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 Post subject: NFPA basics
PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:17 am 
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Please correct me where I'm wrong, add any content you feel is relevant and see my questions below.

The NEC (National Electric Code) is put together by the NFPA (National Fire Protection Association) and is technically named NFPA 70. It includes all sorts of codes for the protection of cables, motors and transformers with the goal of preventing fires in equipment. Enforcement varies by state and is interpreted by electrical inspectors or AHJs (authorities having jurisdiction). It is not a design standard.

The NFPA 70E discusses electrical safety in the workplace for personnel. It outlines suggested practices for workplace safety which OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) may use as a reference in their decisions. NFPA 70E is followed both to protect workers (recommended practices) and to protect bank accounts (liability in the case of a citations). NFPA 70E points to IEEE 1584 in at least one place for arc flash technical guidance.

NFPA 70E is a standards. There is also a 70E Handboook which include the standard in black text followed by the handbook notes in blue text. The handbook blue text is intended to assist our understanding and application of the standard but the handbook doesn’t carry the same technical or legal weight of the standard.

The standard (and handbook) includes several annexes at the end (which are sometimes referred to as appendixes). These annexes attempt to clarify content in the standard by providing examples of applications of the standard. For example, a sample lockout/tagout procedure is included. However, these examples are provided for informational purposes only and are not part of the requirements of the standard (as stated in the first sentence of several annexes)

The standard also includes “Informational Notes” in the 2012 version which were called “Fine Print Notes” in the 2009 version. These notes are also included for guidance.

The Informational Notes, Annexes and handbook information doesn’t carry the full technical or legal weight of the standard. Of the three, the Informational Notes carry the most weight, then the Annexes and finally the handbook comments. (See questions below about this paragraph. I don’t recall where I got this information. I’m not sure if this paragraph is correct. What does the NFPA have to say about this?)

The same is true for the NFPA 70 standard and the NFPA 70 handbook.

My Questions:
1. Who writes the NFPA standards?
2. Who writes the NFPA “Informational Notes”?
3. Who writes the NFPA Annexes?
4. Who writes the NFPA Handbook?
5. What is the technical and legal significance and weight of each of these categories (standards, informational notes, annexes and handbooks)?
6. Are each of these reviewed by the same committees?
7. How do I get on these committees?
8. Which of these committees are open to the public?
9. Does OHSA only reference the standard in their litigation or does it reference the notes, annexes and handbooks as well?
10. Should I ask more than ten questions? How many questions can one person ask in one post?


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PostPosted: Fri Jun 08, 2012 9:13 pm 
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Most of what you said is correct. The standards put out by NFPA and IEEE are consensus safety standards. In most cases (NEC for instance is an exception), you are free to implement or IGNORE the recommendation of the standard. It is as 70E states, simply a guide written by a peer reviewed consensus process.

It is not a LAW or regulation (with some exceptions such as NEC). In a court room it can be used as a written version of an "expert opinion" to support a technical claim just as case law is used as an "expert opinion" in support of a legal claim.

It is also contractual. For instance, I require contractors to construct equipment to meet the NEC standard. Controls should be designed using NFPA 79. Burners follow NFPA 85 or 86 depending on the type of equipment. Even if I don't specify NFPA 85/86, my company's insurance carrier will require it. Simply referencing the standard is far easier than writing your own detailed specification for a contract.

An example of where I deviate is that for instance, NETA MTS in particular is extremely self serving to its membership of electrical testing companies. I specify NETA ATS (acceptance testing standard) but there are dozens of clauses that I do not use. For instance NETA ATS would have you unwire and perform a resistance test on every single wire including control wiring before energizing equipment. Another example is that NETA ATS/MTS specifies using infrared, milliohm, or torque wrenches for testing joint tightness. Retorquing the same fastener always leads to lower values even if properly torqued within days to hours. Milliohm tests, though popular in some circles, do not have anything resembling a standard.

MattB wrote:
1. Who writes the NFPA standards?
2. Who writes the NFPA “Informational Notes”?
3. Who writes the NFPA Annexes?
4. Who writes the NFPA Handbook?

As explained in the introductory material, the NFPA Committees write this stuff. If you look in the introductory material, the names and backgrounds of every committee member are listed. During each review cycle, NFPA members can submit proposals for changes to the standard. The Committee reviews these (there are hundreds) and accepts or denies them. The results of this process are published.

This is the case in MOST cases. I believe that the NEC Handbook is written by an outside entity.

Quote:
5. What is the technical and legal significance and weight of each of these categories (standards, informational notes, annexes and handbooks)?

Just as with anything else. The standard has the highest weight. It has regulatory weight for some standards such as NFPA 70 (NEC) or the life safety code (101) which are adopted as electrical and fire codes in most states. Others are considered an authoritative opinion on a subject from a legal perspective because they are recognized as a peer reviewed process as a consensus safety standard. The notes, annexes, and handbook are there purely as supportive or explanatory material. They have the same weight as for instance the Congressional Record or the Federalist Papers in terms of gleaning the "intent" out of the standard when it is not clear. For instance in Article 200, there is a laundry list of preventative maintenance requirements. The section refers to both NFPA 70B and NETA MTS for guidance on implementation. It is clear that this is guidance or information. It does not require you to follow it. In a similar way, NEC refers to 70E as guidance on methods for dealing with arc flash hazards. That certainly in some ways "validates" NFPA 70E as a consensus safety standard over a competing standard, but doesn't make 70E "law" in and of itself.

[quote|
6. Are each of these reviewed by the same committees?
[/quote]
No.

Quote:
7. How do I get on these committees?

By vote at the annual meetings.

Quote:
8. Which of these committees are open to the public?

None. Members only. But membership is open to almost anyone that pays dues.

Quote:
9. Does OHSA only reference the standard in their litigation or does it reference the notes, annexes and handbooks as well?

Haven't seen an actual citation yet. MSHA definitely cites a standard and may reference the a consensus safety standard (but not the supporting material) in their citation.

Quote:
10. Should I ask more than ten questions? How many questions can one person ask in one post?


I would strongly suggest you stick to one TOPIC even if it is a multipart question. So what you covered above seems to pertain to one topic.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 9:41 am 
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OSHA does state that industry consensus safety standards will be used in legal actions against violators. Also OSHA recognizes consensus safety standards (70E) and have used them. One such example was Ford Motor Company who was cited under the general duty clause, LOTO and PPE standards when an employee was injured by an Arc Flash when an employee cut the wrong wire in an unlabeled junction box. The circuit was supposed to be dead but was actually fully loaded. So don't be in a rush to think that you can ignore consensus safety standards.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 11, 2012 2:47 pm 
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Please Note, The NFPA documents are written based on user comments and a cycle that is explained in the documents themselves. There is a proposal stage, followed by a committee action and publication of the proposals. followed by a comment peroid and voting at the annual meeting. Anybody, member or not can propose a change, comment on a change. They had better carefully document the change using the written form or online. However, To vote on the change at the annual meeting, you must be a member. Go to the NFPA Website for details. The codes are a real form of democracy in action.


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PostPosted: Sun Jun 24, 2012 6:16 am 
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Just a few points of clarification. "Codes" are written with the idea that they will be legally adopted by local jurisdictions. However, not every jurisdiction in the U.S. adopts the National Electrical Code (NEC). Almost all jurisdictions in my experience adopt it with a few local changes, i.e. mandating a color code for wiring, etc. Also, some jurisdictions don't adopt the latest version of a code and sometimes will stick with an old version until two code-writing cycles go by.

"Standards" are written for use by industry and are not meant to be legally enforceable. That said, many federal contracts require that, for example, Contractor shall conform to NFPA 75: Standard for the Protection of Information Technology Equipment. Also, as MikeMc said, OSHA by regulation often adopts a standard, making it the law in a sort of backdoor way.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 6:51 am 
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Hurwitz wrote:
,,, OSHA by regulation often adopts a standard, making it the law in a sort of backdoor way.

OSHA very rarely actually adopts a standards, however they regularly will cite them.
Adoption requires all sorts of lengthy delays resulting from bureaucratic procedures, citation can be done almost immediately.


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PostPosted: Mon Jun 25, 2012 12:35 pm 
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JBD wrote:
OSHA very rarely actually adopts a standards, however they regularly will cite them.
Adoption requires all sorts of lengthy delays resulting from bureaucratic procedures, citation can be done almost immediately.

Hence OSHA's language "Wear what is appropriate" when discussing PPE. Very descriptive ;)


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