In the June-July 2020 issue of Incident Prevention magazine, I made a mistake in the Q&A. I stated that there is no consensus on a particular procedure when, in fact, there is. It is new in the most recent edition of the National Electrical Safety Code, but I missed it when it was published in 2017. In light of my error, I decided I should take a closer look at the most recent revision of the standard and present my findings here for the benefit of iP’s readers.
The NESC is one of the consensus standards that I regularly recommend as an important resource – every safety professional should have a copy of it in their library. Here’s some important information about the use of consensus standards: First, the standards are more procedural than the OSHA performance language. “Performance language” means that a rule is written in a format that tells the reader what must be accomplished. Procedural language, on the other hand, tells the reader how to accomplish something. Second, OSHA classifies consensus standards into two categories, adopted and referenced. Consensus standards that are adopted are incorporated into the OSHA standards by references listed in 29 CFR 1926.6 for construction and 1910.6 for general industry. Referenced standards are adopted into the OSHA rules with the force of law and can be cited in compliance actions against employers. Consensus standards that are referenced are helpful to the employer, as OSHA puts it in the introduction to Appendix G of 1910.269. OSHA defines “recognized” consensus standards as “helpful in understanding and complying with the requirements contained in § 1910.269. The national consensus standards referenced in this appendix contain detailed specifications that employers may follow in complying with the more performance-based requirements of § 1910.269.” You will find the same referenced standards in Appendix G to the 1926 Subpart V construction standards.