The 2012 edition of NFPA 70E has marked a way-point in electrical safety standards, and has continued to evolve to meet the electrical safety needs of both employers and employees.
The 2015 edition of the NFPA70E has continued this legacy. New research, new technology, and technical input from users of the standard have provided the foundation for new and revised requirements that address the electrical hazards encountered by employees in today’s workplaces.
Here we’ve compiled a list of changes located within the 2015 Edition of the NFPA70E Standard.
2015 70E: Not Just for Work Practices.
What is Covered?
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. In the new edition:
- Maintenance must be part of an overall electrical safety program
- Repair of equipment must be completed by competent personnel
- Test instruments must be included in the maintenance program
Mining Is No Longer Excluded
The mining exclusion has been removed from the 2015 Standard. The Canadian standard (CSA-Z462) is expected to align with this. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has informally endorsed the application of the NFPA 70E as “Arc Flash Accident Prevention Best Practices.”
A Shift in Approach from Hazard Analysis to Risk Assessment
The 2015 edition signifies a substantial shift in the approach to assessing risk. Identifying the hazard is the first step; estimating the potential severity of injury and likelihood of occurrence is the second step to determining the protective measures required. The impact of this shift is seen throughout 70E, most noticeably in the tables regarding PPE selection and PPE categories.
Specific changes related to this include:
- Definitions have been modified to accurately reflect the new terms.
- There is no baseline “0” PPE category in the standard in 2015, although minimum PPE guidelines still exist and natural fibers are still required in under layers.
- The arc hazard tables have been restructured, separating task from equipment.
- The Task Table now specifically focuses on arc flash hazard identification only.
- It lists the task, equipment condition and whether PPE is required based on those two things.
- Insulated gloves and tools are no longer covered by the table.
- Hazard/Risk Category (HRC) has been replaced with PPE Category.
- The Task Table now specifically focuses on arc flash hazard identification only.
The equipment tables are focused on the specific safety measures required, with separate tables for ac and dc systems.
- The equipment parameters
- The corresponding category of arc flash PPE required
- The applicable arc flash Boundary
In the shock protection boundary tables, lower voltages have been regrouped and the prohibited approach boundary has been eliminated. Since the restricted approach boundary triggers the need for shock protective equipment, and no additional protection is required at the prohibited approach boundary, the term is unnecessary.
What’s in the Task Table?
The new task-based table combines the previously separated ac and dc tables and makes them consistent for easier use. Type of task and condition of the equipment, taken together, determine whether PPE is required or not. The resulting “yes” or “no” is based on the assessment of risk—the likelihood arc flash may occur—instead of hazard identification alone. For example, reading a panel meter while operating a meter switch, in any condition, requires no PPE.
What’s in the Equipment Tables?
The separate equipment-based tables, one for ac and one for dc systems, list the types and parameters of equipment to allow for PPE and boundary determination regardless of task. For example, metal-clad switchgear of 1 kV through 15 kV requires Category 4 PPE and an arc flash boundary of 12 m (40 ft.)
Table 130.7(C)(15)(A)(b) and Table 130.7(C)(15)(B)
- Annex H outlines what was “HRC 0” PPE for arc flash exposures less than 1.2 cal/cm², so functionally HRC 0 still exists, but the tables have upgraded to Arc-Rated Clothing PPE Category 1 (ARC 1) for low level hazards when any PPE is required.
- HRC 0 is removed. The new table specifies work within the arc flash boundary; if no arc flash hazard exists, there is no need for PPE. IF any protection is needed for arc flash, 100% natural fibers, which were permitted in HRC 0, are now considered inadequate.
- Annex H.3 still requires 100% natural (non-melting) fibers for <1.2 cal/cm² exposure when incident energy level has been determined, but if the PPE table is used, an arc rating is required and under layers shall be 100% natural fibers.
- The standard continues to prohibit wearing melting fabrics of any kind (Article 130.7(C)(12)).
- HRC is out; ARC is in
- The term ARC, or Arc-Rated Clothing, is not required by the standard but it is commonly used. The standard refers to the old HRC as PPE Level, but PPE Level 1, for example, could easily be confused with cut resistance and other “levels”. Best practice would be to differentiate.
- Arc-rated gloves are becoming available. Work governed by OSHA 1910.269 now requires a minimum of 14 cal/cm² or rubber gloves with leather (?) If the leather protectors must be removed for high voltage tasks, the rubber gloves must meet the 14 cal/cm2 minimum requirement.
- The new standard adds a boundary to the use of conductive articles, such as jewelry or metals. They shall not be worn within the retricted approach boundary (or, as before, where they present an electrical contact hazard with energized conductors or circuit parts.
- The standard clarified that either the incident energy analysis method or the arc flash PPE categories method can be used for the selection of PPE, but not both. Nor can an incident energy analysis be used to specify an arc flash PPE category.
130.2 (A)(4) Normal Operation
The new standard clarifies when normal operation of electric equipment without PPE is permitted. All of the following conditions must be satisfied:
- The equipment is properly installed AND
- The equipment is properly maintained *
(*installation and maintenance to be in accordance with applicable codes, standards and manufacturer’s recommendations)
- The equipment doors are closed and secured
- All equipment covers are in place and secured
- There is no evidence of impending failure (marked by arcing, overheating, loose or bound parts, visible damage or deterioration). The standard specifies that the equipment owner, or his designated representative, is responsible for equipment maintenance.
Updated Label Requirements
Any electrical equipment that may need adjustment, servicing or maintenance while energized shall, according to the new standard, be field-labelled with all of the following:
- Nominal system voltage
- Arc flash boundary
- At least one of the following:
- Available incident energy and working distance OR arc flash PPE category in Table 130.7(C)(15)(A)(b) or 130.7(C)(B) for the equipment, but not both
- Minimum arc rating of clothing
- Site-specific level of PPE
If a review of the hazard/risk assessment uncovers any changes that affect the accuracy of a label, the label needs to be updated. As with maintenance, the owner of the equipment is charged with the responsibility of documenting, installing and maintaining the label.
Significant New Requirements
- Overhead line clearances are to be maintained to minimize the risk of unintentional contact
- 2015 addresses employers’ requirements prior to cutting/drilling into surfaces that might contain energized lines or parts
- Establishes owner of electrical equipment as responsible for installing/maintaining labels
- LO/TO now includes retraining and documentation
- Sets the frequency of Field Work Audits; intervals are not to exceed one year.
- GFCI are added for activities; they are not just location-based
Changes to Improve Clarity
Some changes have been made to eliminate confusion and clarify meaning. For example,
- Revised informational note clarifies importance of maintaining protective devices
- Shirts shall be tucked into pants
- “Qualified person”
- definition now specifies “demonstrated skills”
- Adds list of knowledge necessary to be considered “qualified” 110.2(D)(1)
- Adjusts the Energized Electrical Work Permit (EEWP) boundary requirement to the Restricted Approach Boundary (RAB)
- Prohibited Approach Boundary is obsolete and has been removed