by , on November 13, 2018
red background with burning question

Is changing light bulbs considered electrical work per NFPA 70E?

Is it necessary to de-energize and LOTO?  I would think, with the new focus in NFPA on hierarchy of risk control, the answer would be yes.  But I’m getting a lot of push back on this.

You are correct on changing light bulbs.

Per the NFPA standard, either turn it off using proper LO/TO/V (lockout/tagout/verify) or get an energized work permit.

Remember shock hazard at even 120V can be fatal. A friend of mine and electrician at my old plant was doing exactly that – changing 480V lights and had his gloves. However, he chose not to keep his gloves on, and he got shocked bad enough to knock him out for several minutes. He recovered, but needless to say he will never again do energized work without rubber insulating gloves. Five days after his incident, he was still having trouble moving his upper body as a result of the muscle soreness from the shock. He was a very lucky man.

I know push back on something this simple is significant. Remind them that .4 AMPs is all it takes to lock up your heart. If they feel that strongly about it, make them get an energized work permit.

More information on electrical work permits can be found at this blog, When is an Electrical Work Permit NOT Required in NFPA 70E? 4 Exemptions.

Have a question about electrical safety and standards? Ask us here OR on our forum!


Doug Black
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6 Comments on "Is Changing Light Bulbs Electrical Work?"

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Steven Richardson - 4 December 2018 Reply

Thanks, Doug. Never thought about it... Steve

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Tony E Perry - 14 January 2019 Reply

I agree. At the facility where I work I am constantly asked this question. People are shocked that I regard this as work for qualified persons only. Thanks for bringing it to light.

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Tom Sanders - 15 January 2019 Reply

To reduce maintenance costs, a local workplace recently moved the office fluorescent tube lamp replacement task from electricians to custodians. This task typically requires a 6 foot step ladder to provide adequate access to the 9 foot ceiling troffers. What are your thoughts on this task now being completed by non-qualified persons?

    Hugh Hoagland
    Hugh Hoagland - 15 January 2019 Reply

    Any work with a hazard requires a person with training to recognize and avoid the hazards. This is a qualified person. While many think there is NO hazard here, that is not correct. The custodians should know what the hazards are and how to avoid them. That is an OSHA and NFPA 70E standard requirement.

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Greg Christensen - 29 January 2019 Reply

In 1983, a father and son were changing overhead lights at a driving range in Ogden, Utah. Unfortunately an aluminum ladder they were using touched an overhead line while the father (Mike) was moving it. His son, Jeff, just16 years old, attempted to pull him from the ladder and was electrocuted too. I played golf there as a kid. Now you might say, the cause was the use of the aluminum ladder and not changing the bulb. The point is, you have to look at all aspects of a task and if in doubt "Lock it Out."

    Ken Sellars
    Ken Sellars - 12 February 2019 Reply

    Greg, It is sad stories like this that keep us motivated to continue teaching electrical safety. In the example you mention, a basic safety rule was obviously missed by this father and son. I refer to it as scene safety from my firefighting instructor days. Many first responders have been injured and even killed by hopping of the squad or engine in order to "rescue" a victim, only to become another victim. I always taught my crews to STOP and ASK the magic question, "Is the SCENE SAFE?" If not, stop all rescue actions and make the scene safe first. Had these two done this, they surely would have seen the overhead power line, and taken precautions that would have saved them both. In the electrical world, we simply cannot afford to take such risks. A proper hazard analysis and follow-through with risk-reduction techniques are a must in our world. Lock it out is certainly a key, but so are things like scene safety, hazards due to gravity, falls, slips, trips, and many more.

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