint for the procedures that employees must follow, and the safety measures that employers must put in place to protect employees from the hazards that electricity presents.

 

But what goes into developing an electrical safety program? As we close out National Electrical Safety Month this week, we’re addressing this question that has troubled employers since they first learned they need to have a safety program. Developing an electrical safety program that ensures nothing bad will ever happen is the top priority from most employers, however, it's difficult to know how every written procedure will work before putting it into practice and seeing how well it performs. So, where do we start?

 

NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, spells out what an electrical safety program must contain in section 110.1 in the 2018 edition. (And just a side note - the 2021 edition that will be released later this year will see this section shift to 110.5. This is essentially just a re-organization move as other requirements are moved to Article 110 from 130.) There is also information found in Annex E that is intended to help employers understand what goes into an electrical safety program. But regardless of where in the book this information resides, these are just the building blocks; how the program looks, feels, and gets developed is 100 percent up to the employer.

 

70EThe first thing I like to stress when I am in front of a class, like the Developing an Electrical Safety Program Workshop that we developed for the NFPA training department, is that the program must identify the principles on which it is based. Examples of electrical safety program principles can be found in Annex E. My personal favorite is to de-energize whenever and wherever possible. So many put such an emphasis in their programs around procedures and policies for working energized that they forget the most important thing:  the safest way to work on electrical equipment is in an electrically safe work condition. An electrical safety program that makes an electrically safe work condition the number one priority is a requirement if an employer is following NFPA 70E. Other examples of electrical safety principles to develop a program around might be that all work will have some sort of pre-planning activity prior to commencing, or another principle could be to expect the unexpected. If it can go wrong, it probably will at some point.

 

Once we have our guiding principles upon which our program will be based, we need to have a way to measure the success of what we have built. This is where the program controls come into play:

 

  • What type of training will you provide your employees?
  • How will you ensure that employees are indeed qualified persons for a given task or on a certain piece of equipment?
  • How will an employee make sure that every necessary question has been asked and answered before they start the task?

 

These are just a few examples of the controls that must be worked into an employer’s program so that the program has the best chance of providing that workplace free from hazards to employees that OSHA requires.

 

Last but certainly not least, after we have identified what our program is based on and how to ensure the success of our program, then we can get into to the details, or the actual procedures that employees will follow. The procedures will spell out the specific steps to ensuring employee safety. These will include items like the steps for establishing an electrically safe work condition, assessing the risk to the employee performing certain tasks, and the process for filling out an energized electrical work permit. There must also be a procedure laid out in the program that spells out how it will be determined what additional measures must be taken to protect employees when they must be exposed to a hazard. Keep in mind that even if a program is based on zero energized work being performed, even the process of establishing an electrically safe work condition can expose an employee to both shock and arc flash hazards. These hazards exist until the voltage has been verified that it has been removed and steps have been taken to ensure it can’t be turned back on without the worker’s knowledge. Whatever measures are taken, they must be determined in accordance with the hierarchy of risk control methods which emphasizes what priority must be given to each method of mitigating risks to employees. This hierarchy lists hazard elimination as the most effective method and personal protective equipment, or PPE, as the least effective method in protecting employees. Therefore, it should also make sense that an electrical safety program must make an established and verified electrically safe work condition a founding principle for which the program is based on.

 

This is a lot to take in and can be a massive undertaking depending on the size and type of employer. For example, a “Big 3” auto maker’s electrical safety program most likely took many months and many people to develop, whereas a coffee shop in the local strip mall might not require the same level of detail and procedures due to the nature of the work and the type of equipment involved. One employer might benefit from establishing an electrical safety committee that will handle the development, implementation, and auditing of the program. Others might have a committee of one. Each program is as unique as the employer who develops it. And since the electrical safety program is the document that protects an employer’s most critical asset, an investment in time and money to establish, implement, and improve a program that is uniquely specific to an employer is worth every minute and every penny.

 

So, if you or your employer does not have a program in place, it is time to stop everything and build one. Not only will it help save the lives of employees, but it is also the law.  

 

Interested to learn more? My colleague, Corey Hannahs, wrote recently about electrical safety programs and the knowledge, application, and responsibility that must be shared by both employees and employers.

 

Find additional information about the standard by visiting the NFPA 70E webpage.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

70E

What are the primary NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace requirements for an employer? Section 105.3(A) narrows it to basically two. The first is that the employer establish, document, and implement safety-related work practices and procedures. The second is that the employer provide safety-related work practices and procedures training to employees. From the federal side, 1910.332(b)(1) states that employees must be trained in and familiar with the safety-related work practices that pertain to their respective job assignments. Before any of this starts the employer must be committed to improving electrical safety within their facility.

 

Overriding principles to protect employees must be established. Management must commit to protecting the employee by providing guidelines. Establishing an electrically safe work condition will be the primary safe work procedure. All electrical equipment will be inspected and maintained. All work tasks will be planned. Proper tools and equipment will be provided. Employee qualifications will be ensured. Electrical installations will comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC). All employee safety concerns will be addressed. These principles should be documented in order to form the basis for the safe work procedures.

 

In order to establish safety-related practices and procedures, the employer must understand the electrical hazards and risks that employees face as part of their daily tasks. Do employees use portable tools? Does a security guard turn the production floor lights on at a panelboard? What voltages are present in the facility? Are contractors hired to work on electrical equipment? Do contractors engage in energized work? Do electricians install equipment, or do they also maintain it? Do employees open electrical equipment enclosures? Once it has been determined that employees are at risk, it is necessary to determine steps to protect them.

 

With an understanding of the tasks performed and risks faced, and by overlaying the safety principles, the employer can establish safe work procedures. Employee involvement in developing procedures typically increases the likelihood of the procedure being used. What are the steps necessary to safely operate Circuit Breaker #23 in Subpanel #8 to turn on the production floor lights? How does a cord-and-plug connected drill get inspected before use? What is the proper method of establishing an electrically safe work condition for Acme Company, Model 123 motor starter as it has been installed on Production Line #5? What about the starter on Production Line #1? What is the correct lockout procedure for a hydraulic press? What is the applicable testing protocol for insulated gloves? The procedures will be used as part of the required field audits. They should be detailed and controlled so that continued improvement can be implemented.

 

Once all this is documented, the practices and procedures must be implemented. Placing the documents into a file cabinet without this stage is a job poorly done. How will all this safety information be distributed? Who is responsible for making sure the proper information is given to those in need? How will training be implemented? Who oversees implementation of the safety program? How will revisions be incorporated?

 

Lastly, employees must be trained to follow the procedures. How will they be trained? Is there necessary prequalification? Who is qualified to train an employee for a specific task? Who verifies that they are qualified to perform the task? Does the ability to follow the procedure qualify an employee for the task? How will general safety training occur when a detailed procedure may not be necessary, such as how to properly unplug equipment from a receptacle? How does an employee recognize that it is safe to operate electrical equipment? How will a qualified person demonstrate the skills necessary for a task? How will the training be documented? How will the field audits address training or procedure deficiencies?

 

Safe work practices, policies, and procedures will be part of the larger electrical safety program. Electrical safety is not a static thing. Lessons learned through field audits and employee feedback should be evaluated to improve safety. Procedures should be reviewed for relevance and new ones developed when necessary. The goal is to minimize risk and work towards elimination of employee injuries.

 

For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange.

 

Next time: An Employee’s Responsibility.

 

Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code (NEC)? Subscribe to the NFPA Network to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

electrical safety month

“It’s the most wonderful time, of the yearrrr…”  Yes, it’s technically not Christmas, and I certainly can’t carry a tune like Andy Williams, but gifts are in abundance this time of year if you know where to look for them. Birds singing, flowers blooming, gardens growing - these are just some of things that most people come to enjoy during the springtime months.  

 

But for those of us who work with and around electricity, May brings us a different kind of gift in the form of National Electrical Safety Month. The Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), a non-profit organization dedicated exclusively to promoting electrical safety at home and in the workplace, promotes this campaign every year that focuses on educating key audiences on the steps that can be taken to reduce the number of electrically-related fires, fatalities, injuries, and property loss.   

 

I know what you’re thinking, “How can Electrical Safety Month be considered a gift?”  For those who don’t quite see that yet, let me explain further. This gift isn’t typical. It does not come with a gift receipt and you can't return it. You either accept it, or you don’t. It is, however, a “one size fits all” kind of present. When accepted, this gift continues to keep on giving, mostly in the form of arriving home daily after work, kissing your spouse, and receiving those amazing “Mommy’s home!” or “Daddy’s home!” hugs from your children. You know - the things that matter most to you.   

 

Being able to work daily in and around electricity in a safe manner allows us and our coworkers to return home unharmed to our loved ones at the end of every shift. It is my personal belief that safety can only happen with three key components all working together in unison: knowledge, application, and responsibility (KAR).  

 

Knowledge is provided through adequate training. Application comes through applying the training that was received and following a well-designed Electrical Safety Program (ESP). So, who is responsible for driving the KAR down Electric Avenue (go ahead and sing it, I know you want to) everyday? Both employers and employees have a shared responsibility to one another for ensuring workplace safety:   

 

  • KNOWLEDGE - Employers must provide, at minimum, the training required for the employee to do their job safely. Employees must accept, and fully understand, the training provided. Employers and employees should work together to create an ESP that meets the needs of the job and is fully understood by all parties.

 

  • APPLICATION – Employees must apply the knowledge that they have received and the ESP to their everyday tasks without taking shortcuts or skipping processes. If job tasks or conditions change where employees recognize they don’t have proper training to do the job safely, or is not defined within the ESP, they must speak up to their employer and get proper training before doing the task.

 

  • RESPONSIBILITY – Employers and employees have a shared accountability to one another. Employers must provide the training necessary, develop an ESP for employees to follow, continually listen to employee concerns and, when necessary, be willing to sacrifice profits for safety. Employees must apply their knowledge and training every day, without taking shortcuts, as well as speak up when they do not have proper training or understanding. If either party fails to provide or follow these guidelines, the safety of all will be lost.

 

The KAR acronym and associated thoughts behind it are mine and mine alone. They are by no means implied to be anything other than a mechanism that I have found to help me personally understand over the past 25+ years what’s necessary for electrical safety to work. 

 

Employers should seek out training and workplace guidelines from Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements and recognized industry standards such as NFPA 70EStandard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. The purpose of NFPA 70E is to provide a practical safe working area for employees relative to the hazards arising from the use of electricity.  It is an internationally accepted American National Standard that provides safety policies, procedures, and process controls for installation as well as maintenance. Article 110 of NFPA 70E also offers insight into the critical components of a well-designed, effective ESP.  While not typically adopted legislatively, NFPA 70E is utilized by employers to help fulfill OSHA obligations and as a means to ensure the safety of the businesses most valued asset, their employees.     

 

Although what drives it may change, few people ever lose the wonder and excitement that go along with Christmas morning. As children, we live for waking up way earlier than we typically would to run down the stairs and see what Santa has placed under the tree. As parents, our pleasure comes from seeing the joy on the faces of our children. If safety is the gift, then NFPA 70E is the beautiful wrapping and bow that make it a gift. Without it, it's just a box. NFPA 70E makes electrical workplace safety what it is. And why does accepting the gift of safety matter? Because of the things that matter the most to you.

 

Learn more about NFPA 70E on NFPA's webpage.

 

 As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, pleasevisit our webpage. 

 



As we head into the summer months and our thermometer readings tick higher and higher, we all know the discomfort involved with getting into a sweltering vehicle that's been sitting in the sun. Under such circumstances, interior car temperatures can climb to over 150 degrees Fahrenheit. It's certainly unsafe to leave a person or a pet inside a vehicle that hot, but what about a bottle of hand sanitizer? After all, alcohol-based hand sanitizers are considered flammable liquids. 

 

Despite some information currently being released on social media and in the news, the short answer is no. From a fire safety standpoint, it is not unsafe to leave hand sanitizer inside a hot vehicle. Here's why.

 

Flashpoint does not equal ignition temperature 

 

While it's true that most hand sanitizers have a flashpoint around room temperature, that doesn't mean the liquid will all of a sudden catch fire if it reaches that temperature. Flashpoint is a technical term used to characterize the propensity of a liquid to burn. It defines the temperature at which a liquid gives off enough vapor to become ignitible in the air. At that temperature, however, you still need an ignition source like a flame from a candle or a lighter for ignition to occur. 

 

This point became muddled through a recent news story from Wisconsin. A fire department there publicly shared an image from an incident that reportedly occurred in Brazil, showing a burned car door after hand sanitizer being stored in the vehicle was exposed to a flame. Many erroneously interpreted the department's warning as saying hand sanitizer can spontaneously ignite inside a hot car, which is untrue. "Simply be careful and realize that a product we all use very frequently can be dangerous if it contacts open flame of any kind, but specifically cigarettes or those from grills," the department clarified. 

 

Spontaneous ignition, on the other hand, involves a substance self-heating to a point where it ignites, without the need for any outside ignition source like a flame. Hand sanitizer is not subject to self-heating and would require temperatures to reach over 700 degrees Fahrenheit to spontaneously ignite, according to Guy Colonna, director of Technical Services at NFPA. 

 

"Spontaneous ignition would be an ignition source independent of a flame or a spark, [and] it requires a material that is reactive to do what's called self-heat," Colonna says in a new video interview on the topic (above). "Internally, it undergoes a reaction and changes its properties, and when changing its properties, it releases lots of heat energy. Hand sanitizer, the alcohol [in it], is a material not inclined to do that. ... The ignition temperature of the alcohols are going to be something in excess of 700 degrees Fahrenheit." 

 

In other words, while hand sanitizer gives off ignitable vapors at roughly room temperature or above, that vapor-air mixture still needs to be exposed to very high temperatures to ignite. A flame can do it. A hot car can't.

 

Still a fire hazard 

 

All of this said, hand sanitizer still presents fire safety concerns, especially when stored in bulk quantities. For any storage amount over 5 gallons, NFPA 30, Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, would apply. That was the message included in a Learn Something New (LSN) video released last month. 

 

"What we're seeing during [the coronavirus] pandemic is a lot of hand sanitizer being stored in places you might expect, like hospitals, but also in places that haven't traditionally stored such liquids," I say in the video. "A Tennessee man, for example, made headlines in March for having stockpiled almost 18,000 bottles of hand sanitizer." In doing so, Colonna says in the video, these individuals or companies may be compromising safety, if protection systems designed to protect the storage of such quantities of flammable liquids are not in place. 

 

Watch the full LSN video here.

 

As stay-at-home policies ease and businesses reopen across the country, building owners and facility managers of offices, restaurants, and retail stores face unique challenges as they enter “the new normal.” Working to adhere to public health requirements and guidelines in response to COVID-19, businesses of all sizes are adjusting their physical configurations and operational usage to help minimize employee and customer exposure to the virus.

 

In that process, however, adequate levels of fire and life safety must be maintained.

 

With these challenges in mind, NFPA has developed a new fact sheet, Ensuring Safety as Buildings Return to a New Normal, which works to help businesses meet states’ public health requirements while ensuring adequate levels of occupant safety.

 

The new fact sheet addresses guidelines and considerations in the following areas: egress management; queuing lines; occupant flow; partition placement; hand sanitizer storage and placement; automatic and power-operated doors; seating arrangements; and storage management.

 

NFPA will also be hosting a webinar on Wednesday, May 27 from 1:00-2:00 pm EST, which will include a brief overview of the fact sheet followed by a Q&A led by a panel of NFPA staff, including Jonathan Hart, Shawn Mahoney, and Val Ziavras. To register for the free webinar, go to: https://zoom.us/webinar/register/7915900923554/WN_pq1sSg-CSRuBIRxcVPV--A

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage

The sirens were deafening, even to my 13-year-old ears. My good friend, Heath, and I were playing an intense game of summer basketball in my driveway. The fact that I was losing and, as always, determined to win, should have been reason enough for my focus to be on the game. But it was impossible not to hear the sirens of the emergency vehicles rushing down our road and to begin wondering – “What’s going on? What happened? Where are they going?”electrical safety

 

Throwing down the basketball in my yard, I took off sprinting in the direction of Heath’s house. The paramedics had already begun to tend to Heath’s brother, Josh, who was lying motionless in the driveway. Their mother was outside, crying hysterically. Josh worked as a painter for a local contractor. Work was slow that summer so Josh had offered to repaint the exterior of his parents’ house. Scanning the area to try and make sense of it all, I noticed a couple of paint cans and an aluminum extension ladder on the driveway near Josh. Transitioning my eyes upward, it all began making sense. At this point, life experience was not my specialty but even my teenage brain could put the pieces together: Josh plus conductive aluminum ladder plus overhead power lines is equal to why Josh is lying in the driveway. Josh had received an electrical shock.

 

That day provided a life-lesson that I have carried with me every day of my nearly 30 years in the electrical industry, and I always will – electricity does not discriminate.

 

As we continue to raise awareness of electrical safety during National Electrical Safety Month, it’s important to note that electrical safety training is not just for electricians. Proper and adequate training is essential to the prevention of electrical related injuries to all personnel who are at risk. Is the plumber that is plugging his extension cord into a defective GFCI at risk? What about the carpenter using a saw with a broken male cord end? How about the painter using an aluminum ladder near overhead electrical lines? Non-electrical workers are exposed to many potential electrical hazards. OSHA Standard Number 1910.332(a) requires electrical training for employees who face risk of electrical shock. 1910.332(a) Note states that training is required for all occupations listed in Table S-4, and the second sentence goes on to state that employees not listed in Table S-4, but are reasonably expected to face the same risk due to electric shock or other electrical hazards, must also be trained. On a job site or within a facility, a case could certainly be made that many workers not listed within Table S-4 are just as susceptible to the same risks that electrical workers could potentially face.

 

According to data provided by Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi), between 2003 and 2018, 54 percent of fatal electrical injuries occurred in the construction industry. That means that 46 percent of all electrical fatalities were outside of the construction industry or trades. This statistic alone speaks to the need for mitigating risk of exposure to electrical hazards through further training. NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace is a great resource for defining enforceable responsibilities for both employers and employees to protect against electrical hazards that employees might be exposed to. Developing and implementing an Electrical Safety Program (ESP) aligned with the responsibilities and training defined within 70E is a vital component in reducing the risk associated with electrical hazards. Employers and employees following the ESP, and holding one another accountable for doing so, is the other crucial piece in the electrical safety equation.    

 

Josh was a white male, brown hair, blue eyes, football fan, avid golfer, practical joker, painter, brother, son, father-to-be…so much more, and still - electricity didn’t care. The previous sentence was written in the past tense because Josh passed away from his injuries. All that he was, and all that he would be, died with him that day. A life cut way too short that brought his family so much heartache and pain. I know that Josh’s family isn’t the only family that has suffered. It’s extremely unfortunate that there are tens of thousands of others out there who know the story of Josh all too well and have been impacted by loss of their own. They may have been male or female, white or black, young or old, electrical workers or non-electrical workers. The differences among the victims are endless but one similarity rests with all of them – electricity didn’t discriminate. Loss of life is immeasurable, which in turn makes prevention priceless. Only through proper and adequate electrical training can we prevent the victims list from growing and, in some small way, honor those that have been lost. 

 

For additional information about electrical safety for a non-electrical audience, read the "NEC/In Compliance" column by Derek Vigstol in the September/October 2019 issue of NFPA Journal.

   

For more about NFPA 70E, visit NFPA’s electrical solutions webpage.

 

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

 

From the beginning of the coronavirus crisis, first responders have dealt a dearth of PPE, thinned ranks from exposed and infected colleagues, and staggering call volumes as they served their communities. Now, as the crisis stretches on, the familiar foe of budget cuts threatens further hardship on our public safety infrasctructure.

 

It hasn’t even been a decade since state and local government budgets were battered by the last economic crisis. A study from the State Fiscal Health Project at Pew found that between 2008 and 2013, states lost $283 billion in tax revenue to the Great Recession. In another Pew study of cities at the heart of the country’s 30 largest metro areas, by fiscal year 2013, operational spending levels had not recovered to 2007 levels. That year, one third of those cities faced a 7-year low in spending on city services. Two-thirds had made cuts to spending on public safety by 2011. first responders

 

In comparison to the Great Recession, the gap states are facing now could be over 2.5 times worse. The Center on Budget and Policy estimates that states will see a revenue shortfall of $650 billion over the next three years. The story is the same for counties and local governments. With businesses closed and scores of residents filing for unemployment benefits, nine in 10 of the 2,400 cities polled by the U.S. Conference of Mayors expect a budget shortfall in 2020. These are budget gaps like $115 million in Louisville, Kentucky, $200 million for Cook County, Illinois, and $100 million for Alexandria, Virginia

 

As the Great Recession wore on, fire departments across the country were asked to “do more with less.” Vacancies went unfilled, training stopped or was significantly reduced, fire prevention programs in the community were halted. Replacement—and maintenance—schedules for apparatus and gear were stretched as far as possible and furloughs became common. Some cities even resorted to brownouts—temporally taking fire companies out of service—to contain costs, leaving Baltimore City’s Fire Chief James S. Clark to remark, “It’s roulette,” as fewer resources led to longer response times.

 

Fire departments are already beginning to feel the sting of budget shortfalls. A survey by the International Association of Fire Chiefs found that already, approximately 1,000 fire department employees, including front-line responders, have been furloughed or laid off. Over the course of this year and the next, that number is expected to grow to at least 30,000.

The CARES Act, which Congress passed at the end of March, added $100 million to the Assistance for Firefighters Grant program, and created a new $150 billion fund for state governments, all to help offset the enormous cost of responding to the pandemic. However, as budget projections reveal, these funds are not nearly enough to fill gap.

 

Whether more assistance will be forthcoming is as of yet up to political discussions. The House has proposed over $800 billion in aid for state and local governments in a recently passed stimulus bill, which the Senate has indicated it is unlikely to move. While political rancor, as much as coronavirus, defines our times, government responsibility still includes meeting the need for safe and effective emergency response, as laid out in the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem. Traditionally, in the U.S., that responsibility falls to local governments. However, in unprecedented times, non-traditional measures may be the only way to actually fulfill the responsibility citizens expect.    

 

Learn more about the components of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, including the critical role elected officials play in protecting citizens and first responders. Additional information can be found by visiting the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Policy Institute webpage.

Prior to COVID-19, I had entertained the thought of writing a blog during National EMS Week about the ways that NFPA collaborates with the EMS community on contamination control, various health and safety concerns, on technical committees and via extensive outreach. We proudly sit at the table with EMS innovators and keep their roles and responsibilities at the forefront of our work at NFPA.

I contemplated a piece that touched on the challenges that today’s EMS providers encounter on the job. Afterall, addressing industry concerns seemed like a natural way to support this year's EMS STRONG campaign theme: READY TODAY. PREPARING FOR TOMORROW, organized by The American College of Emergency Physicians (ACEP) and National Association of Emergency Medical Technicians (NAEMT). I thought, I’ll point to EMS providers dealing with more on-the-job violence than ever these days – something that was reported on in the NFPA Journal piece, Toll of Violence. That feature looked at both physical assaults as well as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) – a sad reality on the front lines these days.

 

I was also excited to call attention to a new initative that we had created for the EMS community this year. Knowing that EMS workers need to keep abreast of a wide range of issues given the nature of their all-hazards role, NFPA was slated to launch a new program at our annual Conference & Expo in June that would offer EMS professionals 12 hours of continuing education units (CEUs). It was designed to serve as the springboard for future NFPA programs that provide information and knowledge to responders. We wanted to take an active role in preparing the EMS community for tomorrow, just as this year’s awareness campaign asks.

 

But, of course, this all changed in the United States when an entirely different occupational hazard surfaced in Washington State four months ago. From Day One, the COVID-19 crisis has entailed significant EMS involvement. The pandemic has required our nation’s EMS community to be ready for today with new protocols and greater risks. And EMS has stepped up, again and again, because they are always ready. First responders have made do with less and done more to help their communities, support their brothers and sisters in healthcare, and most importantly - to support each other. The pandemic has prompted leaders to document COVID-related impacts and to look to tomorrow in terms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and the likelihood of the coronavirus returning in the fall. There are so many lessons being learned now. The entire EMS community must step forward and ensure that we use lessons learned today to be ready for tomorrow.

 

During a task force call last Thursday, it was reported that 46 firefighters and EMS personnel have been killed by the coronavirus. The International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC) has also established a dashboard that provides up to the minute numbers on infection, virus testing, isolations, deaths, and many more real-time insights from fire departments and ambulance services. The dashboard information is helping leaders to see the big EMS response picture right now and in the long run, the data will help influence post-pandemic protocol and policymaking.

 

The most recent research from NFPA shows that in 2018, local fire departments responded to an estimated 23,551,500 ambulance, EMS or rescue calls with 45 percent nationwide proving basic life support and 17 percent offering advanced life support. This call volume does not reflect the emergency calls answered by single roll EMS services who also handle a large portion of 911 responsibilities in the U.S., but you get the picture – our EMS providers are working hard to administer care to those who need it most.


If we expect trained professionals to show up when we dial 911 – it is paramount that we take care of those who take care of us during COVID times and when normal times resume. If there was ever a time in history, where the value and valor of our EMS providers has been abundantly clear, it is now. Please join NFPA in saluting the nation's finest during National EMS Week, May 17-23, 2020.

Why is electrical safety in the workplace important? It’s a great question to think about and discuss during National Electrical Safety Month. It is also kind of a loaded question. On the one hand you have the fact that providing electrical safety in the workplace is mandated by OSHA, and therefore, it is the law. On the other hand, there are many more reasons why it is important to talk about, learn about, and fully understand electrical safe work practices. While there may be different reasons for buying into this as an employer or an employee, the bottom line is, electrical safety must be one of our top priorities when stepping foot on the job.  

 

So, let's look at what might motivate employers to implement electrical safe work practices within their company. As I said, OSHA mandates that an employer provide a workplace that is free from known and recognized hazards. This means an employer must develop and implement an electrical safety program that spells out the procedures to be followed to ensure that employees aren’t exposed to electrical hazards, and if they must be, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk. The next important point for employers to remember is, it is far more cost effective to retain a good employee than to train a new one. Employees are a company’s most important asset, especially if revenue is derived due to their labor. Losing an employee is like losing any other tangible asset. Then there is the most important reason of all: human life. Whether an employer is big or small, people know each other and no one wants to jeopardize his/her ability to go home the same way they came to work: in one piece.  

 

So what about the employee? While it is true that the employer must provide the detailed procedures to follow and the tools and equipment needed to stay safe, none of it does any good if the employee doesn’t follow the rules and use the tools. What might be an employee’s motivation to follow safety protocols? Well, if an employee is caught not following the rules, they could incur fines for both themselves and their employer, leading to a personal financial impact and potential loss of employment. However, some employees might have what can only be described as an “invincibility” complex. I know I personally have been guilty of this in the past. We think that we won’t get hurt and that other people were injured because they made a mistake. Unfortunately, that macho attitude is what gets people in trouble. Having studied and attended many educational sessions on the science behind behavior change, it seems to be that the traditional “shock and awe” approach only further exacerbates the issue. However, would we take those same risks and cut those same corners if we fully understood what the most important people in our lives would go through if we didn’t come home today?

 

Last year at NFPA’s Conference & Expo I had a great opportunity to talk to my friend, Brandon Schroeder, about this very topic. Brandon has been an electrician for 19 years. In 2011, he survived an arc flash explosion that without a doubt could have killed him. To hear him speak about what his wife and children went through after the accident, and that they nearly had to continue on in life without him, makes even the most seasoned veteran think very carefully about his/her next move. Here is his story and his warning to everyone who thought they were invincible: 

 


 

It is easy to mandate that employers provide the tools and procedures related to electrical safety. It’s the “low hanging fruit” in the safety world and it has brought the numbers of injuries and deaths down substantially. This is a fact that we should all be celebrating this month as we observe National Electrical Safety Month.

 

The trickier task, however, is continuing to help employees believe in this stuff. As Brandon points out, he cut corners because he didn’t think safety mattered. As professionals in the electrical world, we should all pursue the goal of getting everyone to take safety seriously. It’s a big world, let’s protect it together! 

 

Get additional information on NFPA’s electrical solutions webpage.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Click image to watch a new Learn Something New episode on facade fires. 

 

 

June 14 will mark the three-year anniversary of the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire, during which smoke and flames raced up and around the sides of the London high-rise at an astonishing pace, killing more than 70 people. There were many safety deficiencies within the building, from a lack of fire sprinklers to faulty alarms to just one exit stairwell. But in terms of fire spread, the most significant factor was the 24-story apartment building's combustible exterior wall assembly, which included plastic-laden cladding and insulation.

 

So what have we learned about facade fires and exterior wall assemblies like Grenfell's since then? Turns out, not as much as many fire safety experts had hoped. And fires involving combustible exterior wall assemblies continue to occur worldwide. 

 

Just last week, a 49-story building in Sharjah, a city near Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, was aglow with flames. Dozens of worried onlookers captured footage of the blaze (pictured right), which clearly showed the building's facade burning readily, with huge chunks of it breaking loose and smashing the ground and even parked vehicles below. "There was so much smoke coming from the building, you could see the speed at which the fire raced up the building ... you could see big pieces of the cladding falling down," Birgitte Messerschmidt, director of Applied Research at NFPA, told me in an interview this week. "It had all the telltale signs of a facade cladding fire."

 

Parts of my conversation with Messerschmidt is featured in a new episode of Learn Something NewTM that highlights the persistent global problem of facade fires. In the video, she answers questions like, what led to the proliferation of combustible exterior walls in the first place and why is there no quick fix to the problem?

 

Messerschmidt also penned a recent NFPA Journal article on the difficulty of obtaining data related to facade fires. "A surprising fact is that the only way researchers know about the increase in these types of fires is from the media—even after events like Grenfell, there is still no coordinated global effort to collect data on these or any other fire incidents," she writes in the piece. 

 

My full conversation with Messerschmidt—as well as with Anas Alzaid, who is NFPA's representative to the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region—can be viewed below. In the video, both Messerschmidt and Alzaid discuss the most recent fire in Sharjah and go into detail about why many of these facade fires over the past decade or so have occurred in the Middle East. The tremendous growth of the region in recent years is one factor, says Messerschmidt. While failures in testing and code compliance is another, adds Alzaid. "This is not the end of the issue," he says in the video.

 

 

While there will likely be fewer gatherings with family and friends this Memorial Day in response to COVID-19, many observances of the holiday this year will likely continue to involve outdoor grilling. Plus, as more people continue to cook at home in the warmer months ahead, many of them will turn to their outdoor grills to prepare and enjoy meals. These factors contribute to an increased risk of home grilling fires. In response, NFPA is reminding everyone to follow basic grilling safety precautions over Memorial Day weekend and beyond.

 

According to NFPA data, cooking equipment is the leading cause of U.S. home fires overall, annually contributing to nearly half (49 percent) of all home fires. NFPA estimates show that between 2014 and 2018, an annual average of 10,600 home fires involving grills, hibachis, or barbecues, which resulted in 10 civilian deaths, 160 civilian injuries, and $149 million in direct property damage. Gas grills were involved in an average of 8,900 home fires per year, including 3,900 structure fires and 4,900 outdoor fires annually. Leaks or breaks were primarily a problem with gas grills.

 

July is the peak month for grilling fires, followed by June, May, and August.

 

NFPA offers these tips and recommendations for enjoying a fire-safe grilling season:

 

  • For propane grills, check the gas tank for leaks before use. (Watch NFPA’s video on how to check for leaks. This footage can be used as b-roll.) 
  • Keep your grill clean by removing grease or fat build-up from the grills and in trays below the grill.
  • Place the grill well away from the home, deck railings, and out from under eaves and overhanging branches.
  • Always make sure your gas grill lid is open before lighting it.
  • Keep children and pets at least three feet away from the grilling area.
  • If you use starter fluid when charcoal grilling, only use charcoal starter fluid. Never add charcoal fluid or any other flammable liquids to the fire. When you have finished grilling, let the coals cool completely before disposing in a metal container.
  • Never leave your grill unattended when in use.

 

Best wishes to everyone for a happy, safe Memorial Day weekend!

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage

 

At its April 1, 2020 meeting, the NFPA Standards Council approved the committee restructuring for the NFPA 1Fire Code project. The Fire Code has a very broad scope which addresses a variety of hazards. Following issuance of the 2021 edition of NFPA 1, the project will be developed by three technical committees (Technical Committee on Fundamentals; Technical Committee on Building Systems and Special Occupancies; and Technical Committee on Special Equipment, Processes and Hazardous Materials) and a correlating committee (Fire Code Correlating Committee). The new, multiple committee structure allows for more focused engagement by industry experts.

NFPA is currently accepting online committee membership applications for these new committees. The deadline for submission of applications to be reviewed at the December 2020 Standards Council meeting is August 28, 2020. Anyone wishing to apply should first review the approved scopes and responsibilities below before submitting application:

  • Technical Committee on Fundamentals (FCC-FUN): Submit online application
    Committee scope: This committee shall have primary responsibility for documents on the basic goals, objectives, performance requirements, classification of occupancy, general safety requirements, building services, fire department access, and definitions for the purpose of providing safety to life and property from fire and explosion.
    Responsibility: 
    NFPA 1, Fire Code, Chapters 1-11, 15 and 18
    NFPA 1, Fire Code, Annexes A-D and Annex
  • Technical Committee on Building Systems and Special Occupancies (FCC-OCP): Submit online application
    Committee scope: This committee shall have primary responsibility for documents on building fire protection and life safety systems, construction operations, occupancy fire safety and definitions for the purpose of providing safety to life and property from fire and explosion.
    Responsibility:
    NFPA 1, Fire Code, Chapters 3, 12-14, 16-17, and 19-39
    NFPA 1, Fire Code, Annexes A and E
  • Technical Committee on Special Equipment, Processes, and Hazardous Materials (FCC-HAZ): Submit online application
    Committee scope: This committee shall have primary responsibility for documents on special equipment and processes in buildings, the storage, use and handling of hazardous materials indoors and outdoors, and definitions for the purpose of providing safety to life and property from fire and explosion.
    Responsibility:
    NFPA 1, Fire Code, Chapters 3 and 40-75
    NFPA 1, Fire Code, Annex A
  • Fire Code Correlating Committee (FCC-AAC): Submit online application*
    Committee scope: This committee shall have primary responsibility for documents on a Fire Prevention Code that includes appropriate administrative provisions, to be used with the National Fire Codes for the installation, operation, and maintenance of buildings, structures, and premises for the purpose of providing safety to life and property from fire and explosion.  This includes development of requirements for, and maintenance of, systems and equipment for fire control and extinguishment.  Safety to life of occupants of buildings and structures is under the primary jurisdiction of the Committee on Safety to Life.
    Responsibility:
    NFPA 1, Fire Code
    NOTE*:  Typically, correlating committee membership is limited to people with technical committee experience. If you are interested in serving on the correlating committee but have never served on an NFPA technical committee we encourage you to first apply to a technical committee.

 

The Council notes that the current committee responsible for the development of NFPA 1 is to complete its work through the issuance and effective date of the current processing cycle.  Council anticipates the disbanding of the current NFPA 1 committee and appointing the initial roster of the new committees at the December 2020 Council meeting.

 

Vehicles have changed significantly over the years. Modern vehicles present new hazards due to the incorporation of larger quantities of combustible materials (e.g., fuels, plastics, and synthetic materials) into their designs. As the popularity of alternative fuel vehicles has grown, concerns regarding their unique hazards, burn characteristics, and typical burn duration have been raised. Modern parking garages have optimized space requirements for vehicle parking and storage, and often implement automated retrieval features and car stacking, which also presents unique hazards. Thus, it raises the question: have the safety infrastructure of these parking structures and the safety of vehicle carriers (i.e., maritime vessels) kept pace? This webinar will summarize the ongoing Fire Protection Research Foundation project with an overview of how the hazards of modern vehicles have changed, along with a review of the applicability of the existing fire protection requirements to these new hazards. The FPRF project is sponsored by the NFPA and SFPE Foundation.

 

When: Tuesday, June 2, 12:30-2 p.m. Eastern Time. 

Presenters: Haavard R. Boehmer, P.E., and Michael S. Klassen, Ph.D., P.E., Combustion Science & Engineering, Inc.

 

Register for the webinar today. Visit www.nfpa.org/webinars for more upcoming NFPA webinars and archives. 

 

Research Foundation Webinar Series 2020 is supported by: American Wood Council; Edwards Fire & Life Safety; Johnson Controls; Telgian Engineering & Consulting; the Zurich Services Corporation.

 


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