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policy institute

I’m excited to tell you about the launch of NFPA’s new Fire and Life Safety Policy Institute. NFPA established the Policy Institute to develop an arms-length view on policy issues that impact fire, life and electrical safety. Policymakers, elected officials and other government leaders play a critical role in the development and maintenance of a strong fire prevention and protection system including using the most current fire and building codes to diligent code enforcement. The Policy Institute will develop proposals and best practice recommendations to guide policymakers toward decision making that best protects citizens. Hear how NFPA president, Jim Pauley, describes the Policy Institute in our short video below:



Right now, our work includes investigating what U.S. consumers expect of their government when it comes to safety and codes. We’ll also take a look at the electrical code adoption process across the country to understand the pain points and provide suggestions to make the process more efficient. Going forward, we’ll look at the safety infrastructure in the U.S. and abroad and how government decision-making can help or hinder hazard mitigation. Ultimately, our goal is to provide key analysis and ideas that can help governments meet one of their core responsibilities—protecting public safety.  


So stay tuned for more Policy Institute announcements, including current and upcoming projects. Download for free our Policy Institute one-page fact sheet to get the overview (hyperlink one-pager). You can find this along with other great information and resources about the Policy Institute by visiting our webpage at


Reuters photo


How many children have to die in orphanages, shelters and schools around the globe before the danger of blocking building access and egress is realized and safety measures are enforced?


According to Reuters, 23 people, mostly students, have died in a fire at a Malaysian boarding school dormitory. Darul Quran Ittifaqiyah, a private religious school, featured one door and metal grills on the windows. The youngest victim was seven years of age. Two school wardens also perished. Reports indicate that the cause of death was smoke inhalation.


The tragic incident calls to mind a devastating fire in a Guatemalan orphanage in March where 40 children died in an overcrowded, locked room at a youth shelter. That fire and this most recent international incident underscores the importance of NFPA 101®, Life Safety Code®, which ensures occupants can easily exit a building in case of fire or other hazards.


This spring, NFPA Fire Protection Engineer Greg Harrington told NFPA Journal, “Ensuring that egress doors are not compromised must be the top priority. Don’t be misled into thinking that security takes precedence over life safety.” An exception to the rule is detention facilities, but the buildings in Malaysian and Guatemala were not classified as such.

NFPA 101 is a widely used code designed to protect people based on building construction, protection, and occupancy features. First published in 1927, NFPA 101 minimizes the effects of fire and related hazards in both new and existing structures.


Sadly, this morning’s incident in Malaysia was not an anomaly. Since 2011, there have been at least 30 fires reported at schools in Malaysia. In the United States, we have also witnessed tremendous loss in schools due to fire during the last century including Our Lady of the Angels fire in 1958, the largest loss school fire in U.S. history that took the lives of 95 people.


The safety of students should take priority over security.

After the first five risk controls have been implemented and there is a residual hazard or risk of injury, the sixth and final risk control provides the last option to limit the severity of an injury from the known and present hazard. The hierarchy of risk controls is:
(1) Elimination
(2) Substitution
(3) Engineering controls
(4 ) Administrative controls
(6) Personal protective equipment (PPE)



The use of personal and other protective equipment is the least effective of the risk controls and is the last line of defense when an incident happens. PPE is used when there is a hazard which presents a risk of an injury to an employee performing a justified task. PPE has an impact on limiting the severity of an injury but has no impact on the hazard or on the likelihood of an incident. The equipment being worked on can be damaged and an arc-flash can occur. In such an incident, the employee could suffer an injury albeit a nonpermanent, recoverable injury when the appropriate PPE is properly used.  

Successful use of this control is directly impacted by human effort. A human must properly use the PPE category or incident energy method to determine the level of hazard. A human must select appropriate PPE including the proper rating and must refrain from purchasing substandard or counterfeit PPE which can increase the severity of injury to the employee. A human must correctly don or use the PPE. A human may not understand the need for PPE, PPE may create a barrier to the effective completion of their work, a human may specify PPE inappropriate for the hazard, and a human may neglect to use PPE when needed. Each of these instances can defeat this protection method. 


However, PPE is the final opportunity to limit the severity of injury when a hazard exists and an employee must interact with the equipment. When establishing an electrically safe work condition, the PPE should (hopefully) never need to prevent an injury but it is there in case something goes wrong in the process. When an employee is performing justified energized work, the PPE is protecting the employee from an exposed hazard and when an incident occurs should limit their injury.  


The hierarchy of risk controls must be applied when using either of the risk assessment methods (PPE category or incident energy analysis). Regardless of the intent to require the establishment of an electrically safe work condition or to justify energized work, the hierarchy of risk controls must be implemented to minimize the hazard or risk of injury.  Often a combination of controls is necessary to achieve the desired result.  It may not be possible to utilize every control for a given situation. The goal of NFPA 70E is protecting an employee from an electrical injury. The hierarchy of risk controls guides you through steps that can provide a more safe work environment for your employee or at least minimize the risk or severity of an injury.

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

Next time: A revisit to exemptions to the work permit.

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