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Electrical Safety Standards in the Workplace

Quick Tips #263
What Is the NFPA 70E?

Both the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) have written standards and regulations that build on one another and help keep workers safer from electrical hazards in the workplace. In this case, the OSHA regulations and NFPA standards work so well together it’s been said that OSHA provides the "shall" while NFPA provides the "how". It is important to note that the NFPA 70E is a national consensus safety standard published by NFPA primarily to assist OSHA in preparing electrical safety standards. Federal OSHA has not incorporated it into the Code of Federal Regulations.

NFPA has released the 2015 edition of NFPA 70E. This is the tenth edition of the electrical safety standard. The standard covers the full range of electrical safety issues, including evaluating electrical risk, safety-related work practices, maintenance, special equipment requirements and installation.

OSHA bases its electrical safety standards (found in subpart S part 1910 and subpart K part 1926) on the comprehensive information found in NFPA 70E. It focuses on protecting people and identifies requirements that are considered necessary to provide a workplace that is free of electrical hazards.

Here's an example of how clearly the OSHA regulations and NFPA 70E electrical safety standards work together. OSHA mandates that all services to electrical equipment be done in a de-energized state. "Working live" can only be done under special circumstances. NFPA 70E defines those special circumstances and sets rigid electrical safety limits on voltage exposures, work zone boundary requirements and PPE necessary. (See NFPA 70E Article 130 and OSHA subpart S part 1910.333(a)(1) for complete details).

Need for NFPA 70E

OSHA 29 CFR 1910.333(a) states that employers must employ safety-related work practices to prevent electrical shock or other injuries resulting from either direct or indirect electrical contact. NFPA 70E is the tool employers can use to meet this OSHA requirement. It will help evaluate electrical risk and document an overall electrical safety program that directs activity appropriate for electrical hazards, voltage, and energy level and circuit conditions. One major element of an electrical safety program is a hazard identification and risk assessment to determine protective equipment needs including PPE. This risk assessment must be done before any work is started within a shock or arc flash boundary. Two basic methods can be employed to complete the PPE risk assessment:

  1. Table
    • *Refer to NFPA 70E-2015 Article 130, tables: 130.4(D)(a) or (b) for shock risk assessment
    • 130.7(C)(15)(A)(a) and 130.7(C)(15)(A)(b) or (B) for arc-flash assessment
  2. Incident Energy Analysis
    • Use an industry accepted software program
    • Use a consulting firm to complete the risk assessment

*This method can only be used if the specific job task appears in the table and meets the parameters listed in the table, otherwise, the incident energy must be calculated for that job task using Annex D or methods 2a or 2b listed above.

Once the risk assessment is completed, the proper protective equipment can be safely selected for each job task identified as needed for shock and arc flash protection.

Personal Protective Clothing Ratings

Building an electrical safety personal protective equipment (PPE) list for workers begins with selecting the right clothing. Flame retardant clothing is assigned an Arc Thermal Protective Value (ATPV) rating by the manufacturer. The ATPV value represents the amount of incident energy that would cause the onset of second-degree burns. It also signifies the amount of protection the clothing provides when an electrical arc comes in contact with the fabric.

Most people working with electricity only require clothing that meets category 1 or 2 protection characteristics. NFPA 70E electrical safety standards are aimed more towards workers who work in category 3 or 4 hazard situations. Their clothing must meet APTV rating minimums throughout the life of the garment. In other words, each piece of clothing must also be designed to withstand a cleaning process to remove soils and then be returned to service without damage to the fabric.

There are several sources that can help make sure you purchase clothing that meets your hazard category APTV levels beginning with the label of the garment itself. To meet OSHA regulations and NFPA 70E, the label on the garment must contain a tracking ID number, meet ASTM spec F1506, include the name of manufacturer, size and care instructions, ATPV rating and must meet ASTM spec F1506.

For help determining what PPE to use based on the risk factors in your workplace, there is a website that utilizes an arc calculator to help determine what PPE to use. There is a fee charged for the use of this calculator. It can be found at www.arcadvisor.com. Grainger is not affiliated with www.arcadvisor.com and is referring to this website as a reference only.

Regulation Changes

In 2015 the NFPA released the tenth edition of the 70E standard for electrical safety in the workplace based on the 2014 NFPA 70 (NEC) Code. The previous edition was published in 2012. There are significant differences between the two editions.

The 2015 edition of NFPA 70E reflected a major shift in how electrical risk is evaluated. In the previous editions risk was established by performing a shock and arc flash analysis that would quantify the risk. Moving forward this edition will streamline requirements for arc and shock protection and outline revised program requirements with emphasis on risk assessment now called a flash risk assessment. This means potential for harm is considered based on the combination of severity and likelihood a failure could result. The flash risk assessment addresses hierarchy of controls such as electrical installation(engineering controls) and work practices.

Here are highlights of the remaining changes from the 2012 70E edition to the 2015 70E edition:

  1. Safety-related maintenance requirements were added to clarify that training and auditing are equally important.
  2. All references to Bare-Hand Work were removed.
  3. New definition of Energized Electrical Work Permit was added and definition of qualified person was revised.
  4. Prohibited approach boundary was deleted.
  5. An electrical safety program must now include elements that consider condition of maintenance.
  6. Audits of field work must be performed at intervals not to exceed 1 year.
  7. The location, sizing, and application of temporary protective grounding equipment must be identified.
  8. New requirements clarifying where normal operation of electric equipment is permitted were added.
  9. Clarification was added that either the incident energy analysis method or arc flash PPE category method be used on the same piece of equipment for the selection of PPE, BUT NOT BOTH.
  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/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. The criterion for employees to use insulated tools or handling equipment has been changed from the limited approach boundary to restricted approach boundary.
  16. Barricades cannot be placed closer than the limited approach boundary.
  17. Must perform a risk assessment if the likelihood of contacting energized electrical lines or parts exists.
  18. Clarification that the equipment owner or designated representative is responsible for maintenance of the electrical equipment and documentation.
  19. New maintenance program for test instruments must include functional verification.
  20. Risk assessment must be performed prior to any work on a battery system.
PPE and Hazard/Risk Table

NFPA added a new task-based table referenced in #12 above to utilize a simple yes or no format to determine if arc flash PPE is required. If yes, the new equipment-based table referenced in #13 above is then referenced to determine the flash PPE category (previously known as hazard risk category) and arc flash boundary. Finally, to determine ppe equipment needed the newly modified PPE category table referenced in #14 above is used.

Protective Clothing and Personal Protective Equipment Table 130.7(C)(16)
Note below that this new PPE category table no longer references a category 0.

Hazard/Risk Category*   Clothing
Description
  Minimum
APTV Rating Cal/cm2
  Required
Garments
  Required
Protective
Equipment
1   Arc-rated clothing
(see note 1)
  4   Shirt (long sleeve) and pants (long) or coverall. Flash suit hood or faceshield (see note 2) Jacket, parka, rainwear, or hardhat liner (AN)   Hard hat Safety glasses or goggles (SR) Hearing protection (earcanal inserts) Heavy duty leather gloves (see note 3) Leather Footwear (AN)
2   Arc-rated clothing
(see note 1)
  8   Shirt (long sleeve) and pants (long) or coverall Flash suit hood or faceshield (see note 2) and balaclava Jacket, parka, rainwear, or hardhat liner (AN)   Hard hat Safety glasses or goggles (SR) Hearing protection (earcanal inserts) Heavy duty leather gloves (see note 3) Leather Footwear
3   Arc-eated clothing system
(see note 1)
  25   Shirt (long sleeve) (AR) Pants (long) (AR) Coverall (AR) Flash suit jacket (AR) Flash suit pants (AR) Flash suit hood Gloves (see note 1) Jacket, parka, rainwear, or hard hat liner (AN)   Hard hat Safety glasses or safety goggles (SR) Hearing protection (ear canal inserts) Leather Footwear
4   Arc-rated clothing system
(see note 3)
  40   Shirt (long sleeve) (AR) Pants (long) (AR) Coverall (AR) Flash suit jacket (AR) Flash suit pants (AR) Flash suit hood Gloves (see note 1) Jacket, parka, rainwear, or hard hat liner (AN)   Hard hat Safety glasses or safety goggles (SR) Hearing protection (ear canal inserts) Leather Footwear

AN = as needed (optional)
AR = as required
SR = selection required

*One of the 3 basic methods is used to determine a HRC for a job task

Notes:
(3) If rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors are used, additional leather or arc-rated gloves are not required. The combination of rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors satisfies the arc flash protection requirement.
(2) Face shields are to have wrap-around guarding to protect not only the face but also the forehead, ears and neck, or, alternatively, an arc-rated arc flash suit hood is required to be worn.
(1) Arc rating is defined in article 100

Labeling Electrical Hazards

As highlighted in #10 above new equipment labeling requirements were added to the 2015 edition of NFPA 70E (130.5(B)). This will require employers to field mark electrical equipment as part of their arc flash risk assessment. The label must contain the following information:

1. At least one of the following:
a. Available incident energy and the corresponding distance
b. Minimum arc rating of clothing
c. Site specific level of PPE
d. PPE Category in 130.7(C)(15) for equipment
2. Nominal system voltage
3. Arc flash boundary

TIt is important to note with this edition the information displayed on the label should only be present based on the method used to determine PPE equipment. If the table method issued only the PPE category should appear (1-4). If incident energy analysis is used the incident energy (cal/cm2) should appear. The key is both should not appear on the same label. Must be one or the other displayed. See example below:

Frequently Asked Questions

How do I determine what level of protection I need for my job task?

A. There are 2 basic methods that can be used to determine level of protection:

  1. Table
    • *Refer to NFPA 70E-2015 Article 130, tables: 130.4(D)(a) or (b) for shock risk assessment
    • 130.7(C)(15)(A)(a) and 130.7(C)(15)(A)(b) or (B) for arc-flash assessment
  2. Incident Energy Analysis
    • Use an industry accepted software program
    • Use a consulting firm to complete the risk assessment

*This method can only be used if the specific job task appears in table and meets the parameters listed. Otherwise, the incident energy must be calculated for that job task using annex D or methods 2a or 2b listed above.

Q. What if my job task is not listed in table 130.7(C)(15)(A)(a) and 130.7(C)(15)(b) or (B) of NFPA 70E-2015 electrical safety standard?

A. The incident energy must be calculated for the job task. Annex D of the NFPA 70E-2015 standard can be referenced or use an approved online arc calculator like the Duke Flux calculator.

Q. Is compliance with NFPA 70E electrical safety standard mandatory?

A. No, NFPA 70E is a national consensus safety standard published by NFPA primarily to assist OSHA in preparing electrical safety standards. Federal OSHA has not incorporated it into the Code of Federal Regulations.

Q. Can I be cited for not complying with NFPA 70E?

A. Yes, the employer must assess the workplace for electrical hazards and the need for PPE under 29 CFR 1910.335(a)(1)(i). Details on how to comply with this standard are left up to the employer. The employer is expected to use the best means available to comply with this requirement, and that is done through consensus standard NFPA 70E. Compliance with 70E will assure compliance with this OSHA requirement. In the event of an injury or death due to an electrical accident, if OSHA determines that compliance with 70E electrical safety standard would have prevented or lessened the injury, OSHA may cite the employer under the general duty clause. In 2003 standards interpretation letter OSHA stated 70E electrical safety standard can be used as evidence of whether the employer acted reasonably.

Sources

NFPA 70E-2015 Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces, National Fire Protection Association, 1-617-770-3000.

ASTM F1506 Standard, American Society for Testing Materials, 1-610-832-9585.

ASTM F1506 Standard, American Society for Testing Materials, 1-610-832-9585.
Occupational Safety & Health Administation (OSHA), www.osha.gov.

Duke Power Flux Calculator. Available at Oberon:
http://www.arcflash.com/


Related Articles

(Rev. 10/2014)


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