by , on September 23, 2015
red background with burning question

Q: When it comes to work on energized equipment, who (site owner, contractor, or contractor employee) is required to know when it is necessary to de-energize when outside contractors are used?

A: The short answer is that the owner of the equipment takes on the liability of the equipment.

But the decision to work energized or de-energized may lie with the contractor’s electrical safety program (ESP). Hiring a contractor is no defense for inadequate safety.  Ignorance is no defense for inadequate safety.  A qualified contractor is the key, but most companies do not know how to pick a qualified contractor.  If you have a large company and do not have qualified electrical workers to assess your contractors, hire a quality safety company to evaluate, audit and approve some contractors you can choose from.  This is a good way to maintain safety in a plant, warehouse or any facility when you don’t have internal electrical safety expertise. Many of those hurt every year are contractors.

NFPA 70E 2015 makes this very clear: “Where the review of the arc flash hazard risk assessment identifies a change that renders the label inaccurate, the label shall be updated. The owner of the electrical equipment shall be responsible for the documentation, installation, and maintenance of the field-marked label.” 130.5(D)

While the contractor is responsible for their own employees, the equipment maintenance, labeling and condition is the responsibility of the owner. This is part of the risk assessment process.

From a legal perspective, the contractor’s employees may not normally be allowed to sue the contractor BUT they can sue the building owner, the general contractor and others assumed to be partially or wholly responsible for the injury.  After serving as an expert witness for many such lawsuits (usually testifying for the building owner or PPE manufacturer) we recommend due diligence on the part of all property owners.

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Hugh Hoagland
About author:
Hugh Hoagland is the foremost tester of clothing and PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Read more about Hugh.

2 Comments on "Who is Responsible for Work on Energized Equipment – the Contractor or the Owner in NFPA 70E-2015?"

Allan Harn - 6 November 2015 Reply

If an MCC has a ppe category of 2 would you be required to wear that level of ppe when opening or closing a breaker with the door still closed? In other words whatever the ppe category is on the arc flash label is the required ppe to be worn if you were to open or close a breaker with the door closed? Same question for an electrical panel breaker.

    Hugh Hoagland
    Hugh Hoagland - 10 November 2015 Reply

    Doors provide very limited protection depending on the fault current. There is NO rating for the door on most MCC's unless you have an arc resistant MCC which prevents more than 1.2 cal/cm2 from reaching the worker. Otherwise label is for door open or closed. This is a common mistake perpetuated by the last few versions of NFPA 70E and was corrected in 2015. Door means the likelihood of failure is less BUT the severity is likely the same.

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