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A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Part III – The Electrical Components Causing Fatalities in the Workplace.

Jul 25, 2023 | Public | 0 comments


Last month’s blog revealed the top four locations for exposure to electricity fatalities to be a home, an industrial facility, a construction site, and a street. The next thing being investigated is which electrical components are the major cause of those fatalities. Information from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) database is being used to assist employers in decreasing these workplace fatalities. The following chart shows the top four components attributed to these fatalities since 2011.

Source: BLS

Powerline fatalities average 79 per year. The percent of all electrical fatalities due to powerlines, transformers and converters has consistently been 53% (average of 54% since 1992.) Enough information is available from the last 30 years for employers to find ways to prevent these fatalities. Investigation reports show that accidental contact or human error are major factors in these fatalities. A May 1998 NIOSH report (Worker Deaths by Electrocution) listed frequent causes of death as boomed vehicle or conductive equipment contact with an energized powerline. These same two contact methods are causing fatalities twenty-five years later. These fatalities could be one reason why streets are ranked fourth in location of all electric fatalities. Instilling awareness in employees and providing the training required by NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® could aid in deceasing these fatalities. Decreasing these fatalities appears to the be the simplest way to substantially improve electrical safety in the workplace whether the work task being conducted is covered under NFPA 70E or not.

Building wiring fatalities average 21 per year. There was a sudden drop in these fatalities in 2010 after several decades of being flat at an average of 24% of all electrical fatalities. Unfortunately, these fatalities have leveled off at 16% of all electrical fatalities since that decrease. Investigating what occurred in the workplace prior to 2010 could provide employers with the knowledge necessary to further decrease these fatalities. BLS data reveals that these fatalities are equally associated with both in-house and contract employees. Proper installation and maintenance of the building wiring plays a role in preventing these fatalities, as does properly establishing an electrically safe work condition when interacting with building wiring.

Power cord fatalities average 14 per year. Power cords, electrical cords, and extension cords account for 10% of all electrical fatalities. Every employee interacts with cord-connected equipment daily. Fatalities due to cord use are typically associated with damage, misuse, and improper storage. Compared to the other components on the chart, this is perhaps the easiest to remove from the fatality list. Both NFPA 70E and OSHA standards require inspection of cords prior to use. From fatality investigation reports, inspection of a cord prior to energizing it, as well as training how to properly inspect a cord then tag and isolate damaged cords, can prevent these fatalities.

Switchboard fatalities average 11 per year. The percentage of switchboard, switch and fuse fatalities was nearly level (3.8% of all electrical fatalities) for decades prior to 2000. It is disheartening that these fatalities began to trend upwards to an average of 7% of since the end of the 20st century. Of the four discussed components, this is likely where NFPA 70E is mostly associated. These components are where NFPA 70E and an electrically safe work condition can be applied to reduce the number of fatalities.

Proper installation and maintenance of electrical systems and components, awareness of electric hazards, inspection of portable equipment and cords, and establishing an electrically safe work condition can help employers minimize exposure to electrical hazards. A well-established electrical safety program along with proper training is crucial in lowering the number of electrical fatalities. Electricity has been relied on since the last decades of the 19th century. Surely something can be done to prevent these fatalities now that we have entered the third decade of the 21st century.

NFPA Today – July 26, 2023

Important Notice: Any opinion expressed in this column (blog, article) is the opinion of the author and does not necessarily represent the official position of NFPA or its Technical Committees. In addition, this piece is neither intended, nor should it be relied upon, to provide professional consultation or services.

The post "A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: Part III - The Electrical Components Causing Fatalities in the Workplace." appeared first on NFPA Today Blogs


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