What You Need To Know About Changes To NFPA 70E

Arc flash ppe clothing changes.
Image: Magid Glove and Safety Manufacturing Company.

Posted by Heidi Schwartz

NFPA 70E, titled Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, is a standard of the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). NFPA 70E requirements protect personnel by reducing exposure to major electrical hazards. The standard focuses on practical safeguards, safety-related maintenance requirements, and safety requirements for special equipment that also allow workers to be productive within their job functions.

Specifically, the standard covers the safety requirements for the following:

  1. Electrical conductors and equipment installed within or on buildings or other structures, including yards, carnivals, parking lots, and industrial substations.
  2. Conductors that connect installations to a supply of electricity.
  3. Other outside conductors on the premises.

Originally developed at OSHA’s request, NFPA 70E helps companies and employees avoid workplace injuries and fatalities due to shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast, and assists in complying with OSHA 1910 Subpart S and OSHA 1926 Subpart K. The Standard includes guidance for making hazard identification and risk assessments, selecting appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE), establishing an electrically safe work condition, and employee training.

With its latest revision, NFPA 70E now includes detailed tables for arc flash hazard identification and arc flash PPE categories. These tables require specific levels of PPE for various types and ratings of electrical equipment.

Also new in 2015, the term AR or Arc Rated as it relates to PPE was introduced to help differentiate between AR and FR (Flame Resistant) since all AR clothing is flame resistant, but not all FR clothing has an arc rating. Additionally, “Hazard/Risk Category” will now be referred to as “PPE Category.” The new PPE Category is no longer task based.

Arc flash hazard PPE categories.
Table: from Magid Glove and Safety Manufacturing Company.

Certain tasks where the risk of an arc flash or shock hazard may be lower, such as normal operation of properly installed and maintained equipment, may not require the use of any special PPE. Some of this risk reduction is based on anecdotal data and/or the collective experience of the technical committee, and there is a desire to have more empirical incident data on the actual hazards and associated injuries that may be experienced when equipment faults or adverse electrical events occur.

This 2015 revision will be the 10th such update since the NFPA 70E was first introduced. The next edition of this standard is anticipated in 2018 and is now open for Public Input.