by , on August 23, 2018
red background with burning question

A frequently asked question often relates to what constitutes a qualified electrical worker.

Let’s begin with a basic definition of the word qualified:

Referencing dictionary.com, “qualified” means several things. Here are two definitions:

a. having the qualities, accomplishments, etc.,that fit a person for some function, office, or the like
b. having the qualities, accomplishments, etc., required by law or custom for getting, having, or exercising a right, holding an office, or the like

The second definition fits this discussion. One is considered qualified when a certain accomplishment has been met, and this accomplishment is backed up with some sort of documentation.  A “qualified” electrical worker is discussed in standards like the NFPA 70 National Electrical Code (NEC), National Electric Safety Code (NESC), and NFPA 70E. OSHA also refers to the term “qualified” in many electrical standards, like 1910.331 and 1910.269.

Now let’s continue to a few of the industry definitions:

The NFPA 70E definition states this:

Qualified person. One who has demonstrated skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical equipment and installations and has received safety training to identify the hazards and reduce the associated risk(underlined phrase denotes NEW material in NFPA 70E-2018)

In Subpart S, OSHA 1910.331(a) imparts:

The provisions of 1910.331 through 1910.335 cover electrical safety-related work practices for both qualified persons (those who have training in avoiding the electrical hazards of working on or near exposed energized parts) and unqualified persons (those with little or no such training) working on, near, or with the following installations:… (emphasis added)

OSHA 1926.32(m) contains this definition:

Qualified employee (qualified person): One knowledgeable in the construction and operation of the electric power generation, transmission, and distribution equipment involved, along with the associated hazards.

Note 1: An employee must have the training required by 1910.269 in order to be considered a qualified employee.

Note 2: Except as provided in 1910.260, an employee who is undergoing on-the-job training and who, in the course of such training, has demonstrated an ability to perform duties safely at his or her level of training and who is under the direct supervision of a qualified person is considered to be a qualified person for the performance of those duties.

Finally, this is what OSHA 1910.269(a)(2)(ii) has to say:

Each qualified employee shall also be trained and competent in:

1. The skills and techniques necessary to distinguish exposed live parts from other parts of electric equipment,

2. The skills and techniques necessary to determine the nominal voltage of exposed live parts,

3. The minimum approach distances specified in this section corresponding to the voltages to which the qualified employee will be exposed and the skills and techniques necessary to maintain those distances,

4. The proper use of the special precautionary techniques, personal protective equipment, insulating and shielding materials, and insulated tools for working on or near exposed energized parts of electric equipment, and

5. The recognition of electrical hazards to which the employee may be exposed and the skills and techniques necessary to control or avoid these hazards.

Note to paragraph (a)(2)(ii): For the purposes of this section, a person must have the training required by paragraph (a)(2)(ii) of this section to be considered a qualified person.

Who can qualify an electrical worker?

The qualification must come from the employer, who is the qualification body.

Basically, you must remember these 2 points:

  1. OSHA requires that workers in the electrical field be qualified.  
  2. The employer must provide a method of qualification, including documentation.

If a state, county, or municipality employs someone who is required to be a Qualified Electrical Worker (QEW,) that governmental body would also have to provide a method of qualification and documentation.

Does holding a current electrical license qualify me?

Some employers believe that an electrical license meets the requirements of qualification. This is not true, however, from an OSHA standpoint. Theoretically, a licensed electrician, who may hold 2 or 20 state licenses, could start work tomorrow at your company. But that person would NOT be a QEW at your facility until your company put the new-hire through a qualification process (usually included in your written Electrical Safety Program) and deemed this new-hire a QEW. Until then, you have a licensed, unqualified electrician.

The same holds true if you hire an electrical engineer, instrument technician, etc. The company that the person works for must do the qualifying.

The Major Takeaways

  1. OSHA requires certain electrical tasks to be performed by qualified personnel.
  2. The employer is responsible for creating a method (process) to qualify workers for electrical tasks, regardless of the individual’s licensure or prior experience. The qualification process must include demonstration of skills.
  3. The employer must document each step in a worker’s qualification.
  4. OSHA requires workers to be trained on the electrical hazards and the mitigation of those hazards.
  5. Employers must provide employee training on the electrical hazards and mitigation of hazards.

See my other blog So Many Electrical Safety Terms – What Do They Mean? for more information on other potentially confusing electrical terms.

If you have questions, ask them here in the comments, or feel free to contact e-Hazard either by email or phone.


Ken Sellars
About author:
Ken Sellars is an instructor of electrical safety, NEC, Grounding/Bonding and Arc Flash Safety courses nationwide. Read more about Ken.

5 Comments on "Am I a Qualified Electrical Worker?"

Bill Russell - 25 August 2018 Reply

Excellent topic, Ken. I can't tell you how many people I have come across that hold an electrical license of some sort that think they are qualified. You said it right that they are a licensed unqualified person.

    Ken Sellars
    Ken Sellars - 27 August 2018 Reply

    Thanks Bill! It is pretty scary out there. I have run across some people that truly have no business being in the electrical trade. That sounds mean-spirited (not my intention), but unfortunately is true.

Terry Harling - 7 September 2018 Reply

Great article Ken. This would directly apply to those companies that continue to have employees seek their own "On Line" training thinking that it will satisfy this requirement. How can a company deem you "qualified" if they do not train you on the exposures that you may be exposed to within their organization and their specific Electrical Safety Programs? Unfortunately there are still a lot of companies that are not willing to provide this training and try to save costs by putting the requirement on the employee with some as a pre-employment requirement.

    Hugh Hoagland
    Hugh Hoagland - 7 September 2018 Reply

    You are right Terry. Unfortunately the responsibility of training is totally legally on the employer from the OSHA perspective. I'd never assume that a degree or a card means you are qualified. Many of the incidents I have investigated have been of people who were qualified for one job but NOT for the job they got hurt doing. Hugh

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