A Manager’s Guide To Energized Electrical Work Permit Requirements

Posted 8.06.23 by:

Dealing with energized electrical work requires a well-structured, regulatory-compliant plan. The Energized Electrical Work Permit, mandated by NFPA 70E regulations, plays a pivotal role in the safety of electrical workers in the United States, Canada, and worldwide. Let’s delve into the relevance of this permit, exploring NFPA 70E regulations, job safety planning, and how we can establish electrically safe work conditions.

Understanding The Energized Electrical Work Permit

The NFPA 70E Standard outlines the comprehensive requirements that enable safe work practices. These practices aim to protect personnel by reducing exposure to significant electrical hazards​​. It includes safety-related work practices, safety-related maintenance requirements, and safety requirements for special equipment. Let’s cover the basics first to ensure we’re on the same page.

What Is An Energized Electrical Work Permit?

Energized electrical work permits are documents used to help control and document situations where required work must occur on live (electrically energized) circuits. 

What does energized mean in electrical terms?

In terms of electrical verbiage, an energized circuit is any circuit that has a charge. If we are to get even more technically precise, you might say that energized means any component, device, or circuit that is live (aka active). Using the latter definition, we encompass things like batteries and capacitors, which might hold a charge after the overall circuit is isolated from its power source.

What is the voltage for energized electrical work?

Generally speaking, any circuit with a voltage less than 50 volts is one that is safe to work with, even when live (although precautions are still essential).

According to internationally recognized NFPA regulation, 130.2 requires that electrical equipment is placed into an electrically safe state when 50 volts or more powers the circuit or when the chances of shock or arc flash present themselves due to required work operations.

What is the purpose of the EEWP?

The purpose of the EEWP is to document the process before working on electrically charged equipment, components, or circuits. The concept is that the documentation process helps to steer the pre-work stage to ensure safety and that all reasonable precautions are in place. Furthermore, the concept also endorses the electrical worker to find another means before considering live circuit work. 

Under which condition is energized work permitted?

There aren’t many reasons why a circuit or component can’t be de-energized. However, there are some situations where it becomes necessary to deal with live equipment, according to NFPA 70E:

  1. Turning off the power would introduce additional or increased hazards. For example, shutting off power to life support equipment, emergency alarm systems, or critical industrial processes could create a dangerous situation.
  2. If turning off the power would be infeasible due to equipment design or operational limitations. For example, turning off power would require shutting down an entire factory and causing undue financial burden.
  3. For activities such as diagnostics, testing, or troubleshooting that may require energizing the system.

When Don’t I Need an EEWP?

Testing, Troubleshooting, and Voltage Measuring

When performing tasks such as voltage testing or troubleshooting, work may be done on energized equipment without a permit. However, workers must have appropriate training and follow safety procedures and proper personal protective equipment (PPE) use.

Access to and Egress from an Area with Exposed Live Parts 

If workers need to pass near energized parts on their way to or from an area and are at a safe distance, an EEWP may not be needed. However, safety precautions should still be in place to prevent accidental contact or unsafe proximity to the live parts. In other words, you need to put controls in place to prevent direct exposure to areas that pose a risk.

Are Interactions Not a Part of the Job or Task? Safety is Still Critical!

Interactions with equipment that do not directly involve work on the electrical system, like adjusting thermostat settings on a live control panel, generally do not require an EEWP, although safety measures should take place. We assume the live control panel has a cover or other means of controlling the risk and exposure potential.

Minor Servicing Activities

If minor servicing activities are being done under normal operating conditions, an EEWP may not be required. It could include tasks like changing a light bulb in a lamp. However, the definition of “minor” can vary, and controls and procedures should be in place to avoid risk. For example, when changing lights, unplug them or turn off their breaker and verify voltage first.

What is exempted from EEWP requirements, even when live?

Generally speaking, when you need to test, troubleshoot, or measure voltage, you typically don’t need to complete the EEWP process. However, it is best practice to complete a Job Hazard Analysis Checklist first to ensure that what you want to do can be accomplished safely.

Does NFPA 70E require an energized work permit?

Yes. If work on any piece of equipment exposes a team member to the risk of shock or arc flash, and there is no safer way to isolate power, then an energized work permit is absolutely required. 

NFPA 70E Regulations Snapshot

  • NFPA 70E requires a job safety plan and a job briefing before each job that exposes any team member to an electrical hazard. It applies to both occasional and daily exposure​​.
  • The primary method of protecting a team member from electrical hazards is by establishing electrically safe work conditions. If exposure is unavoidable, it must be properly justified, and you must have documented procedures in place​​.
  • For any task, you need a detailed plan to allow for an effective job briefing. This plan must identify specific hazards associated with the task and verify that necessary equipment will be available. This planning stage may involve the use of an energized work permit to gather essential information.
  • The employer should have a record of job safety planning and briefing to protect against potential liability in the event of an injury. It is true even if the employee is wearing personal protective equipment (PPE).

CSA Z462 Workplace Electrical Safety Standard (Canada)

In Canada, the NFPA is still relevant, although Canada has its own regulations stipulated by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA). Aside from the similar approach to safety involving having personnel properly trained, properly using equipment, and establishing electrically safe working conditions, the standard also makes points to the following four points:

  1. Justification for Energized Work: The CSA Z462 states that you should de-energize electrical conductors and circuit parts before they are worked on. If not possible, you must demonstrate that de-energizing adds more hazards or is infeasible because of equipment design or operational limitations.
  2. Energized Electrical Work Permit (EEWP): You must complete an EEWP if energized work is necessary. The permit should justify why the work must occur in an energized condition, describe the safe work procedures and precautions the workers will take, and indicate the appropriate PPE required.
  3. Shock Risk Assessment: Team members must complete a shock risk assessment before any live work. It should identify the shock hazard, estimate the risk, and implement risk control methods according to the hierarchy of risk control specified by the standard.
  4. Arc Flash Risk Assessment: This risk assessment is also necessary for any live work. It identifies the arc flash hazard, estimates the risk, and determines safe work procedures, protective clothing, and other PPE necessary to protect the worker. Furthermore, the arc flash risk assessment documents the minimum safe boundaries and is only completable by appropriately trained individuals like master electricians.

Energized Electrical Work Permit (EEWP) Requirements

Energized Electrical Work Permit (EEWP) Requirements
high voltage post.High-voltage tower sky background.

Once you’ve determined there isn’t a safer way to complete a job, it’s time to proceed with planning, and that includes having an Energized Electrical Work Permit for your master electrician to complete following their JHA and Arc Flash Risk Assessment. Here are the items you need to include in your permit:

Justification of Why the Work Must be Performed Energized 

The permit must include details of why the work is not possible with the equipment in a de-energized state. Working on energized equipment should only move forward if de-energizing the equipment makes things more dangerous.

Description of the Circuit and Equipment 

Include detailed information about the equipment and circuits involved. It’s best to list them and include voltage levels, circuit impedance, available short circuit current, and other relevant information.

Work Procedures Involved

Include the step-by-step process that team members will take to complete the work safely.

Shock Hazard Analysis

A detailed analysis of shock hazards associated with the work, including the voltage to which personnel might face exposure to, the boundary requirements, and the required personal protective equipment (PPE).

Arc Flash Risk Assessment

This document details the potential for an arc flash event and the precautions necessary to minimize the risk. It includes the flash protection boundary and the PPE that must be worn within this boundary.

Protective Measures and Equipment

This section details the PPE team members will use, insulated tools, and other protective measures to ensure worker safety.

Safe Work Practices

This segment involves a detailed list of the work practices you expect team members to employ, which should adhere to recognized industry standards. Furthermore, always check with your local regulatory authorities to ensure that your team is more than compliant with any standards or regulations in your area.

Evidence of a Completed Job Briefing

A job briefing is essential when there is a potential for risk. Given the potential for arc flash and electrocution events to turn severe or even fatal, it’s no wonder so many localities require it by law. The job briefing should include any relevant points and safety precautions to keep your team working safely and at the lowest possible risk.

Approvals

The permit should be signed by authorized individuals in the organization, signifying that the work has been approved and that all safety measures are in place.

Remember, the exact requirements for an EEWP might vary depending on the local regulations and the work’s specific nature. Always consult the relevant safety standards and local regulations in your area.

Planning Safe Electrical Work

Planning Safe Electrical Work with 1st Reporting.
Planning Safe Electrical Work with 1st Reporting.

Before embarking on any electrical work that exposes workers to electrical hazards, a well-rounded job safety plan is critical. The person in charge must ensure the plan addresses potential risks and ensures necessary precautions are in place. This plan forms the backbone of safe operations and is key to creating a safe working environment.

Establishing Electrically Safe Work Conditions

Establishing electrically safe working conditions should be your first line of defense for workers dealing with electrical hazards​. This state of safety, as mandated by the NFPA 70E, involves appropriate troubleshooting measures and justification for any necessary energized work.

Risk Assessments

Before work starts, the risk assessment stage of work is an essential stage of any work cycle involving the potential for electrical shocks or explosions (arc flash). We need to do due diligence in our assessments and look at it the way the NFPA intends – that there are no roles, just qualified and unqualified personnel. That is, there are qualified, unqualified, and distances. Distances are the measure of distance from a source of electric energy and the potential for shock or worse. Here’s an example of what I mean:

Let’s say a 600-volt operator powers an overhead door. A technician is on-site to check the door and reset some limits inside the operator. In order to do so, the cover must be removed, exposing the technician to both a 600-volt and 120-volt and a third 12-volt control circuit. The operator might have two separate power feeds, at 120 v and 600 v, if it doesn’t have an internal transformer as the system might require.

Let’s add some spice to the mix by introducing a drywaller who is fixing a patch to a hole in some drywall a few feet from the technicians working on the door’s operator. Furthermore, there are staff walking around. How do we determine the appropriate course of action? According to the NFPA, we assume all workers are at some degree of risk. The severity of said risk is relative to the distance between the person and the energy source and the degree to which that source would inflict injury. Furthermore, it is not only the source of energy but the potential for said energy to cause injury via a shock or arc flash event.

For obvious reasons, we would want to see a process whereby the technicians lock out the power source, confirm the power source is isolated, and then proceed to open the operator cover and set what they need to set. Furthermore, the drywaller nearby might not have any idea what the technicians are doing, being focused on their own work, which does not have much risk, or rather, no electrical risk, just patching some drywall. 

The NFPA standards tell us that we must treat all workers the same (in terms of ignoring roles and assuming either qualified or unqualified to enter minimum safety barriers), and they should all understand how boundaries of risk work. That is, the boundary distance they must maintain to continue working safely, free of risk from electrical shock or arc flash.

In order to get a handle on the risks, minimum safe distances, and requirements you and your team must meet, it’s obvious that a JHA and Arc Flash Risk Assessment are both necessary.

Job Hazard Analysis

A job hazard analysis is a document used to guide a team member through risk assessments pertaining to their required work.

Arc Flash Risk Assessment

An arc flash risk assessment is a specialized form of job hazard analysis that a qualified individual such as an electrician or engineer will complete to ascertain the nature and extent of potential harm to a person or property that might transpire from completing a repair or maintenance on energized equipment. That’s a mouthful, but it’s critical to understand the arc flash risk assessment’s necessity.

For reference, arc flash can reach 35,000 degrees Fahrenheit (19,400 degrees Celsius). Yeah, that’s hot. You don’t mess around with that.

Who must be trained never to cross the arc flash boundary?

Anyone who will enter an area that has a minimum safe boundary must have trained so they understand to avoid the risk. These individuals might include anyone relevant such as a janitor who sweeps the floors near high-voltage equipment. Although they aren’t touching any equipment, they might be within the minimum safe arc flash boundary if an electrician is testing or working with live voltage. 

Safety is critical for anyone who might be exposed to electrical hazards, whether shock or arc flash. Anyone who might come within a safe distance must have training.

At what voltage is arc flash required?

According to NFPA 70E, arc-rated PPE is a requirement when there is potential for exposure to an electrical arc flash. That is an arc flash with a power of 1.2cal/cm2 or greater (determined by an Arc Flash Risk Assessment).

Detailed Planning – As Per Section 110.5(I)(1)

Planning every minute detail, documenting the same, and verifying the availability of necessary equipment forms a significant part of the preparation​​. By having this robust system in place, we ensure that workers are ready to handle any situation that might arise.

For any task, you need a detailed plan to allow for an effective job briefing. This plan needs to identify specific hazards associated with the task and verify that necessary equipment will be available. This planning stage may involve the use of an energized work permit to gather necessary information.

The Job Briefing – As Outlined in Section 110.5(I)(2)

Once the planning stage concludes, the employee in charge is responsible for conducting a comprehensive job briefing. The briefing ensures that everyone involved in the work process understands their role, the scope of the task, any potential deviations, and the relevant safety procedures. The briefing should cover all aspects of the work procedure, and employees should express any concerns they have about the task, procedure, qualifications, or safety.

The Key Role of the Employee in Charge

The employee in charge carries an enormous responsibility in this safety process. They may also be the assigned team member for the task​​. It’s their duty to ensure all safety measures are in place and followed stringently. However, in most regions, it falls on the employer to ensure that the employees have appropriate training in order to ensure they are qualified to shoulder the burden of their role.

Safety Planning and Briefing: A Must, Not an Option

Skipping safety planning and briefing can lead to severe consequences, including fatal injuries. Besides, the lack of proper safety planning and briefing records can also lead to legal and regulatory complications​.

Take safety seriously when dealing with electricity – it’s the silent killer.

In Conclusion

Compliance with the requirements for energized electrical work permits is not just a regulatory obligation but a commitment to the safety of electrical workers. By understanding and adhering to the stipulations set forth by the NFPA 70E standard, we can ensure that our workplaces are as safe as possible for those working with electricity.

The key takeaway is clear: meticulous planning, proper briefing, and unflinching adherence to safety protocols form the bedrock of electrical work safety. After all, safety is not merely a box to check off – it’s a continuous commitment.

References:

  1. Christopher Coache, Senior Electrical Engineer, ‘A Better Understanding of NFPA 70E: When to Protect an Employee from Electrical Hazards’, NFPA Today, February 16, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2023.
  2. NFPA 70E. (2021). Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. National Fire Protection Association. Accessed June 7, 2023.
  3. Christopher Coache, Senior Electrical Engineer, ‘NFPA 70E Series: Exemptions to the energized work permit’, NFPA Today, February 16, 2017. Accessed June 7, 2023
  4. Terry Becker, P.Eng., CESCP, IEEE Senior Member, ‘Energized Electrical Work Permit YES or NO?’, Electrical Industry News Week, November 11, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2023
  5. Environmental Health and Safety, ‘Energized Electrical Work,’ California State University, Northridge
  6. Jim White, CESCP, ‘The busy person’s guide to assessing risk and using Energized Electrical Work Permits (EEWPs),’ Fluke Corporation. Accessed June 7, 2023
  7. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, ‘Electrical Protective Equipment,’ Occupational Safety and Health Standards, Part 1910, Standard 1910.137. Accessed June 7, 2023
  8. CSA Z462:21, Workplace Electrical Safety, CSA Group, 2021. Accessed June 7, 2023.

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