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NFPA 70E: Protect Employees from Electrical Accidents

Arc flash events and other electrical accidents can be dangerous (and even deadly) for employees working nearby. These injuries can be prevented through compliance with The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®. This regulation was developed specifically to help companies protect employees from injury while working on or near electrical equipment and to help reduce the likelihood of arc flash, arc blast, and other types of accidents. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) enforces NFPA 70E requirements.

The standard covers safety requirements for electrical conductors and equipment inside or on buildings and other structures, as well as conductors that connect installations to a supply of electricity. It is considered the de-facto standard for electrical safety in the workplace, and describes how to protect workers from injury due to electric shock/electrocution, arc flash events, and arc blasts.

NFPA 70E calls for the de-energizing of electrical equipment before work is performed on or near it, as well as lockout/tagout procedures, determining shock prevention and flash protection boundaries, and assigning hazard/risk categories. Because electrical equipment must be tested to confirm it is de-energized, and because in some cases equipment must be worked on while energized, the standard also includes guidance on other best practices to prevent injury. These include requirements for engineering controls, proper labeling of equipment to indicate arc flash hazard boundaries, incident energy, and the required personal protective equipment (PPE) required for working on or near the equipment.

NFPA 70E Compliance Requirementsimages

Although the complete NFPA 70E standard includes detailed best practices for electrical equipment safety, a basic compliance program should include:

Safety Training: Arc flash safety training is required for employees and electricians, and existing electrical safety policies should include best practices outlined in NFPA 70E.

Arc Flash Analysis: Professional engineers should perform an analysis and audit of all equipment determine the arc flash hazard boundaries, properly label all equipment, and determine the appropriate levels of PPE for employees (based on arc flash incident energy levels). The analysis can also uncover engineering control and other mitigation strategies to reduce the likelihood of an arc flash event.

Single-Line Diagrams: Organizations should create and maintain updated single-line diagrams showing source of supply to all electrical equipment.

Regular Maintenance: Electrical equipment should be maintained according to industry or manufacturer standards.

For more information about NFPA 70E, as well as the current edition of the standard, visit the NFPA website.