Machine Guarding: Do I need to follow codes and regulations like NFPA?

What is the purpose of so many codes and regulations? I work in panels all the time. Sure, I take risks every day but do “I” need regulations to keep “me” safe? Bah humbug on the regulations. I know what I’m doing! (Leave your comment: Do you think you're safe without PPE in some control panels?)


JB Titus, CFSEWhat is the purpose of so many codes and regulations? I work in panels all the time. Sure, I take risks every day but do “I” need regulations to keep “me” safe? Bah humbug on the regulations. I know what I’m doing! (See also the November 2011 Control Engineering print edition article, Codes and Regulations: Electrical Controls’ Dirty Little Secret: We Don’t Follow NFPA Rules. Link to an anonymous survey about PPE behavior.]

NFPA 79, 2007      Well, my friend, I’ll bet you do know what you’re doing. But, you’re one out of millions across the United States. And, everyone else is not so lucky. There’s a great quote from Bill Henton, Director of Health and Safety at Georgia-Pacific, “A historical lack of accidents does not imply a current presence of safety. It simply means you’ve been faster that the machine.” So, why are there so many codes and standards?

     In my opinion, there are many reasons that answer this question. Lots of books have been written and all too many eulogies have been offered involving this subject. Suffice it to say that industry itself recognized that safety codes and regulations were needed in U.S. industry to protect our workers. Thus, “consensus” standards were born by industry for self regulation. I belong to several domestic & international safety standards committees and over 80% of my colleagues on each committee are also from industry. As we “write” the codes and standards our goal is to put requirements, best practices, and measures in place that will protect those millions of your colleagues also working in and around industrial machines. There are tens of thousands of your colleagues that probably don’t need to be reminded about how to be safe. Yet, thousands of your colleagues every year lose their lives because they weren’t faster than the machine, once! And this happens even though we have an abundance of codes and regulations. I shudder to think about those numbers if we didn’t have the codes and regulations.

Do you use electrical PPE when working on non-high-voltage problems (such as programming an ac variable frequency drive)?      Tom, your point is well taken that you take risks in everyday life. And today you look very healthy. In my last blog I wrote about “tolerable” risk and related it to everyday life like driving your automobile. What many people don’t realize through every day life is the existence of the codes and regulations that are behind the scenes. They don’t realize it until there’s a salmonella outbreak on the West Coast. Or, would our space program have been equally successful with fewer codes and regulations? Oh, maybe we would’ve still landed on the moon, but it might have taken three times the people and rockets because so many exploded on the launch pad!

     Like at Georgia-Pacific, maybe you’ve been successfully faster than the machine. But, will you always? Remember, you’re only one in millions!

     These comments come to mind having read the Control Engineering article: Codes and Regulations: Electrical Controls’ Dirty Little Secret: We Don’t Follow NFPA Rules

    What is your opinion? Your comments or suggestion are always welcome so please let us know your thoughts. Submit your ideas, experiences, and challenges on this subject in the comments section below. Click on the following text if you don't see a comments box, then scroll down: Machine Guarding: Do I need to follow codes and regulations like NFPA? 

  Related articles:

Codes And Regulations: Electrical Controls’ Dirty Little Secret: We Don’t Follow NFPA Rules

Residual Risk Is Alive & Ever Present

Machine Guarding – tolerable vs residual risk

Contact: for “Solutions for Machine Safety”.

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