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70E, worker safety

May is National Electrical Safety Month and throughout the coming weeks, NFPA and its partner, ESFI, will be sharing information and resources with industry professionals dedicated to creating safer working environments for their employees.This week we're taking a look at the roles of host and contract employers.

According to Derek Vigstol, NFPA’s technical lead for Electrical Tech Services, a common industry misconception is that the contract employer is the only one liable for their workers’ safety. With the next edition of NFPA 70E:  Electrical Safety in the Workplace about to complete the revision process, Derek points out that it’s important both contract and host employers understand they have a role when it comes to worker safety.

In the March/April 2017 issue of NFPA Journal, Derek dives into this very subject in his article, Host Employer & Contract Employer: Understanding Roles in Electrical Safety.

Read the article, then tell us what you think. As a host or contract employer, how do you see your role? What kinds of solutions have you developed to increase safety where you work? We’d like to hear from you.

WOW! The complaints from the field are overwhelming. The equipment that was purchased is wrong. An employee was injured. The equipment was substandard. How can NFPA 70E® allow such things? What is the subject of this discussion? Compliant PPE. NFPA 70E has a requirement that the employer provide the employee with appropriate PPE. How do you know what is appropriate? Appropriate is not only concerned with the claimed equipment rating but that the PPE has the ability to perform as needed to protect the employee. You are likely aware of PPE that is not only labeled incorrectly but also labeled as conforming to a standard when in fact the PPE does not conform. There are many pieces of PPE available that are counterfeit. How do you verify that the PPE really has been tested and conforms to the applicable standard? Even when something appears to be labeled correctly how do you know it is valid or that the standard stated is the correct one?


Past NFPA 70E editions had a requirement that the PPE conform to specific listed standards. The 2018 edition will still require that PPE conform to appropriate standards but will provide reference to several standards in informational form. Manufacturers of PPE have not been required by any NFPA 70E edition to evaluate their equipment to a standard. This means that YOUR ROLE IN SPECIFYING PPE HAS NOT CHANGED IN ANY WAY. Whether you realized it or not NFPA 70E has required that YOU verify conformance without telling you how to do it. YOU are still responsible for doing what you have done for several years. YOU are still the one who must make sure the appropriate standards for the specific PPE have been followed and that the PPE has been proven to meet the requirements.  YOU are still the one responsible for providing PPE that will prevent the death of your employee when an incident occurs. YOU are still the one who must approve the PPE before you distribute it to your employees. 


How do you do to determine that the PPE that you purchased complies with specific standards before being given to your employee as their last line of defense for limiting the severity of an injury. Are you even aware that there are standards addressing this? Did you purchase those standards to learn what they covered? Do you compare the PPE that you purchased to the standard to determine that it actually conforms? Do you just accept whatever the label states? Do you ask the manufacturer for something regarding compliance to any standard? Do you accept whatever the manufacturer sends without question? Do you know what is covered by the standard that the manufacturer claims compliance to? Do you conduct your own tests? This list could go on and on. But the point is regardless of what edition of NFPA 70E you use, YOU were and still are the authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) when it comes to approving PPE for your employees. YOU are the one who must decide what the appropriate PPE to purchase is and verify that the appropriate standard was used for the evaluation of that PPE. You do not have to accept anything that does not seem correct. No standard or code forces you to approve any specific piece of equipment even if it is listed by a third party.


Who verifies that PPE conforms to a standard? Does a claim equate to conformance? What does it all mean? In the past, NFPA 70E did not provide you with guidance on things to ask for. So what do YOU do now? The manufacturer may have provided a label on the PPE. They may have sent a letter stating that the PPE conforms to a standard. The manufacturer probably did not provide anything unless you specifically asked for it. Have YOU ever asked? The 2018 edition will require that the PPE manufacturer be able to provide you with one of three forms to address PPE conformity. YOU must ask for it. If a document is supplied, YOU must verify the truth behind that claim. Whatever method you use to verify the compliance, YOU are responsible for approving the PPE. This has been YOUR ROLE since PPE was first addressed in NFPA 70E. Regardless of the method you use for approving the purchase of PPE, the goal is to provide protection for the employee who is put a risk of injury when authorized to perform energized work. Your employee will trust that YOU have done all of this for them.


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


Next time: Do you mind getting a really bad sunburn.

 Jim Pauley and Scott Williams, FPA Australia


NFPA President Jim Pauley shared international fire protection standards and research insight with more than 1,500 firefighters, engineers, fire safety engineers, architects, facility managers, and building and fire protection professionals at the Fire Australia 17 Conference & Tradeshow in Sydney this week.


His keynote touched on the historical challenges that have shaped the fire service; and the role that codes and standards play in keeping citizens, first responders and property safe from the burden of fire and related hazards. He pointed out that NFPA’s first code, NFPA 13, the Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems, was established in 1896 and sprinklers continue to be a key issue for NFPA today. NFPA has pledged support to Australia as they too advocate for the increased use of sprinklers.


During his remarks, Pauley challenged the audience to consider new ways of tackling the fire problem by capturing and using data for improved decision-making; and by working with global stakeholders to share resources and best practices. He spoke about demographic changes, emphasizing that the number of people in Australia over age 65 will soon reach twenty-five percent of the total population - compared to thirteen percent just a few years ago. As populations get older, there will be more risk of fire death.


Pauley also highlighted climate change and the dramatic increase in wildfires – or bushfires as Australians call them. Wildfire seasons are getting longer, the intensity of fires are increasing, and the losses are staggering. He referenced the Climate Institute’s total economic cost of natural disasters in Australia, including bushfires, being six billion dollars in 2012. Those numbers are expected to double by 2030 and rise to an average of twenty-three billion Australian dollars per year by 2050.


Emerging issues were also covered during Pauley’s keynote. This topic was covered in greater detail later in the day by NFPA’s Chris Dubay. The vice president of engineering presented an educational session on lithium-ion battery storage and associated fire safety dangers. Electric vehicles and energy storage systems were the focus of the presentation with Dubay providing perspective on codes and standards, NFPA emergency responder training, research, and the knowledge gaps that have been identified for these topics.


NFPA has worked closely with Fire Protection Association Australia (FPA Australia) since its debut in 1997. FPA Australia sends a contingent to NFPA’s Conference & Expo (C&E) annually.

International Firefighters’ Day (IFFD) is observed on May 4th, and is a time where the world’s community can recognize and honor the sacrifices that firefighters make to ensure that their communities and environment are as safe as possible. It is also a day in which current and past firefighters can be thanked for their contributions.


IFFD was instituted after a proposal was emailed out across the world on January 4, 1999 due to the deaths of five firefighters in tragic circumstances in a wildfire at Linton in Victoria, Australia. It is a day for emergency services to run events such as: memorial services; fetes, open days and fundraisers for relevant campaigns; long service and other presentations; or a media campaign to focus attention on the role, activities and key messages of firefighters and fire organizations. In turn, communities can:

  • show support for all firefighters worldwide
  • recognize their level of commitment and dedication
  • remember those lost or injured in the line of duty
  • say “Thank you”


THANK YOU from all of us at NFPA to all firefighters around the world today (and everyday!)

May 3, 1922 - US Treasury Building Fire

Damage caused by an oil burner used for heating roofing cement on the U.S. Treasury building roof; May 3, 1922.


In 1922, the U.S. Treasury Building roof suffered a series of fires caused by heating apparatus that were used by contractors for roofing cement and pitch. A fire early in February caused considerable damage to temporary structures on the roof and greatly inconvenienced the Drafting Division of the Supervising Architect. After repairs and placing what was thought to be more than sufficient protection for the wood floor of the gallery, the equipment was again put to use.


From the NFPA Quarterly v.16, No.3, 1923:


"At 1:45 A.M. on the morning of May 3 fire was found burning under the platform and in the printing gallery. Both were a total loss. This second fire did damage to the extent of $6000 and incidental inconvenience and loss amounting to more than the money value of the damage. 


The burner used for heating the slater's cement was thought by the Fire Marshal to have caused the fire and at the request of the committee appointed by the Secretary of the Treasury to determine the cause of the fire the Bureau of Standards made an investigation of heat transmission through such protection as had been used on the floor."



For more information regarding this or other historic fires, please feel free to reach out to the NFPA Library

The NFPA Archives houses all of NFPA's publications, both current and historic. Library staff are available to answer reference questions from members and the general public.

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