A better understanding of NFPA 70E: Host and contract employers

Blog Post created by ccoache Employee on Dec 21, 2018
An employer using NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®can be either a host or contract employer. If an employer is using in-house workers it is obvious who has the responsibility for 130.2(A). When a contractor is working for a host employer it may become less obvious for the application of 130.2(A). However, consider that both the host and contract employer have responsibilities set forth in Article 110. Each is responsible for assuring proper protection for their own employees.
In a host/contractor situation, the host may determine that energized work is justified or simply that they don’t want the system to be turned off. However, the contract employer should fully understand the reason behind the energized work and has the responsibility of protecting their employees from electrical hazards. If the contract employer feels their employees are at undue risk, there is no requirement that they perform the proposed task. On the other hand, the contract employer may decide that their employee can handle energized work or may determine that energized work is justified. However, if the host employer feels the contract employer will use unsafe work practices there is no requirement that the contractor be used to perform the work.
From an NFPA 70E viewpoint, both the host employer and contract employer should have a fully developed electrical safety program. For the host employer, the program should address both in-house and contract work. Using contract workers does not absolve the host employer of their obligation to provide a work environment that is federally mandated to be free of recognized hazards. In order to do so, the host employer must notify a contract employer of known hazards. The contract employer’s electrical safety program should not only address common electrical safety issues but also conditions anticipated for the specific tasks conducted at a host employer site. The contract worker must be qualified to perform the assigned task on the specific equipment present at the host employer site.
If electrical work is to be performed there will almost always be known hazards. This is true whether an electrically safe work condition (ESWC) will be established or energized work will be justified. A documented meeting between the host and contract employer is therefore required. The meeting should cover many things. Before any work has begun it is first necessary to determine that the equipment is indeed in a normal operating condition. Anything otherwise can pose risks not anticipated. Inspection, maintenance, and failure logs should be reviewed. A risk assessment is necessary for the assigned task on the specific equipment. This could be a review of the risk assessment provided by the host employer or a previous risk assessment by the contract employer. It could be the first assessment for that task on that equipment. It may require verification of the parameters on the equipment label.  
If an ESWC is to be established, it is possible that each employer has a procedure. One procedure may be more thorough or stringent than the other. The host and contract employers must agree on the procedure to be used. A contract worker may not be familiar with the host’s procedure, and training should be provided to that worker. A detailed record should be developed if a task will be conducted while energized. The host employer is typically responsible for the safety of anyone present in their facility. A contract employer has a responsibility to protect their workers at a contract site. In no case should an employee be subjected to unjustified, exposed, energized electrical hazards.
There are many other things that a host and contract employer must reach agreement on before a contract worker begins a task. Who decides that the equipment is under normal operating conditions? Whose PPE will be used? Who will provide any specialized equipment? Who is responsible for verifying that all PPE is suitable for the assigned task? How will affected host employees be notified of the task? Who will be responsible for establishing and enforcing the approach boundaries? What happens when the procedure will include a complex lockout program? A host employer occasionally feels that they have no obligations or responsibility for safety of a contract worker. A contract employer sometimes feels as if they know better than the host employer. The rules of electrically safety apply regardless of a host or contract employee conducting the task but someone must make sure that the rules are followed. This needs to be determined before any task has begun. 
The host and contract employer relationship is unique. Both employers are responsible for the safety of a contract worker at risk of an injury. There must be open and honest dialog between the two employers for there to be a true safety culture for a contract worker. The host employer may look at things differently if they treat the contract worker as one of their own. The contract employer may benefit by considering employee safety above all else. The welfare of the employee should always be in the forefront of any decision and revenue for either party should not be part of the safety discussion.
For more information on 70E, read my entire 70E blog series on Xchange
Next time: Maintaining protective equipment.
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