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Home / Technical Articles / 6 steps to establish electrically safe work condition

Electrically safe work and NFPA 70E

Equipment that has been deenergized and verified as such is said to be in an electrically safe work condition. Article 120.1 of NFPA 70E outlines six steps that must be followed to insure that employees are working in an electrically safe work condition.

6 Steps To Establish an Electrically Safe Work Condition
6 Steps To Establish an Electrically Safe Work Condition (photo credit:

Six safety steps to become a safeaholic electrician:

Step 1 // – Check, check and check

Determine all possible sources of electrical supply to the specific equipment. Check applicable up-to-date drawings, diagrams, and identification tags.

LV wiring diagram in EPLAN
LV wiring diagram in EPLAN (photo credit:

Step 2 // – Open disconnect devices

After properly interrupting the load current, open the disconnecting device(s) for each source.

Step 3 // – Visual verify

Wherever possible, visually verify that all blades of the disconnecting devices are fully open or that drawout-type circuit breakers are withdrawn to the fully disconnected position.

Step 4 // – LOTO

Apply Lockout / tagout (LOTO) devices in accordance with a documented and established policy.

LOTO - Lock Out Tag Out
LOTO – Lock Out Tag Out (photo credit:

Step 5 // – Make sure is deenergized

Use an adequately rated voltage detector to test each phase conductor or circuit part to verify they are deenergized. Test each phase conductor or circuit part both phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground.

Before and after each test, determine that the voltage detector is operating satisfactorily.

Fluke LVD2 Volt Light - a non contact voltage detector that is suitable for commercial and industrial applications
Fluke LVD2 Volt Light – a non contact voltage detector that is suitable for commercial and industrial applications (photo credit:

Step 6 // – Check unthinkable and ground!

Where the possibility of induced voltages or stored electrical energy exists, ground the phase conductors or circuit parts before touching them. Where it could be reasonably anticipated that the conductors or circuit parts being deenergized could contact other exposed energized or circuit parts, apply ground connecting devices rated for the available fault duty.

It is important to note that a safe work condition does not exist until all 6 steps are complete. During the process of creating the electrically safe work condition, the appropriate PPE must also be utilized.

Working on energized equipment Although the best practice is to always work on deenergized equipment, OSHA and NFPA do recognize that in some circumstances it may create an additional hazard or be infeasible to deenergize.

OSHA 2CFR 110.333 (a)(2) states:

Energized parts.
If the exposed live parts are not deenergized (i.e., for reasons of increased or additional hazards or infeasibility), other safety-related work practices shall be used to protect employees who may be exposed to the electrical hazards involved. Such work practices shall protect employees against contact with energized circuit parts directly with any part of their body or indirectly through some other conductive object…

Electrical tasks such as troubleshooting and testing for the presence of voltage, current, etc., can only be done while equipment is energized. In these instances, work on energized equipment is allowed, but workers must follow safe work practices and use the appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE).

Other exceptions that allow work on energized equipment include:

  • Life-support equipment
  • Emergency alarm systems
  • Hazardous area ventilation equipment

Deenergizing these types of equipment could increase or create additional hazards. A mistake often made is confusing infeasibility with inconvenience. For example, meeting a manufacturing production schedule does not qualify as infeasible. It may be very inconvenient but it still does not authorize working on energized equipment.

OSHA 2 CFR 110.331-335 outlines the conditions for working on energized circuits in much greater detail. When work is to be performed on energized equipment, extra care must be used and all applicable OSHA and NFPA codes and standards followed.

Electrical workers must also be trained and specially “qualified” to work on energized equipment, and the specific equipment to be serviced.

As a worker, you may be qualified for some tasks and unqualified for other. Knowing the difference between the two can save your life.

Reference // Electrical Safety Hazards Handbook – Littelfuse (Download)

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Edvard Csanyi

Electrical engineer, programmer and founder of EEP. Highly specialized for design of LV/MV switchgears and LV high power busbar trunking (<6300A) in power substations, commercial buildings and industry facilities. Professional in AutoCAD programming.


  1. Andrew Cochran
    Jan 27, 2022

    This article could be updated to reflect the 2021 changes to NFPA 70E 120.5 which allows for the application of an approved absence of voltage tester that conforms to the design and operating requirements of UL 1436.

  2. Raymundo V. Talaue
    May 05, 2021

    Good to always be safe when working with electrical. Mr. Edvard, this is very good tips on safety.

    Jun 18, 2020





  4. George Okal
    Nov 20, 2018

    Great article on electrical safety and other electrical engineering topics

  5. Gerard van Zeijl
    Nov 17, 2018

    rule one in this country DON’T WORK on life or near life parts .

    Gerard van Zeijl
    Santon circuit breaker services

  6. Kevin Wilson
    Dec 13, 2017

    I would be very concerned if any of my guys used a non contact voltage indicator (such as shown in photo 4) to prove dead before working on electrical systems.
    There are some sound principles here but it does illustrate how we all need to use caution with internationally distributed information to ensure complying with national legislation and standards.
    Having said all that I do enjoy reading Edvard’s articles.

    • Neil Thorburn
      Nov 18, 2018

      The use of a non-contact voltage stick is akin to playing Russian roulette with your life. These devices are not designed to “prove electrically dead” and I believe the manufacturers of these devices make no such claims either.

      I have used one these sticks to check both ends of a resin joint (120mm Copper L1 & L2 distribution cores carrying 650V ac) after switching back on. Even though the joint was good with both dead and live checks using appropriate calibrated test equipment verifying that, on site one end of the joint lit up the stick whilst the other did not.

      Please be careful and use the correct proven quality test equipment to prove dead before touching.

  7. Ramesh
    Dec 27, 2016

    Very good information regarding safe working in electrical

  8. R.karthikeyan
    Nov 14, 2015

    Nice.about transmission and distribution

  9. Eliud Naibei
    Nov 05, 2015

    Well it’s a nice site for any precautions measures, for any may know other thing bit not all for we sometimes pretend to everything bit it takes knowledge

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