A better understanding of NFPA 70E: the ten commandments of electrical safety

Blog Post created by ccoache Employee on Oct 24, 2017


It is hard to believe that this blog has entered its second year. Thank you for taking the time to read them. I hope that my comments, if they have been doing nothing else, have made you think differently about how you look at electrical safety. That what you do regardless of your position at your company does play a role in creating a safer work environment. That you consider an electrically safe work condition to be your first choice. That the simple fact of NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, being to protect the employee from electrical injury is a major theme. Keep this in mind when trying to apply the minimum requirements. If everyone works towards that goal all employees should be returning home at the end of each day.

Although electrical safety should always be a serious issue, this blog offers a humorous viewpoint. When I began my electrical safety career decades ago, I was ignorant of any electrical safety procedures. It was the Wild West. Safety was not part of the electrical engineer curriculum. Test by touch and bare hand work were commonplace. A coworker’s view of your bravado was determined by your ability to handle a shock. Everyone knew of someone who had been electrocuted. Safety typically meant preventing an injury to someone using the equipment not the person working on it. NFPA 70, National Electrical Code® covered installations and NFPA 70E was just published with a chapter covering safety-related work practices. When I arrived at my first job at a research and test laboratory I was given a copy of the ten commandments of electrical safety. It was published in Orbit, the Journal of the Rutherford High Energy Laboratory, Didcot, England (31 January 1965) p.12. There are others out there but I am pretty sure that this one was the start of it all. It may have been originally written for laughs but there is some truth to what was included. These commandments contain requirements now included in NFPA 70E; lockout/tagout, electrically safe work condition, discharge of stored energy, proper test equipment and test before touch were in there decades before NFPA 70E. Enjoy.

Ten Commandments of Electrical Safety
I. Bewareth of the lightning that lurks in an undischarged capacitor lest it cause thee to be bounced upon thy backside in a most ungainly manner.
II. Causeth thou the switch that supplies large quantities of juice to be opened and thusly tagged, so thy days may be long on this earthly vale of tears.
III. Proveth to thyself that all circuits that radiateth and upon which thou worketh are grounded lest they lift thee to high-frequency potential and cause thee to radiate also.
IV. Taketh care thou useth the proper method when thou taketh the measure of high-voltage circuits so that thou doth not incinerate both thee and the meter, for verily though thou hast no account number and can be easily replaced, the meter doth have one and as a consequence bringeth much woe upon the supply department.
V. Tarry thee not amongst those who engage in intentional shocks for they are surely non-believers and are not long for this world.
VI. Taketh care thou tampereth not with interlocks and safety devices, for this incureth the wrath of thy seniors and bringeth the fury of the safety officer down upon thy head and shoulders.
VII. Worketh thee not on energized equipment, for if thou doeth, thy mates will surely be buying lunch without thee and thy space at the table will be filled by another.
VIII. Verily, verily I say unto thee, never service high-voltage equipment alone, for electric cooking is a slothful process, and thou might sizzle in thy own fat for hours on end before thy Maker sees fit to end thy misery and drag thee into His fold.
IX. Trifle thee not with radioactive tubes and substances lest thou commence to glow in the dark like a lightning bug.
X. Commit thee to memory the works of the prophets, which are written in the instruction books, which giveth the straight info and which consoleth thee, and thou cannot make mistakes.


- From Orbit, the Journal of the Rutherford High Energy Laboratory, Didcot, England (31 January 1965) p.12


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


Next time: Some of the statistics about your safety.