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Each year in June, NFPA honors various professionals working in different ways to reduce loss in our world. These individuals are raising awareness of persistent challenges, addressing hazards in new, innovative ways and helping to raise the bar on safety in proactive, progressive ways.

 

Paul D. Martin, retired Deputy State Fire Administrator with the New York State Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Service’s Office of Fire Prevention and Control, is the winner of the 2019 James M. Shannon Advocacy Medal. The award was established in honor of Jim Shannon who served as NFPA president for 12 years; he proactively championed key changes that reduced fire hazards and was a passionate proponent of home fire sprinklers. Paul Martin started his fire service career more than 40 years ago, and has been an advocate for campus fire safety, both on and off campus. He served as a director of the non-profit Center for Campus Fire Safety for more than 12 years, (six years as president) and led efforts to launch a Campus Fire Safety Awareness Day at dozens of campuses throughout New York. Martin was also instrumental in New York becoming the first state to pass Fire Safe Cigarette requirements, essentially paving the way for other states to do so too. Additionally, Martin served as co-chair of Prevention, Advocacy, Resource and Data Exchange (PARADE), a program the United States Fire Administration designed to exchange fire-related prevention/ protection information and resources between federal, state, and local levels of government.

 

The Standards Medal is the most distinguished award given by the NFPA Standards Council. It recognized and honors outstanding contributions to fire safety. Peter J. Willse is the 2020 recipient of the Standards Medal. Willse began his professional career as a field engineer for Industrial Risk Insurers (IRI) and moved on to U.S. and international roles for several years before IRI became GE Global Asset Protection Services (GAPS) and ultimately XL Insurance, where he became the director of research. Willse oversees relationships between GAPS, NFPA, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF), the Society of Fire Protection Engineers (SFPE), and Underwriters Laboratories. He is responsible for the publication of GAP Guidelines manuals and teaches in areas of building construction, combustion controls, natural hazards, and special hazards. Willse has also authored articles on Exterior Insulation and Finishing Systems (EIFS) and fire walls and has revised chapters for multiple editions of NFPA's Fire Protection Handbook. A firefighter/ EMT in Connecticut, Willse serves as an advisor for fire cadets and acts as deputy fire marshal. A former NFPA Board of Directors and Standards Council member, Willse sits on several other NFPA committees today, as well as on the FPRF Board of Trustees and Worcester Polytechnic lnstitute (WPI) Fire Protection Engineering Advisory Board.

 

The Research Foundation Medal recognizes one Fire Protection Research Foundation (Foundation) project from the previous year that best exemplifies the Foundation’s fire safety mission, commitment to overcoming technical challenges and collaborative approach. An awards committee comprised of representatives from the Research Foundation Board, Research Advisory Committee, and NFPA technical staff reviewed 24 project summaries, along with staff assessments. They selected Digitized Fuel Load Survey Methodology Using Machine Vision which addresses the need to provide reliable fuel load data to quantify design fires for buildings as the winner. The availability of fuel load data has been hindered by the lack of an efficient building surveying method, but this project developed and applied a new digitized methodology for fuel load surveys using machine vision that can facilitate the collection, storage, and analysis of fuel load data for a variety of building occupancies. Negar Elhami-Khorasani, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University at Buffalo (NY), Thomas Gernay, an assistant professor in the Department of Civil and Systems Engineering at Johns Hopkins University (MD), and Juan Gustavo Salado Castillo, Esther Saula, Timothy Josephs, and Gauhar Nurlybekova, students in the Department of Civil, Structural and Environmental Engineering at the University of Buffalo (NY) are the recipients of this award.

Maria Bostian, public education and information officer for Kannapolis (N.C.) Fire Department, has received the 2019 Fire and Life Safety Educator of the Year Award, as well as a $1000 honorarium for her and $1000 to support public education activities in her community. Annually, NFPA confers this award on a dedicated educator who works for a fire department of fire marshal’s office in the U.S. or Canada and uses NFPA materials in consistent and creative educational ways. She teams up each year with her community’s local pet supply store to stage a Pet Fire Safety Day; and elevates safety awareness by using NFPA’s Learn Not to Burn® preschool program and NFPA’s Remembering When™ program for older adults. In 2019, Bostian visited a preschool classroom with the Fire Prevention Week theme of “Not every hero wears a cape. Plan and practice your escape.” She emphasized the importance of knowing two ways out of every room in the event of a fire and reinforced this key messaging with customized handouts for the children. This decision proved to be lifesaving for one of the preschoolers; who after the lesson experienced a house fire and got her siblings and herself to safety. Bostian also promotes fire safety through two children’s picture books she authored – underscoring vital safety information found within NFPA’s Educational Messaging Advisory Council’s Desk Reference.

 

The 2020 Harry C. Bigglestone Award is given annually to a paper appearing in Fire Technology that best represents excellence in the communication of fire protection concepts. The award honors the memory of Harry C. Bigglestone, who served as a trustee of the Fire Protection Research Foundation and was a fellow and past president of the Society of Fire Protection Engineers; it comes with a $5,000 cash prize from NFPA. “Should We Leave Now? Behavioral Factors in Evacuation Under Wildfire Threat” by Jim McLennan, adjunct professor, school of psychology and public health, La Trobe University; Barbara Ryan, senior lecturer, school of arts and communication, University of Southern Queensland; Chris Bearman, associate professor of cognitive psychology; Queensland University (Adelaide campus); and Keith Toh, deputy dean of learning and teaching, RMIT University is this year’s winner.

 

 Congratulations to this year's impressive winners!

electrical safety

 

What are the primary NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace requirements for an employee? Section 105.3(B) lists one. An employee must comply with the safety-related work practices and procedures provided by the employer. Public Law 91-596, “Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970” SEC. 5.(b) requires that each employee comply with occupational safety and health standards and all rules, regulations, and orders issued pursuant to the Act which are applicable to his own actions and conduct. Most employees do not know the law but expect that their employer ensures that they are following it. One way for them to comply with respect to electrical hazards is to follow NFPA 70E. However, the employee’s compliance with the law is typically dependent on the quality of the employer’s electrical safety program.

 

An employee has a great responsibility after being trained to use and follow the safety-related work practices and procedures for the tasks assigned. Once out in the workplace conducting daily assigned tasks, employees make decisions to apply that training and the steps detailed in the provided procedures. Following documented procedures is the easiest part of the employee’s responsibility. However, the employee’s safety is not solely addressed by following procedures. Safety training, safe work practices, and safety policies also include things often not part of the detailed work procedure for the assigned task.

 

The employee’s training should teach them to recognize that new technology, new types of equipment, or changes in procedures affect their safety. They must recognize that their skills may not be sharp if they have not performed the task regularly. They must recognize that safety-related work practices not normally used during regular job duties may necessitate additional training. Although the employer must document employee training, the employee should question their training if job duties change.

 

Employees must be instilled with an awareness of potential electrical hazards and the self-discipline to control their own safety when working around electrical hazards. Awareness is entirely dependent on the employee. An employee must always be alert where electrical hazards might exist. An employee must recognize that they are impaired due to illness, fatigue, or other reason. Even a supervisor may request that the employee perform a task not originally assigned and the employee must recognize that that changes during the work that might affect their safety. The employee must be alert that reaching blindly into areas affects their safety.

 

The employee’s training must also address illumination. The employee must realize that they should not enter a space unless the lighting enables them to perform the work safely. They must also use their training to recognize that a task should not be performed if insufficient lighting or an obstruction prevents them from seeing the location where the task is be performed.

 

The employee is responsible for applying the training that conductive articles of jewelry and clothing should not be worn within the restricted approach boundary or where they present an electrical contact hazard. Only the employee can handle conductive materials, tools, and equipment in a manner that prevents unintentional contact with energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. The employee must apply the training to secure doors and hinged panels to prevent their swinging into them. The employee’s training directs them to keep the working space clear to permit safe operation and maintenance of electrical equipment. Qualified and unqualified employees must use their training to anticipate equipment failure and that they should be protected from those hazards by suitable barricades and other alerting techniques.

 

The training provided to an employee must address these issues and more. Following detailed procedures is relatively easy. Following electrical safety principles and practices that were provided during training is a little more difficult for employees. The safe work practice that conductive jewelry not be worn should be discussed during training but it is typically not addressed in a detailed procedure. However, the employee is responsible for applying that safe work practice daily. Safety training must be provided by the employer. It is the employee’s consistent use of this training that will dictate if they will be returning home uninjured at the end of the day. Remember, it is the law.

 

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

 

Next time: Is the contractor printing labels or are they doing risk assessments.

 

Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code (NEC)? Subscribe to NFPA Network to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

With the smell of hydrocarbons still in the air, reassurances that the citizens of Rouen, France could “live and work absolutely normally” just days after over 9,000 pounds of potentially hazardous chemicals burned in a massive fire, fell flat. Françoise Perchepied, a retired housekeeper, captured the community’s anger at the Lubrizol plant incident with “I might move somewhere else,” adding, “Everything is polluted. We just don’t want to be poisoned.” And, while authorities insisted there was nothing to fear, Normandy farmers were still instructed to dump milk and leave fields unharvested.

 

Months earlier, and an ocean away, residents of Deer Park, near Houston, Texas, were also skeptical of official claims that a four-day blaze at the Intercontinental Terminals Company (ITC) held no lingering effects. After school cancellations and shelter in place orders, one resident, Kristen Crump, told the Associated Press, “I do not fully trust what they say . . . I do believe what is in the air is very harmful and it can have long-term effects such as cancer and things like that down the line. I don’t think it’s worth risking that for me or my kids to stay here and breathe in this stuff.” Ecosystem

   

At the ITC storage facility, the lack of a remotely controlled shut-off valve, and gas detection equipment, greatly contributed to the severity of the event. Workers were left unaware of the release of flammable naptha near an 80,000-gallon storage tank and then powerless to shut-off the flow from that tank once it began to feed a raging fire. In Rouen, the cause of the fire remains under investigation, but investigators have cited insufficient water supply for firefighting, a lack of fire detection equipment for chemicals stored outdoors, and an inadequate gutter system to contain hazardous runoff.

 

Firefighters worked valiantly to battle blazes in both incidents. However, the components of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem are intended to work in concert, not individually. If the owners of either of those plants had invested in more heavily in fire safety, resulting minor incidents might have prevented a slew of lawsuits and hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for environmental damages. More importantly, residents or Deer Park and Rouen would not need to fear the air they breathe.  

 

EcosystemSpeaking of concerts though, Government Responsibility should be playing a bigger role. In Houston, dotted with thousands of above-ground storage tanks, Texas lawmakers know there are gaps in inspections and standards for these tanks, which is particularly concerning given the area’s vulnerability to major storms and flooding. In Rouen, French lawmakers have also identified ways to improve regulations intended to keep communities with major facilities in their midst safe from these disasters. Policymakers should not wait for the next plume of acrid smoke to act to protect communities.   

 

Learn more about these and similar stories in our 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem: Year in Review report, now available to download for free on NFPA's Ecosystem webpage. There's additional information about the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and free resources available for download, too, including:

 

  • The new 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem: Year in Review report
  • A link to the “Ecosystem Watch” page in NFPA Journal
  • An animated video, “About the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem”
  • A Fire & Life Safety PowerPoint deck for presentations
  • A Fire & Life Safety fact sheet

 

You can find all of these resources and more by visiting the Ecosystem webpage at www.nfpa.org/ecosystem.

 

 

As states continue looking for ways to safely reopen the economy, many jurisdictions are allowing businesses, specifically restaurants, to open, provided that the seating area for customers is located outside, tables are located at least 6 feet apart, and the number of patrons at each table is limited. As I spent some time driving around Massachusetts recently, I could not help but notice the large number of tents erected in the parking lots and around properties of restaurants and businesses allowing them to provide outdoor seating.

 

Some may think that because these tents are temporary structures that precautions for fire protection and life safety isn’t needed, but in truth, it is more important than ever. This July 6th will mark the 76th anniversary of the Hartford Circus fire, which killed 168 people and injured over 500 when a fire broke out in a circus tent and spread rapidly due to the combustible canvas. The occupants within the tent were unable to evacuate in time due to the limited means of egress that was not properly maintained.

 

NFPA 101, Life Safety Code, section 11.11 and NFPA 1, Fire Code, chapter 25 contain requirements that address the use of tents and membrane structures. First, tents are only permitted to be used on a temporary basis and cannot be used as a permanent structure, which means they should not be erected for more than 180 days. The means of egress must comply with the requirements for the occupancy of the tent. Restaurants with an occupant load of 50 or more people are classified as assembly occupancies, while restaurants with less than 50 people are classified as mercantile occupancies. To determine the appropriate occupancy, the number of occupants in the space needs to be calculated to ensure that there is proper exit capacity and a proper number of exits. Additional egress features to consider include exit marking and emergency lighting within the tent. It is also important to make sure that exits from a tent cannot be blocked. For example, if the tent is erected in a parking lot, it is possible for a vehicle to park against an exit and block it. This could be mitigated with the use of barricades and signs as well as educating the staff. This education is important as the maintenance of the means of egress in these tents is important to ensure that nothing (including the tent wires and supports) obstructs the exits, aisles, and other means of egress.

 

The location of the tent must be approved by the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) (i.e., the building department, fire department, etc.) to ensure that it does not block fire department access or the means of egress from other buildings, and is not located too close to other buildings or lot lines. Additionally, at least a 10 ft (3 m) distance around the tent must be maintained free of combustible material. There also should be a distance of at least 10 ft (3 m) between stake lines of multiple tents to provide means of egress from the tents.

 

One of the biggest concerns with a tent as demonstrated during the Hartford Circus fire is the flammability of the tent fabric, and because of this, both NFPA 1 and NFPA 101 require that the tent material meets the flame propagation performance requirements of NFPA 701, Standard Methods of Fire Tests for Flame Propagation of Textiles and Films. This is a test performed on the fabric of the tent by a testing organization, who will issue a certificate if the fabric has passed the test.

In order to limit the exposure to fire, several safety measures must be put in place. Smoking within the tent is not permitted and “NO SMOKING” signs need to be posted. Restaurants in some states are only permitted outdoor seating at this time and will be using these seating areas in all weather conditions, perhaps seeking to use heaters if it gets cool.  All heating equipment used within the tent must be listed for that use and all containers for LP gas need to be at least 5 ft (1.5m) from the tent. Fire extinguishers are required within the tent as directed by the AHJ.

 

In sum, there are multiple safety precautions that must be followed if you are going to erect a tent or membrane structure, and this was not an all-inclusive review of all requirements. For any restaurant, business or other group planning to use a tent, make sure to contact the AHJ, review all applicable requirements in NFPA 1 and NFPA 101, and have the plans reviewed by a qualified person.

 

For the most up to date information from the NFPA regarding fire and life safety in the midst of COVID-19, be sure to check out https://www.nfpa.org/coronavirus.

The NFPA Podcast, a new podcast series featuring in-depth interviews on fire, life and electrical safety, launched today with a segment on marijuana. The new podcast utilizes the same journalistic format of the former NFPA Journal Podcast, but delves further into trending topics by featuring perspective from diverse professionals from around the globe.

 

Points of view from different subject matter experts — code officials, facility managers, inspectors, builders, electricians, firefighters, public educators, policymakers and more — are woven together to demonstrate that safety is a system, as illustrated in the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem.

“Everything related to fire and life safety changes fast and frequently, and as such so must the depth of our knowledge,” said Lorraine Carli, vice president of Outreach and Advocacy at NFPA. “The NFPA Podcast looks at persistent challenges, current issues and potential concerns in a refreshing, relevant way. It provides listeners with well-rounded information so that those charged with protecting people and property can do their jobs effectively and efficiently.”

The inaugural episode of The NFPA Podcast examines the legal cannabis industry through different lenses. The multi-billion-dollar legal marijuana industry, with its own unique industrial processes, has fire marshals, firefighters, regulators, inspectors and others across the United States scrambling to learn how these facilities operate, what the dangers are, and what regulations need to be in place to prevent fires and explosions, such as the one that occurred recently at a cannabis-related business in Los Angeles. Listen to the cannabis conversation here.

New episodes will air on the second and fourth Tuesday of each month and can be accessed on Spotify, Apple Music, and many other popular podcast platforms. In the coming weeks, The NFPA Podcast will look at fire safety considerations for batteries, remote video inspection, residential fire sprinklers, and wildfire preparedness efforts.

 

Listeners with ideas for future podcast episodes are encouraged to email Jesse Roman at jroman@nfpa.org.

For the first time in 124 years, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) is hosting its Annual Meeting online.

 

The NFPA 2020 Association Annual Meeting and NFPA Conference & Exposition were scheduled to take place this week in Orlando, Florida, but as has often been the case during COVID times, the live events were cancelled. Instead, registration and voting for the NFPA Board of Directors elections is virtually underway from Monday, June 15 at 9:00 a.m. EDT through 5 p.m. EDT. on Wednesday, June 17 at www.nfpa.org/boardvote.


Outgoing NFPA Board Chair Keith Williams, recently retired as Chairman of UL, opens up the Annual Meeting with some perspective on NFPA during COVID times and the organization’s transition to meet modern day demands. Then, NFPA President and CEO Jim Pauley provides an abbreviated overview of organizational business priorities and the ways that NFPA is working to ensure that a broad range of global stakeholders have the information they need, in the formats that make sense, to move safety forward.

 

The Annual Meeting is being held in accordance with section 5.14.1(a) 
of the NFPA Bylaws; consider this to be the notice by the Secretary of the Association of the nomination by the Governance and Nominating Committee of one candidate for election to the NFPA Board of Directors.


Denis Onieal has been nominated by the Committee for election by the membership to a three-year term as an Elected Member of the Board of Directors with his term to take effect in accordance with the Bylaws. Onieal recently retired from his role as Deputy Fire Administrator for the US Fire Administration, a position he held for nearly five years. Prior to that he served as the Superintendent of the National Fire Academy for close to 20 years. Before his government roles, Onieal was a member of the Jersey City Fire Department in New Jersey for almost 25 years. He finished his long tenure there as chief.


Questions concerning the 2020 Board nomination can be directed to Assistant Secretary Sally P. Everett at NFPA headquarters.

Vehicles have changed significantly over the years. Modern vehicles present new hazards due to the incorporation of larger quantities of combustible materials (e.g. fuels, plastics, and synthetic materials) into their designs. As the popularity of alternative fuel vehicles has grown, concerns regarding their unique hazards, burn characteristics, and typical burn duration have been raised. Modern parking garages have optimized space requirements for vehicle parking and storage, and often implement automated retrieval features and car stacking, which also present unique hazards.

 

This recent webinar summarized an on-going Fire Protection Research Foundation study looking at how the burn characteristics of modern vehicles have changed, the influence of dense parking structures and vehicle carriers on the fire spread hazard, a review of the applicability of the existing fire protection requirements to these new hazards, and recommendations for fire protection strategies to address these hazards going forward.

 

Presenters: Haavard Boehmer and Mike Klassen, Combustion Science & Engineering

 

Full webinar is available here.

On April 15 last year, nearly all eyes were on Notre-Dame, Paris’ 850-year-old gothic masterpiece that nearly burned to the ground. Slightly less noticed though, a month before, the St. Louis Karpeles Manuscript Library Museum, home to rare documents like original documentation of the Louisiana Purchase and the first draft of the U.S. Bill of Rights, went up in flames, nearly taking that history with it. And in Philadelphia, a piece of the city’s own gothic revival past was lost to demolition after a roofer’s torch sparked a fire that consumed the 115-year-old Greater Bible Way Temple.

 

Just like the Parisian firefighters who raced to save religious relics and artwork from Notre-Dame, St. Louis firefighters moved quickly to pull original manuscripts and antiques from the Karpeles. However, without the aid of fire sprinklers, the 100-year-old church that served as the museum’s home could not be saved from millions of dollars of damage, leaving an uncertain future for a cultural institution much valued by the community.   Ecosystem

 

Despite the irreplaceability of the objects they contain, under investment in safety is not uncommon for museums around the world. In 2019, Rio de Janeiro learned the cause of the 2018 Brazil National Museum Fire that ravished the world’s largest collection of Latin and South American natural and cultural history artifacts. The cause, an air conditioner installation that did not meet manufacturer specifications for grounding and circuitry, could grow to a disaster due to paltry spending on fire protection.

 

But, while there are those institutions that have under-invested in fire protection, others embrace it. For instance, Los Angeles’ Getty Center, which houses hundreds of priceless works of art, has invested heavily in the layered fire protection which guards the facility so well that during the nearby Getty wildfire in 2019, the museum campus served as a rest area for fire crews.

 

Investment in safety, one of the eight components in the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, should be everyone’s priority. From the safety of the public, worker training, and emergency planning to the preservation of our cultural icons, we all must work together to allocate resources to reduce losses from fire and related hazards. If we don’t, uninformed decisions to try to save money can and will lead to disastrous and expensive consequences.

 

Learn more about this and similar stories in our 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem: Year in Review report, now available to download for free on NFPA's Ecosystem webpage. There's additional information about the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem and free resources available for download, too, including:

  • The new 2019 Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem: Year in Review report
  • A link to the “Ecosystem Watch” page in NFPA Journal
  • An animated video, “About the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem”
  • A Fire & Life Safety PowerPoint deck for presentations
  • A Fire & Life Safety fact sheet

You can find all of these resources and more by visiting the Ecosystem webpage at www.nfpa.org/ecosystem.

 

 

During the National Fire Sprinkler Association (NFSA) Virtual Annual Seminar and Business & Leadership Conference in April 2020, Matt Klaus, Director of NFPA’s Technical Services, presented, “NFPA in the Time of COVID-19.” NFPA has received a number of questions from members, committee members, members of NFSA, and others about issues and technical challenges the sprinkler industry has been facing during the coronavirus pandemic.

In his presentation, Matt takes a look at Inspection, Testing, and Maintenance (ITM) during COVID-19, the new Hanging and Bracing Standard, Mixed Plastic Commodities, the Owners Questionnaire, budgeting for ISTx, and more.

See his full presentation below:

Additional resources and tools can also be found at www.firesprinklerinitiative.org.

The 2020 NFPA Technical Meeting, being held digitally this year as a result of COVID-19, begins today. To submit position statements to debate Certified Amending Motions (CAMs), visit nfpa.org/2020techsession.

 

The online 2020 meeting allows NFPA members and the public to debate proposed CAMs for NFPA 1 Fire Code, NFPA 4 Standard for Integrated Fire Protection and Life Safety System Testing, NFPA 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code, NFPA 99 Health Care Facilities Code, NFPA 101 Life Safety Code, NFPA 790 Standard for Competency of Third-Party Field Evaluation Bodies, NFPA 1006 Standard for Technical Rescue Personnel Professional Qualifications, NFPA 1500 Standard on Fire Department Occupational Safety, Health, and Wellness Program and NFPA 1700 Guide for Structural Fire Fighting.

 

As at all Technical Meetings, technical committees, correlating committees and authorized makers of CAMs have provided position statements regarding respective CAMs. These are available for review on the 2020 Technical Meeting page. NFPA Members and the public are encouraged to participate in the debate on each CAM by submitting position statements and acknowledging the name and date stamp being supported or countered. There is no cost to participate in the Technical Meeting debate which runs June 8-19, but all participants will be prompted to use an existing NFPA profile or create a profile before submitting position statements. All submitted position statements will be publicly posted as the debate continues.

 

Following the debate period of the session, eligible NFPA members (i.e. those who have been an NFPA member since December 21, 2019) who have registered for the electronic 2020 NFPA Technical Meeting will have the opportunity to vote on all CAMs. To participate in the voting, eligible NFPA Members must register. Voters will receive instructions on downloading the designated Technical Meeting app, as well as information on how to electronically vote. Voting will occur between June 22 and June 26.

 

On or around June 29, NFPA will publicly post all results at nfpa.org/2020techsession. Any successful CAMs will be forwarded to the responsible committee(s) for ballot (if applicable) and in accordance with the Regulations Governing the Development of NFPA Standards.

With the start of hurricane season in June, building owners and managers of industrial and commercial facilities are facing the daunting process of disaster recovery. When electrical systems are damaged in a natural or man-made disaster, electricians need to make a critical decision about whether the electrical equipment that was damaged can be salvaged or not. NFPA has created a checklist for electricians to help highlight and simplify key aspects of this decision-making process.

 

The checklist builds off of recommendations in Chapter 32 of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance* (2019 edition), and includes:70B checklist

 

  • A list of disaster scenarios, which can inflict damage of varying degrees to facilities
  • Steps for assessing equipment
  • A priority assessment table
  • Steps to help identify factors for replacement or repair

 

Still, even with the help of the checklist, the choice between repair and replace will not always be an easy one. Following these simple suggestions can be the difference, however, between an impossible task and an informed decision.

 

Before your community experiences a disaster, download this free “Natural Disaster Electrical Equipment Checklist” and review the contents. Having this information at your fingertips will be extremely valuable should your community call on you for your electrical experience and assistance in the aftermath of a storm or other weather-related event.  

 

Additional disaster-related resources for specialists tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical, and other emergencies, can be found on NFPA's disaster webpage, including bulletins, related code information, articles, and more.

 

*The complete current edition of NFPA 70B and related resources are available for free access or to purchase at www.nfpa.org/70B.

 

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Some promising announcements related to building and life safety were made this week in the UK.


The secretary of state for Housing, Communities, and Local Government introduced a new £1 billion Building Safety Fund (more than 1.2 billion USD) on May 26 to assist with the removal of non-ACM (non-aluminum composite) cladding on high rise residential buildings. The funding will be added to the £600 million (approximately $660,000 USD) set aside in 2019 to pay for the replacement of unsafe exterior walls on buildings over 18 meters (roughly 59 feet) that do not meet building regulations, according to a prospectus for the fund.


The funding for 2020-2021 is designed to alleviate the burden on leaseholders who are being asked to foot significant bills for the removal of combustible exterior wall assemblies, including plastic-laden cladding and insulation, on private high-rise buildings. Additionally, the monies can be used to offset siding costs in public buildings where assessments would have otherwise been passed along to renters. As part of the launch this week, the government stressed that landlords must cover renovation costs without increasing rent for their tenants.


On the same day, UK officials announced that changes had been made to building safety regulations—specifically the guidance known as Approved Document B. The new mandate calls for high rise residences over 11 meters tall (about 36 feet) to be sprinklered and feature consistent wayfinding signage. Current regulations in the UK call for sprinklers at 30 meters (about 98 feet) and taller. The lower height requirements go into effective on November 26.


The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government press release also stated that the housing secretary, mayors, and local leaders are committed to ensuring that critical building safety improvements continue during the coronavirus pandemic.


NFPA has heavily reported on the June 2017 Grenfell Tower fire that took 72 lives when fire rushed up the side of a 24-story apartment building that included ACM cladding and other combustible exterior wall components. In the three years since that tragedy, UK officials and business owners have come under fire for dragging their feet on code enforcement, non-compliant cladding removal efforts, the remediation costs reportedly being passed on to tenants, lax code enforcement, and other infractions.


In response to the deadly fire, NFPA developed a risk assessment tool for existing building stock with combustible exterior walls. The incident has also been covered extensively in NFPA Journal, including a recent NFPA Journal article on the difficulty of obtaining data related to facade fires and a new Learn Something New video that highlights the persistent global problem of facade fires. Grenfell was also a key factor in NFPA creating the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, which identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards.


The steps being taken by elected officials in the UK show progress in addressing the components of the Ecosystem, in particular investment in safety and government responsibility.

In light of the mass protests in Minneapolis, NFPA Journal Podcast is running an episode that first aired on January 12, 2016, which explores the many implications of civil unrest and mass protests for city fire departments. Most of the audio in the episode is from fire officials in Baltimore and Ferguson, Missouri, who discussed their experiences putting out fires amid gunshots and other challenges during the dramatic protests that occurred in their cities after two African American citizens were killed by police officers in 2014 and 2015. The presentations are from the 2015 NFPA Responder Forum.

 

Listen to the podcast here.

 

Additionally, a November/December 2016 NFPA Journal article, "Civil Action," explored how a fire chief in Charlotte, North Carolina, dealt with the fatal police shooting of a black man and subsequent protests in that city in September 2016. The chief was coincidentally attending the 2016 Urban Fire Forum at NFPA headquarters when he was notified of the shooting, and the Metro Chiefs had been discussing past protests. (Read the white paper they endorsed here.)

 

Now, similar events to the ones that occurred in Ferguson in Charlotte are unfolding again.

 

Last night, demonstrations erupted in Minneapolis, Minnesota, in response to the death of a 46-year-old African American man named George Floyd. Video had emerged days earlier of a Minneapolis police officer kneeling on Floyd’s neck for at least seven minutes while Floyd was handcuffed and lying face-down on the road. Floyd was later pronounced dead at a local hospital.

 

As part of the protests that followed, angry citizens have looted stores and set numerous fires, including to a police precinct. While the demonstrations have been most pronounced in Minneapolis, protests have erupted across the country, including in Louisville, Kentucky, Denver, Colorado, and New York City.

 

On the re-aired NFPA Journal Podcast you’ll hear the accounts from firefighters involved in responding to the protests in Ferguson and Baltimore. They share what they learned, and how they did their jobs in the face of a very difficult situation.

OSHA requires employers to provide their employees with a working environment that is free from known and recognized hazards. That is the law and there is no getting around it. For the electrical world, in order to do this, an employer must develop an electrical safety program. This program becomes the blueprint for the procedures that employees must follow, and the safety measures that employers must put in place to protect employees from the hazards that electricity presents.

 

But what goes into developing an electrical safety program? As we close out National Electrical Safety Month this week, we’re addressing this question that has troubled employers since they first learned they need to have a safety program. Developing an electrical safety program that ensures nothing bad will ever happen is the top priority from most employers, however, it's difficult to know how every written procedure will work before putting it into practice and seeing how well it performs. So, where do we start?

 

NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, spells out what an electrical safety program must contain in section 110.1 in the 2018 edition. (And just a side note - the 2021 edition that will be released later this year will see this section shift to 110.5. This is essentially just a re-organization move as other requirements are moved to Article 110 from 130.) There is also information found in Annex E that is intended to help employers understand what goes into an electrical safety program. But regardless of where in the book this information resides, these are just the building blocks; how the program looks, feels, and gets developed is 100 percent up to the employer.

 

70EThe first thing I like to stress when I am in front of a class, like the Developing an Electrical Safety Program Workshop that we developed for the NFPA training department, is that the program must identify the principles on which it is based. Examples of electrical safety program principles can be found in Annex E. My personal favorite is to de-energize whenever and wherever possible. So many put such an emphasis in their programs around procedures and policies for working energized that they forget the most important thing:  the safest way to work on electrical equipment is in an electrically safe work condition. An electrical safety program that makes an electrically safe work condition the number one priority is a requirement if an employer is following NFPA 70E. Other examples of electrical safety principles to develop a program around might be that all work will have some sort of pre-planning activity prior to commencing, or another principle could be to expect the unexpected. If it can go wrong, it probably will at some point.

 

Once we have our guiding principles upon which our program will be based, we need to have a way to measure the success of what we have built. This is where the program controls come into play:

 

  • What type of training will you provide your employees?
  • How will you ensure that employees are indeed qualified persons for a given task or on a certain piece of equipment?
  • How will an employee make sure that every necessary question has been asked and answered before they start the task?

 

These are just a few examples of the controls that must be worked into an employer’s program so that the program has the best chance of providing that workplace free from hazards to employees that OSHA requires.

 

Last but certainly not least, after we have identified what our program is based on and how to ensure the success of our program, then we can get into to the details, or the actual procedures that employees will follow. The procedures will spell out the specific steps to ensuring employee safety. These will include items like the steps for establishing an electrically safe work condition, assessing the risk to the employee performing certain tasks, and the process for filling out an energized electrical work permit. There must also be a procedure laid out in the program that spells out how it will be determined what additional measures must be taken to protect employees when they must be exposed to a hazard. Keep in mind that even if a program is based on zero energized work being performed, even the process of establishing an electrically safe work condition can expose an employee to both shock and arc flash hazards. These hazards exist until the voltage has been verified that it has been removed and steps have been taken to ensure it can’t be turned back on without the worker’s knowledge. Whatever measures are taken, they must be determined in accordance with the hierarchy of risk control methods which emphasizes what priority must be given to each method of mitigating risks to employees. This hierarchy lists hazard elimination as the most effective method and personal protective equipment, or PPE, as the least effective method in protecting employees. Therefore, it should also make sense that an electrical safety program must make an established and verified electrically safe work condition a founding principle for which the program is based on.

 

This is a lot to take in and can be a massive undertaking depending on the size and type of employer. For example, a “Big 3” auto maker’s electrical safety program most likely took many months and many people to develop, whereas a coffee shop in the local strip mall might not require the same level of detail and procedures due to the nature of the work and the type of equipment involved. One employer might benefit from establishing an electrical safety committee that will handle the development, implementation, and auditing of the program. Others might have a committee of one. Each program is as unique as the employer who develops it. And since the electrical safety program is the document that protects an employer’s most critical asset, an investment in time and money to establish, implement, and improve a program that is uniquely specific to an employer is worth every minute and every penny.

 

So, if you or your employer does not have a program in place, it is time to stop everything and build one. Not only will it help save the lives of employees, but it is also the law.  

 

Interested to learn more? My colleague, Corey Hannahs, wrote recently about electrical safety programs and the knowledge, application, and responsibility that must be shared by both employees and employers.

 

Find additional information about the standard by visiting the NFPA 70E webpage.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

70E

What are the primary NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace requirements for an employer? Section 105.3(A) narrows it to basically two. The first is that the employer establish, document, and implement safety-related work practices and procedures. The second is that the employer provide safety-related work practices and procedures training to employees. From the federal side, 1910.332(b)(1) states that employees must be trained in and familiar with the safety-related work practices that pertain to their respective job assignments. Before any of this starts the employer must be committed to improving electrical safety within their facility.

 

Overriding principles to protect employees must be established. Management must commit to protecting the employee by providing guidelines. Establishing an electrically safe work condition will be the primary safe work procedure. All electrical equipment will be inspected and maintained. All work tasks will be planned. Proper tools and equipment will be provided. Employee qualifications will be ensured. Electrical installations will comply with the National Electrical Code (NEC). All employee safety concerns will be addressed. These principles should be documented in order to form the basis for the safe work procedures.

 

In order to establish safety-related practices and procedures, the employer must understand the electrical hazards and risks that employees face as part of their daily tasks. Do employees use portable tools? Does a security guard turn the production floor lights on at a panelboard? What voltages are present in the facility? Are contractors hired to work on electrical equipment? Do contractors engage in energized work? Do electricians install equipment, or do they also maintain it? Do employees open electrical equipment enclosures? Once it has been determined that employees are at risk, it is necessary to determine steps to protect them.

 

With an understanding of the tasks performed and risks faced, and by overlaying the safety principles, the employer can establish safe work procedures. Employee involvement in developing procedures typically increases the likelihood of the procedure being used. What are the steps necessary to safely operate Circuit Breaker #23 in Subpanel #8 to turn on the production floor lights? How does a cord-and-plug connected drill get inspected before use? What is the proper method of establishing an electrically safe work condition for Acme Company, Model 123 motor starter as it has been installed on Production Line #5? What about the starter on Production Line #1? What is the correct lockout procedure for a hydraulic press? What is the applicable testing protocol for insulated gloves? The procedures will be used as part of the required field audits. They should be detailed and controlled so that continued improvement can be implemented.

 

Once all this is documented, the practices and procedures must be implemented. Placing the documents into a file cabinet without this stage is a job poorly done. How will all this safety information be distributed? Who is responsible for making sure the proper information is given to those in need? How will training be implemented? Who oversees implementation of the safety program? How will revisions be incorporated?

 

Lastly, employees must be trained to follow the procedures. How will they be trained? Is there necessary prequalification? Who is qualified to train an employee for a specific task? Who verifies that they are qualified to perform the task? Does the ability to follow the procedure qualify an employee for the task? How will general safety training occur when a detailed procedure may not be necessary, such as how to properly unplug equipment from a receptacle? How does an employee recognize that it is safe to operate electrical equipment? How will a qualified person demonstrate the skills necessary for a task? How will the training be documented? How will the field audits address training or procedure deficiencies?

 

Safe work practices, policies, and procedures will be part of the larger electrical safety program. Electrical safety is not a static thing. Lessons learned through field audits and employee feedback should be evaluated to improve safety. Procedures should be reviewed for relevance and new ones developed when necessary. The goal is to minimize risk and work towards elimination of employee injuries.

 

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

 

Next time: An Employee’s Responsibility.

 

Want to keep track of what is happening with the National Electrical Code (NEC)? Subscribe to the NFPA Network to stay informed of new content. The newsletter also includes NFPA 70E information such as my blogs.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

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