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The NFPA 70E is a standard that describes practices and procedures to maintain electrical safety in the workplace. It outlines how contractors, electricians, and engineers can practice safe construction and maintenance of indoor electrical systems.

The NFPA 70E committee recently approved a series of changes to make the standard better for 2015. This article provides an outline of those changes as they relate to your work and how to best keep yourself safe.

Three Major Changes

The three major changes to this year’s version of NFPA 70E are as follows:

  1. New category tables for Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
  2. The elimination of HRC 0
  3. The elimination of the Prohibited Approach Boundary

 

The NFPA70E committee made a number of changes to the standard this year. Some are big changes, like these three, and some are small. There were more changes than can be covered in this article, but we have outlined the more significant changes. For further information, and before attempting to start work at a hazardous site, please consult the standard in detail.

Wearing Personal Protective Equipment

The committee received feedback that there was confusion surrounding their recommendations related to the wearing of arc-rated PPE and clothing to operate <600V devices. The 2012 version of the standard used the following language:

It is the collective experience of the Technical Committee on Electrical Safety in the Workplace that normal operation of enclosed electrical equipment, operating at 600 volts or less, that has been properly installed and maintained by qualified persons is not likely to expose the employee to an electrical hazard.

In order to bring more clarity to the issue of whether workers should wear PPE when working with such equipment, it added section 130.2.(A)(4) for 2015:

Normal operation of electric equipment is permitted when all of the following conditions are satisfied:

  • The equipment is properly installed;
  • The equipment is properly maintained;
  • All equipment doors are closed and secured;
  • All equipment covers are in place and secured; and
  • There is no evidence of impending failure.

 

This change is meant to clarify that it is not the intention of the committee to force or recommend the wearing of PPE around equipment that has been installed correctly, is operating well, and poses no significant risk. The committee believes it cannot guarantee all such situations will be safe. You should use your judgment as to what PPE is appropriate when approaching a work site. The committee also added information to section 130.2(A)(4) to clarify what “properly installed” and “properly maintained” means.

New Arc Flash PPE Tables

The committee felt that the old arc flash tables, used to determine what sort of PPE a worker should wear, were confusing. The old tables listed tasks common to the equipment in question, whether they posed an arc flash hazard or not. In order to help workers make clearer risk assessments and PPE decisions, the tables are set out so there are no reductions. If there is an arc flash hazard present, you must use all the required PPE and clothing described in the standard.

No More Prohibited Approach Boundary

The prohibited approach boundary for shock hazards has been eliminated in the latest draft of the standard. The committee hoped this would clarify NFPA 70E and make it easier to use in the field. Both the limited approach boundary and the restricted approach boundaries are clear: they trigger certain actions.

The limited approach boundary restricts unqualified people from getting close to exposed energized equipment. The restricted approach boundary tells you how close a qualified person can get without wearing insulating rubber gloves or other PPE. Since the prohibited approach boundary triggered no such clear action, it was found to be confusing and has now been eliminated.

Nothing is more important on a worksite than safety. NFPA 70E was developed to give clear, practical directions on how to run a work site safely and effectively. The NFPA 70E committee works to continuously update, modernize, and clarify the standard in order to ensure the requirements protect workers to the best of their ability.

While the above gives you an overview of the major changes to the standard in the 2015 revision, it’s crucial to review NFPA 70E in detail before getting near any electrical hazards. Safety is a primary concern for any students looking to get into the electrical field, and a primary concern at the top electrical programs around the country. NFPA 70E will tell you exactly the sort of PPE and clothing you need to protect yourself from shock, electrocution, and other hazards on the job site.

CC Photo by Garry Knight

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