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NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in The Workplace

“OSHA requires protective measures to prevent worksite injuries. DuraLabel recommends adding arc flash labeling to your overall safety and visual communication program. Arc flash labeling does not eliminate the requirement for work permits, training and planning when working on energized equipment. Effective hazard communication improves personnel safety, plant productivity and efficiency.”

Graphic Products, Inc., 1-888-326-9244 (U.S./Canada), www.graphicproducts.com

Considered the benchmark for safe electrical design, installation and inspection to protect people and property from electrical hazards, NFPA 70E was originally developed at OSHA’s request. 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. Since the 2018 update, NFPA 70E has included an arc flash assessment tool that helps users determine safe work practices, an arc flash boundary and the appropriate PPE—if an arc flash hazard exists.

Why the Standard Matters

Electrical hazards are present in many types of workplaces, but many workers are unaware of the nature and severity of those hazards. Both those who work with electrical directly and those who work with it indirectly risk injuries from arc blast, electric shock, electrocution and fatal falls from height caused by contact with electrical energy.

OSHA says the following hazards are the most frequent causes of electrical injuries: path to ground missing or discontinuous, contact with power lines, lack of ground-fault protection, equipment not used in manner prescribed, and improper use of extension and flexible cords.[1]

According to the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFI), there were 126 electrical fatalities in and 2,220 non-fatal electrical injuries involving days away from work in 2020.[2] Construction and extraction; installation, maintenance and repair; building and grounds cleaning and transportation and material moving were the top occupations involving electrical fatalities. A third of electrical fatalities occurred in workers who were 25 – 34; 21% involved those in the 34 – 44 age range; 18% in the 45-54 age range; 17% in workers aged 55 – 64 and 7% in workers between the ages of 20 – 24. The median number of days away from work for nonfatal electrical injuries in 2020 was three. Electrical shocks accounted for 1,610 of the non-fatal electrical injuries while burns accounted for 620.

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 48 inches 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.

For More Information

[1] www.osha.gov/electrical

[2] www.esfi.org/workplace-safety/workplace-injury-fatality-statistics/

About the Author 
Kevin Fipps is a safety professional based in Portland, Oregon. He has extensive safety industry training and planning experience at multiple global operations. He also authors a monthly safety column called, Tips from Fipps. Read more at www.graphicproducts.com/resources. 

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