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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 all workers safer from electrical hazards in the workplace. In this case, the OSHA regulations and NFPA standards work so well together its 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 2012 edition of NFPA 70E. This is the ninth edition of the electrical safety standard. The standard covers the full range of electrical safety issues, including 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 develop and document an overall electrical safety program that directs activity appropriate for electrical hazards, voltage, 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. Three basic methods can be employed to complete the PPE risk assessment:

  1. Refer to NFPA 70E-2012 Article 130, tables 130.4(C)(a) or (b), 130.7(C)(15)(a) and 130.7(C)(16) or Annex D*
  2. Use an industry accepted software program
  3. Use a consulting firm to complete the risk assessment

*Tables 130.7(C)(15)(a) & 130.7(C)(16) can be used to complete the risk assessment for PPE only if the specific job task appears in table 130.7(C)(15)(a), otherwise, the incident energy must be calculated for that job task using Annex D or methods 2 or 3 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 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 2012, the NFPA released the ninth edition of the 70E standard for electrical safety in the workplace based on the 2011 NFPA 70 (NEC) Code. The previous edition was published in 2009. There are significant differences between the two editions.

The original NEC Code was written primarily for those who design, install and inspect electrical installations (electricians by trade). Its technical content, complexity and scope are specific to the needs of that group and include provisions that have nothing to do with employee safety. OSHA's responsibility, on the other hand, is to ensure its regulations on electrical safety pertain to employers/employees across industry lines.

The NFPA 70E was created to fulfill OSHA requirements while remaining consistent with original NEC Code. It is drawn largely from the original code, but also from other documents to make it more understandable and usable across the board.

Here are highlights of changes from the 2009 70E edition to the 2012 70E edition:

  1. Updated to correlate with the latest NEC code—2011
  2. Definitions of terms not used deleted
  3. Term "Flame-resistant" replaced by "arc-rated" (AR)
  4. New Article 105, Application of Safety-Related Work Practices separated from Article 110
  5. Three year retraining interval
  6. Safe work practices added for use with GFCI's
  7. Article 110.8 moved to Article 130.3
  8. New safety-related work practice for underground electrical lines
  9. Individual qualified employee control procedure added
  10. All requirements of Article 130 required whether hazard/risk table or hazard risk analysis used
  11. New requirements and info regarding PPE use associated with enclosed electrical equipment
  12. Content of energized electrical work permit revised
  13. Hazard/Risk tables analysis added to address DC current
  14. Hearing protection required within arc flash boundary
  15. Arc-Flash protection for hands has been revised to specify "heavy-duty" leather gloves
  16. Hazard/risk tables now address short-circuit current, fault clearing, and potential arc flash boundary info in each major category
  17. Hazard/Risk table modified to eliminate 2* category and combines old tables 130.7(C)(10) & (11) into one table 130.7(C)(16)
  18. New equipment labeling requirements
  19. Documented meeting between the host employer and the contract employer
PPE and Hazard/Risk Table

NFPA added specific reference information addressing the use of PPE as a safe work practice around shock and arc flash hazards. As highlighted in numbers 11–17 above several changes were made to this edition to ensure PPE is more appropriately selected. The biggest change involves the new hazard/risk table being developed (#17 above). Once the hazard/risk category has been identified from table 130.7(C)(15)(a) and/or (b) and requirements of 130.7(C)(15) have been met, table 130.7(C)(16) will be used to determine the required PPE for the task. This method can only be used of the specific job task appears in the table.

Protective Clothing and Personal Protective Equipment Table 130.7(C)(16)

Hazard/Risk Category* Clothing
Description
Minimum
APTV Rating Cal/cm2
Required
Garments
Required
Protective
Equipment
0 Nonmelting or untreated natural Fiber (i.e., cotton, wool, rayon or silk, or blends of these materials) with a fabric weight of
at least 4.5 oz/yd22
0 Shirt (long sleeve)
Pants (long)
Safety glasses or safety goggles (SR)
Hearing protection (ear canal inserts)
Heavy duty leather gloves (AN) (see note 1)
1 Arc-rated clothing
(see note 3)
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 (ear canal inserts)
Heavy duty leather gloves (see note 1)
Leather work shoes (AN)

2 Arc-rated clothing
(see note 3)
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 (ear canal inserts)
Heavy duty leather gloves (see note 1)
Leather work shoes
3 Arc-eated clothing system
(see note 3)
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 work shoes
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 work shoes

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:
(1) If rubber insulating gloves with leather protectors are required by table 130.7(C)(9), 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.
(3) Arc rating is defined in article 100 and can be either the arc thermal performance value (ATPV) or energy of break open threshold (EBT). ATPV is defined in ASTM F 1959, standard test method for determining the arc thermal performance value of materials for clothing, as the incident energy on a material, or a multilayer system of materials, that results in a 50% probability that sufficient heat transfer through the tested specimen is predicted to cause the onset of a second-degree skin burn injury based on the stoll curve, in cal/cm2. EBT is defined in ASTM F 1959 as the incident energy on a material or material system that results in a 50% probability of breakopen. Arc rating is reported as either ATPV or EBT, whichever is the lower value.

Labeling Electrical Hazards

As highlighted in #18 above new equipment labeling requirements were added to the 2012 edition of NFPA 70E (130.5(C)). This will require employers to field mark electrical equipment as part of their arc flash analysis. Examples of equipment that would require field marking would be switchboards, panelboards, industrial control panels, meter socket enclosures and motor control centers. 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. Required level of PPE
    d. Highest Hazard/Risk Category (HRC) for the equipment
  2. Nominal system voltage
  3. Arc flash boundary

The method of calculation and data to support the information for the label field marking must be documented. NFPA is allowing an exemption for all labels applied prior to September 30, 2011 will be acceptable.

Frequently Asked Questions

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

A. There are 3 basic methods that can be used to determine level of protection:

  1. Refer to NFPA 70E-2012 article 130, tables 130.4(C)(a) or (b), 130.7(C)(15)(a), and 130.7(C)(16) or annex D*
  2. Use an industry accepted software program
  3. Use a consulting firm to complete the risk assessment

*Tables 130.7(C)(15)(a) & 130.7(C)(16) can be used to complete the risk assessment for PPE only if the specific job task appears in table 130.7(C)(15)(a), otherwise, the incident energy must be calculated for that job task using annex D or methods 2 or 3 listed above.

Q. What if my job task is not listed in table 130.7(C)(15)(a) of NFPA 70E-2012 electrical safety standard?

A. The incident energy must be calcuated for the job task. Annex D of the NFPA 70E-2012 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-2012 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.

Occupational Safety & Health Administation (OSHA), www.osha.gov.

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


Related Articles

(Rev. 4/2014)


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