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What Is Electrical Standard NFPA 70E?

Keeping the workplace safe from electrical hazards

Published: Tuesday, March 24, 2015 - 09:37


NFPA 70E, full title  “NFPA 70E—“Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace,” is a standard written by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA 70E was created primarily to assist companies and their personnel in avoiding potential fatalities and injuries from electrocution, arc-flash incidents, and arc blasts in the workplace. It covers subjects such as selecting appropriate personnel protection equipment (PPE), maintenance, employee training, risk assessments, and safe working practices.

Recent regulation changes

The 2015 edition of NFPA 70E shows a huge change in how electrical risk is evaluated. In the 2012 edition, quantifying a potential electrical risk was done via shock and arc-flash analysis. The 2015 edition streamlines requirements for arc and shock protection, and outlines revised program requirements with a greater emphasis on risk assessment—now referred to as a “flash risk assessment.”

Therefore, the combination of likelihood of failure and potential severity is used when considering the potential for harm.

Below is a summary of the changes implemented in the 2015 edition:
1. To clarify that training and auditing are equally important, safety-related maintenance requirements have been incorporated.
2. A new definition of the “energized electrical work permit” has been incorporated.
3. The definition of “qualified person” has been revised.
4. The “prohibited approach boundary” has been deleted.
5. Consideration regarding the condition of maintenance must now be included in an electrical safety program.
6. Fieldwork audits must be performed at intervals not to exceed one year.
7. The location, sizing, and application of temporary protective grounding equipment must be identified.
8. Clarification on where normal operation of electric equipment is permitted is included as a new requirement.
9. All references to “bare-hand work” have been omitted.
10. Labels must be updated where the arc-flash hazard risk assessment identifies a change that renders the label inaccurate.
11. Additional text now provides the user with a boundary to the existing requirements in 130.6(D).
12. A new yes-or-no format, task-based table was added to determine when arc flash PPE is required. [Table 130.7(C)(15)(A)(a)].
13. A new arc flash PPE category and equipment-based table was added for determining the arc flash PPE category. [Tables 130.7(C)(15)(A)(b) and 130.7(C)(15)(B)].
14. Hazard/risk category 0 has been removed from Table 130.7(C)(16). Hazard/risk category will now be referred to as “PPE category.”
15. Clarification has been included that either the incident energy analysis method or arc-flash PPE category method can be used on the same piece of equipment for selecting PPE, but not both.
16. The criteria for employees to use insulated tools or handling equipment has been changed from the limited-approach boundary to restricted-approach boundary.
17. Barricades cannot be placed closer than the limited-approach boundary.
18. A risk assessment must be performed if the likelihood of contacting energized electrical lines or parts exists.
19. Clarification has been added that the equipment owner or designated representative is responsible for maintenance of the electrical equipment and documentation.
20. A new maintenance program for test instruments must include functional verification.
21. Risk assessment must be performed prior to any work on a battery system.

Complying with NFPA 70E

Companies are now placing more emphasis on maximizing the life of their assets by adopting new inspection methods like infrared surveys into their maintenance plans.  This may ultimately increase the number of maintenance engineers interacting with electrical energy.

The risk of an arc-flash hazard is only too real across many industries, though there are many ways to reduce the potential occurrence of one. Infrared windows (IR windows) are one solution that minimizes exposure to live electrical energy when carrying out thermal inspections on energized equipment.

Conclusion

Electrical maintenance work can be very dangerous. Almost all industries carry out some level of electrical maintenance and ultimately expose employees to electrical energy while performing their duties. NFPA 70E is vital in providing continuing guidance to all industries about the hazards associated with working with electrical energy. Understanding the standard can potentially improve the reliability and productivity of a facility, while definitely improving the safety of workers. 

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CorDEX Instruments

CorDEX Instruments is an ISO 9001:2008-certified manufacturer of high-quality test and measurement equipment and handheld instruments designed for hazardous and explosive environments working to the highest safety certification including ATEX, IECEx, and CSA. Formed in 2009, CorDEX is based in the United Kingdom, with its U.S. office in North Carolina; and it has an expanding global distribution network.