May is National Electrical Safety Month, and this year, safety takes on a whole new meaning. The theme of safety in our workplaces has evolved with the emergence of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) around the world. At IAEI, the health, safety, and well-being of our employees, members, customers, and our communities is our top priority. As a result, we have implemented several measures to ensure that employees work virtually (or locally while maintaining social distancing procedures) while keeping our services up and running.
In addressing the evolving challenge of the COVID-19 virus, state and local jurisdictions have also taken several precautionary measures to ensure that they continue to operate and safely serve the community while ensuring that their staff stays safe.
Local and state jurisdictions work hard to remain open for business while providing safe environments for their staff and for the public. In North Carolina, Mecklenburg County Code Enforcement, for example, closed its building but remained open for business via phone, e-mail, electronic plan review, and scheduled virtual or “video chat” meetings. Field inspections continued with slight modification to ensure social distancing on the job site. Inspections at facilities or residencies are being modified or examined on a case-by-case basis and rescheduled (and documented as no-fault failures). The City of Boston was another jurisdiction that began adopting new temporary procedures to help respect social distancing procedures while working on field inspections.
The move to online services, such as permitted, has also helped many of our jurisdictions to keep active. Technology is also being considered, if not already being used, out in the field. One new service from Washington State’s Department of Labor & Industries is a Virtual Electrical Inspection (VEI) program that can be done at least 30 minutes in advance of when an electrical contractor needs it. The program uses Skype on a mobile device as a bridge between the contractor on the job site and the electrical inspection department. VEI can be used for electrical inspections that do not involve service or final approvals. Learn more about VEI by visiting www.lni.wa.gov and search “Virtual.”
In certain areas heavily impacted by COVID-19, some electrical inspections were temporarily suspended. For example, The Colorado Department of Health and Environment temporarily suspended state electrical and plumbing inspections in Eagle, Summit, Pitkin and Gunnison Counties effective March 15, 2020, to help reduce the spread of COVID-19. Questions or concerns can be addressed by contacting the state’s permit department electronically or via telephone. The San Francisco Department of Building Inspections was also closed on March 17, 2020 (and will remain closed until at least April 7, 2020), per the San Francisco Department of Public Health’s Shelter In Place Order of March 16, 2020.
Electrical licenses for inspectors, electricians, and contractors were also often postponed or suspended across multiple states. The Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry suspended all DLI license exams and extended the continuing education deadlines by 90 days for licenses that expired in March, April, and May 2020. License renewals were still to be submitted prior to the expiration date, but the continuing education requirements give people time to find either an online course or to find training locally or virtually.
With everything going on at home and abroad, it’s still important to focus on keeping the lights on and our electrical systems safe and working. In this issue, our authors worked hard at providing articles relating to OSHA and NFPA 70E requirements for workplace safety.
As always, keep safe and happy reading!