Berkeley Lab

What does it mean to be a “QEW”, or “Qualified Electrical Worker”?

Let’s start by looking at the LBNL definition of “Qualified Electrical Worker”:

One who has demonstrated skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical equipment and installations, has received safety training to identify and avoid the hazards involved, and who has been approved or accepted by the Electrical AHJ for Safe Work Practices.

This definition is based on the NFPA 70E (Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace), National Electrical Code, and OSHA definitions of “Qualified Person”.

Furthermore, the definition of “electrical equipment” is:

A general term, including, fittings, devices [Definition: A unit of an electrical system, other than a conductor, that carries or controls electric energy as its principal function.], appliances, luminaires, apparatus, machinery, and the like, used as a part of, or in connection with, an electrical installation.

Any employee and/or subcontractor [worker] who performs work [activities related to employment of any type at LBL] on hazardous [50V or greater, or 5mA or greater for AC power, other thresholds may apply for other electrical hazards and power types] electrical equipment is required to be a QEW. This includes both live and deenergized work, for build, service, maintenance, and repair of equipment.

Being a QEW does not mean you are an electrician. From NFPA 70E, Section 110.4(D)(1)(a):

A person can be considered qualified with respect to certain equipment and methods but still be unqualified for others.

LBNL has several levels of QEW. Just as some LBNL electricians are QEWs for general Facilities electrical installation work, but are not qualified to work on the high-voltage distribution system, some researchers can be qualified for working on specific R&D equipment within their labs, but would not be qualified to perform Facilities repair and installation.

I’m not an electrician! Why do I have to follow all these requirements? Aren’t safe work practices just for electricians?

Electricity is used by everyone…it is all around us, all the time. So, first and foremost, we all need to follow electrical safe work practices to ensure our safety while we work on or around electricity and electrical equipment.

Additionally, 10 CFR 851 and LBNL’s contract with DOE incorporate NFPA 70E requirements.

From NFPA 70E, Section 90.1:

The purpose of this standard is to provide a practical safe working area for employees relative to the hazards arising from the use of electricity.

From NFPA 70E, Section 90.2(A):

This standard addresses electrical safety-related work practices, safety-related maintenance requirements, and other administrative controls for employee workplaces that are necessary for the practical safeguarding of employees relative to the hazards associated with electrical energy during activities such as the installation, inspection, operation, maintenance, and demolition of electric conductors, electric equipment, signaling and communications conductors and equipment, and raceways. This standard also includes safe work practices for employees performing other work activities that can expose them to electrical hazards

Informational Note: This standard addresses safety of workers whose job responsibilities entail interaction with electrical equipment and systems with potential exposure to energized electrical equipment and circuit parts. Concepts in this standard are often adapted to other workers whose exposure to electrical hazards is unintentional or not recognized as part of their job responsibilities. The highest risk for injury from electrical hazards for other workers involve unintentional contact with overhead power lines and electric shock from machines, tools, and appliances.

These electrical safe work practices are for everyone!

I just build or repair electrical equipment! Why do I have to be a QEW?

Most importantly, when you build or repair a piece of equipment that you or others will use, you have a responsibility to provide equipment that is safe for its intended use. You have a big responsibility, as you become responsible for someone’s health and life! Part of being a QEW is being familiar with the construction and operation of equipment; that familiarity allows you build or repair equipment responsibly.

Additionally, equipment is required to be built and/or repaired according to numerous applicable codes and standards, such as those produced by UL (Underwriter’s Laboratories), IEEE (Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers), and NFPA (National Fire Protection Association), just to name a few. A person who builds or repairs equipment must be knowledgeable these standards and requirements. Approval as a QEW helps ensure that a person has this knowledge.

Why do I have to take training to be approved as a QEW?

Training is actually part of the definition of a qualified person.

One who has demonstrated skills and knowledge related to the construction and operation of electrical equipment and installations, has received safety training to identify and avoid the hazards involved, and who has been approved or accepted by the Electrical AHJ for Safe Work Practices.

Not only is training required as part of the regulatory requirements, it ensures that workers are knowledgeable of the work practices necessary to avoid electrical hazards.

Why is QEW training so long? After all, I’m not trying to be an electrician!

Skills and knowledge of electrical equipment, installations, and methods generally comes from years of training and experience. For example, most electrician apprenticeship programs are four(4) or five(5) year programs that require approximately 8000 hours of work experience (on-the-job training), and between 600 and 800 hours of classroom training (depending on the specialty) during the program. Adding or changing specialties usually requires additional on-the-job and classroom training in most states. But many QEWs are not, and don’t want to be, electricians. While we can validate skills and knowledge through documented adult education programs and on-the-job experience and training, the third key part of qualification is safety training.

The training required for QEW status is about gaining skills and knowledge to perform the task safely. We need to ensure that all QEWs have at least a minimal knowledge of the hazard exposure, and how to perform their work in a manner safe for not only themselves, but those working around them.

What can I do if I’m not a QEW, and don’t want to become a QEW?

If you’re not a QEW, first and foremost, don’t do QEW-level work!

If you have equipment needs, contact Engineering QEW support.

Call Electronics Central Shop, x6222

Alternatively, contact your Division Safety Coordinator (third link under Programs/Liasons/Coordinators).

If you have Facilities needs, contact the Facilities Work Request Center.

Call Work Request Center, x6274, or EMAIL.

Alternatively, contact your Division Safety Coordinator (third link under Programs/Liasons/Coordinators) or Building Manager.

If you’re not sure who you need, or feel something electrical is unsafe, contact the EHS Electrical Safety Group.