NFPA 70E is the bridge between OSHA Regulations and Electrical Safety Compliance
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E is a comprehensive standard that establishes best electrical safety practices standards on how to protect industrial workers from electric arc flash and arc blast exposure and resulting potential injury and death.
OSHA has referenced this electrical safety standard in numerous cases. In fact, many companies now have an NFPA 70E Program to help protect their electrical personnel from the hazards associated with arc flash.
OSHA adopted regulations on safe electrical work practices in 1990 based on NFPA 70E, and is proposing a revised standard that conforms to the most recent editions of NFPA 70E. Given that the NEC (National Electrical Code) and OSHA have both started referring to it in their documents, citations are written based on NFPA 70E.
NFPA 70E applies to employees who work on or near exposed energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. This includes electrical maintenance personnel, operators, troubleshooters, electricians, linemen, engineers, supervisors, site safety personnel or anyone exposed to energized equipment of 50 volts or more. The goal of the standard is to keep electrical workers free from the hazards of shock, electrocution, arc flash and arc blast.
According to the NFPA, shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast are responsible for one fatality every workday in the U.S., and some 8,000 workers are treated in emergency rooms for electrical contact injuries each year.
The solution to workplace safety and protection from electrical hazards – NFPA 70E
Now NFPA 70E – the Standard developed for OSHA – is revised to address safety gaps and increase electrical worker protection, while helping companies comply with OSHA 1910 Subpart S and OSHA 1926 Subpart K. Major changes recognize new hazards and address safety gaps.
Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) protects personnel and significantly reduces the risk of injury in an arc flash. Calculating the incident energy is the vital first step in determining the correct type of PPE for a given task.
The NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace is revised and updated on a three year cycle. The 2021 NFPA 70E edition was released in September 2020.
The new NFPA 70E 2021 edition features extensive changes including:
- Revisions to Article 110 to incorporate the general requirements for electrical safety-related work programs, practices, and procedures from other articles
- References to arc-resistant switchgear in Tables 130.5(C) and 130.7(C)(15)(a) changed to arc-resistant equipment to address the use of other types of arc-resistant equipment
- Addition of Article 360, Safety-Related Requirements for Capacitors, and Annex R, Working with Capacitors, to address specific electrical safety requirements unique to capacitors
- Edits to Annex D, Incident Energy and Arc Flash Boundary Calculation Methods, to reference IEEE-1584-2018 as a method of calculation
NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace: Improved work practices reduce risks
- To further reduce the risks for second-degree thermal burns, cotton outerwear is no longer permitted for energy levels below 2 cal/cm2.
- An expanded Table in Article 130 covers added tasks such as thermographic imaging, and new equipment including arc-resistant switchgear.
- Added Article 350 to provide first-time requirements for the protection of electrical personnel in R&D labs.
- A new exception verifies that 240 V and less power systems fed by a single transformer less than 125 kvs no longer require an arc flash hazard analysis.
- Expanded requirements for multi-employer relationships address potential areas of oversight.
- New record-keeping requirements for training and safety program audits to assist with OSHA’s need for records.
2018 NFPA 70E Changes
The NFPA 70E Standard continues to advance to address risk assessment and introduces human factors, such as human error, as part of the assessment. Annex Q, Human Performance and Workplace Electrical Safety, is included to provide direction. NFPA 70E emphasizes the need to use the hierarchy of risk controls, by moving it into the actual Standard from just an informational note.
NFPA 70E now clearly states that the first priority must be the elimination of the hazard.
- A modified arc flash hazard identification table [Table 130.7(C)(15)(A)(a)] makes it easier to determine the likelihood that an arc flash could occur.
- Reorganized Article 120 presents the requirements for establishing an electrically safe work condition in a logical order of application of the program.
- Changes to Article 320 introduce voltage thresholds of 100 Vdc specifically for batteries and battery rooms to cover the unique situations in these locations.
- Extensively revised, Article 330 on lasers now focuses on safety-related maintenance issues rather than issues associated with laser use.
- Article 350 introduces an Electrical Safety Authority as a possible authority having jurisdiction for laboratories.
Updates from previous NFPA 70E code changes
- A key change throughout the NFPA 70E Standard includes replacing the phrase “hazard analysis” with “risk assessment”.
- New requirement 320.3 (A)(1) covers risk assessment associated with battery work.
- New subsection in 130.2 (A)(4) provides requirements where normal operation of electric equipment is permitted. Revisions enhance usability; such as the division of requirements in former 110.4. (C)(2) into new sections separating construction and maintenance work from outdoor work.
- Updated tables add clarity to requirements, such as the restricted approach boundary dimensions in Table 130.4 (D)(a).
Informative Annexes expand knowledge about electrical safety
- Informative Annex E has updated text to correlate with the redefined terminology associated with hazard and risk. This annex provides clarity and consistency about definitions as well as risk management principles vital to electrical safety. (New in the 2015 code change/update)
- Understand the Risk Assessment Procedure with clarification and sample worksheets in Informative Annex F.
- Evaluate layering of PPE with Informative Annex M – Layering of Protective Clothing and Total System Arc Rating
- Develop and review plans for compliance using Informative Annex O–Safety-Related Design Requirements.
- Follow safe work practices with Informative Annex N – Example Industrial Procedures and Policies for Working Near Overhead Electrical Lines
Questions & Information
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