We are often asked this question: if you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be? Personally, I think a present-day dinner conversation with Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and other pioneers of electricity would prove to be extremely interesting. Inventors are charged with having extremely creative minds, thinking outside of the norm, and determining the what “could be.” With all the collective creativity in their minds, could they even remotely imagine the ability we have today when it comes to electricity? We are, without question, an electrified world.
According to the Enerdata Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2020, power consumption between 2010 and 2019 has increased by 78%, with an average consumption increase of 3% per year. While the increase in 2019 was down from the norm at only 0.7%, there is little doubt that the 2020 data will be back to at least the 3% yearly average, likely more, due to the additional power being used due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, what does this all mean from an electricity standpoint? It means that, now more than ever, it is imperative that we continue to ensure safe electrical systems.
While sipping my coffee and browsing an electrical forum on social media this morning, I came across a post from an electrician who had just put new tabs in his 2020 edition of the NEC and captioned it, “Tabbing my new book to keep the citizens of my town safe was so exciting, exhilarating, and satisfying. NOTHING has come close. I dare you to ask me anything!”
The ownership and excitement in that post brought a huge smile to my face. “Keeping the citizens of my town safe”…it’s just that simple! Whether you are an engineer designing the electrical system, an electrician installing and/or maintaining the electrical system, or an inspector verifying a safely installed electrical system, we are all charged with the same duty – ensuring the safety of both people and property.
While thinking of this responsibility from a singular perspective may seem daunting, the truth is, it takes a group effort. I've already mentioned the engineer, electrician, and inspectors’ roles in the safety of the electrical system. If one person in the process doesn't do their job properly, people and property could be put at risk. Each person doing his/her job properly is paramount to ensuring safety. The good news is no one is in it alone.
NFPA is steadfast in providing codes and standards such as NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance that assist in providing safe electrical systems for people and property. But it doesn’t stop there. NFPA also takes it a step further by providing NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, which defines safe work practices to help ensure the safety of the individuals who are performing the installation and maintenance of the system.
Much like the individuals in the process are reliant on one another for ensuring the utmost safety, these three NFPA documents are dependent on one another as well to ensure an electrical “Cycle of Safety.” While each piece of the cycle covers a specific area, they must be used in unison in order to provide the safest electrical system possible, being installed in the safest manner. As I mentioned, NFPA 70B deals with electrical equipment maintenance, NFPA 70 (NEC) stipulates the installation rules that are necessary for a proper installation, and NFPA 70E provides the safe work practices necessary to ensure that the installation and maintenance is done safely by the individuals performing the work. When the three are used simultaneously, and correctly, they provide for a complete electrical safety cycle. When one or more pieces are missing, it leaves the door open for catastrophic accidents – even death.
One of my favorite authors, Jon Gordon, preaches that intentional positivity creates a more positive life. We can choose whether we let our responsibility in the” Cycle of Safety” be an intimidating task or, like the electrician that made the social media post, let it ignite the excitement within us for the opportunity we’ve been given to have a positive impact in the safety of others. For me, I’ll choose the latter. Remember, ensuring electrical safety takes a fully focused, collective effort from all of us. As our NFPA tagline goes, “It’s a Big World. Let’s Protect It Together.”