NFPA 70E® 2021 for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®

“Protecting workers is what inspires GlenGuard every day to engineer comfortable and durable performance AR/FR fabrics for workwear. Although it’s a voluntary standard, all of our GlenGuard fabrics meet NFPA 70E requirements because GlenGuard believes that NFPA 70E is critical in the avoidance of unnecessary workplace injuries and fatalities.” – GlenGuard, (336) 227-6211 www.glenguard.com

IMPORTANT TO KNOW

Electricity has long been recognized as a serious workplace hazard, for both people who work directly with it – such as electricians and engineers – and others who may work with electricity indirectly. Potential sources of exposure are many: overhead lines, cable harnesses, circuit assemblies and more. In a fraction of an instant, an electrical incident can kill, injure, or disable a worker. Electrical injuries to workers can result from electrocution, shock, burns, or from falls caused by the worker coming into contact with electrical energy. In 2018, 160 workers were killed and 1,560 injured in U.S. workplaces, according to the Electrical Safety Foundation International
(ESFI).1 More than half of the fatal electrical injuries that year occurred in the construction industry. NFPA 70E, which was originally developed at OSHA’s request, is considered the definitive standard for electrical safety in the workplace. It includes information about arc flash incident energy, lockout-tagout procedures and personal protective equipment (PPE) that can mitigate the risk of an electrical injury.

STANDARD REQUIREMENTS

Whenever possible, turn off electrical power during the work being done and verify that it stays off until the task is completed. This can be done by: individual qualified employee control; simple lockout/tagout or complex lockout/tagout. When it is necessary to work “live” near exposed energized parts, a live work permit that describes the work to be performed and why it must be performed should be signed by the customer, engineers or other person in charge. For shock protection, three shock hazard boundaries should be determined: limited approach, restricted, and prohibited. These boundaries help identify who should be allowed (i.e., only qualified persons can enter the restricted approach boundary) and when workers must use voltage-rated rubber gloves and fiberglass tools. The flash protection boundary (FPB) must also be determined. Anyone working closer than 48in to live parts must wear PPE to protect against arc flash. This may include overalls, jackets, and vests made of material that blocks heat energy and that has non-conducive hardware.

The Hazard/Risk Category (HRC) must be determined, based on tables provided by the standard. Determine Hazard/Risk Category (HRC). The HRC level helps electrical workers select the correct type of PPE to wear, based upon the task they are performing live. Workers must wear appropriate PPE whenever they are performing tasks within the FPB, whether or not they are actually touching the live equipment.

A LOOK AT THE REVISIONS

Some of the 2021 revisions have been reorganizing. For instance, Article 110 of the standard – General Requirements for Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices — has been revised to consolidate general requirements for electrical safety-related work programs, practices and procedures from other articles. The first priority in implementing these work practices is hazard elimination. Energized electrical conductors and circuit parts operating at voltages equal to or greater than 50 volts are to be put into an electrically safe condition before an employee performs work if the individual is within the limited approach boundary and/or the individual interacts with equipment where conductors or circuit parts are not exposed but an increased likelihood of injury from an exposure to an arc flash hazard exists.

Electrical safety training for employees exposed to specific hazards associated with electrical energy is to be classroom-based, on-the-job, or a combination of the two. New to the 2021 edition: classroom training can include interactive electronic or interactive web-based training components.

The 2021 70E® edition places a new emphasis on keeping on file, documenting, and following the recommendations of electrical equipment and PPE manufacturers’ instructions. Manufacturers’ instructions sometimes have been skipped because the information might be hard to access, forcing workers to dig through equipment packaging, or small print instructions have made readability difficult. Manufacturers must now make instructions and recommendations more readable and more accessible.

Personal protective equipment (PPE) constitutes part of NFPA 70E®. PPE includes nonconductive head protection, eye protection, hearing protection, and arc-rated clothing whenever there is possible exposure to an electric arc flash, insulating blankets, and non-melting footwear. The 2021 edition addresses the common practice of wearing high-visibility vests over arc rated clothing. In the past qualified workers that were required to wear high-visibility vests had to remove the vests if the vest did not meet the level of arc flash protection required. Now qualified workers can wear a category 1 arc rated high-visibility vests (4 cal/cm2) during the workday and not have to remove it to perform electrical troubleshooting or voltage measurements.

Acceptable electrical safety footwear has been expanded in the 2021 edition to go beyond traditional leather footwear to include other types footwear other than leather or dielectric as long as it has been tested to demonstrate no ignition, melting, or dripping at the estimated incident energy exposure or the minimum arc rating for the respective arc flash PPE category.

In addition, the definition of balaclava has been changed. The word “hood” and “sock” were removed. The new definition: an arc-rated head-protective fabric that protects the neck and head except for a small portion of the facial area.

INCREASE YOUR KNOWLEDGE

The 2024 edition of NFPA 70E, Standard The complete standard is available online for at: Electrical Safety in the Workplace, is scheduled to be published www.webstore.ansi.org or even pre-order the later this year. Go to catalog.nfpa.org and type in National Electrical Code® (NEC®), 2023 edition the search bar “2024 NFPA 70E” and it will come www.catalog.nfpa.org. up to order when its available later this year.

DID YOU KNOW?

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) uses public input and public comment in the development of its standards, which are then considered at an NFPA Technical Meeting and are subject to appeals or issuance through Standards Council Action. All NFPA standards are revised and updated every three to five years, in revision cycles that begin twice each year. The NFPA formed a new electrical standards development committee in order to develop an electrical safety standard in 1976, at the request of OSHA. NFPA 70E was first published in 1979. A noteworthy development occurred in 1995, when the arc flash hazard was mentioned in NFPA 70E. This was the first time arc flash was formally addressed in a safety standard. NFPA describes an arc flash hazard as a “source of possible injury or damage to health associated with the release of energy caused by an electric arc.” Arc flash had been identified and named as an electrical hazard only 13 years prior to version of NFPA 70E. The standard is important for electrical engineers, safety managers, electricians, electrical contractors, plant managers, facility maintenance personnel, electrical inspectors, risk managers, mechanical engineers, HVAC installers, designers, and project managers. NFPA 70E continues to evolve (an update will be released this year), to contain the latest information about the effects of arc flash, arc blast, and direct current (dc) hazards, and recent developments in electrical design and PPE. The standard now emphasizes using the hierarchy of risk controls to eliminate hazards. Work practices including using boundaries, signs and barricades to designate a “safe work zone” can also help keep workers safe.

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