Last year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) released the 2012 edition of NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® which was full of revisions and updates from previous versions. Unfortunately, several organizations are still struggling with the NFPA 70E revisions. Now that the federal Occupational Safety and Health Act have adopted most of NFPA 70E as law, the lack of implementation is going to cost more than just the health and safety of employees.
These changes happen for a reason. New standards are always generally aimed at increasing employee safety and awareness of the potential hazards that accompany them in the workplace. It is important to not only implement, but understand the revisions as they come. A recent webinar from Business and Legal Resources (BLR), was aimed directly at addressing some of the key changes organizations need to know, in order to assure compliance with the new requirements. I was fortunate enough to listen in on webinar and listen in on some of the recent concerns folks are having with the revisions.
Here are some of the highlights from the webinar:
OSHA and NFPA 70E
Per OSHA’s guidelines, employers are required to protect their employees from any recognized hazard that could possibly cause injury, serious harm or death to their employees. As far as OSHA is concerned, NFPA 70E is the “consensus standard” or “best practice” that an employer should follow. By recognizing NFPA 70E as the standard, OSHA can therefore cite employers if not in compliance based on the hazards created, or what employees are exposed to.
There are several common OSHA citations issued daily that employers could’ve avoided if the had adhered to the NFPA 70E guidelines, not to mention the risks they continue to put their employees at.
The changes and additions to this latest edition are due in large part to the rising numbers of injuries and deaths related to arc flash. The intended changes of NFPA 70E aim to limit injury to the onset of second degree burns that result of arc flash.
What is Arc Flash?
- Arc flash results from an arcing fault, where the electric arcs and resulting radiation and shrapnel cause severe burns, hearing damage, and eye injuries.
- An Arch flash is a dangerous condition associated with the possible release of energy caused by an electric arc. It may be accompanied by an “arc blast.”
EHS International, Inc
Part of the latest revision to the NFPA 70E includes the development of an Energized Electrical Work permit. This permit will consist of the following elements:
- Location of Work
- Reason the work must be done energized
- Determining Flash and Arc Boundaries
- Recommended PPE
- Work procedures
- Emergency procedures
- Acceptance and authorizing of work
There are numerous updates and changes to the NFPA 70E-2012 edition including the addition of 100 definitions and it would take several posts to cover them all. Although they all are important and should be recognized, here are just a few of the most significant ones I have noted for you.
- From now on clothing considered Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) must be certified Arc-Rated (AR) not just Flame-Resistant (FR). The revision clearly defines what an Arc Rating consists of to clarify any confusion with PPE you might already have.
- As of the latest revision an Arc Flash Protection Boundary will now be simply known as an Arc Flash Boundary. This is aimed specifically at decreasing second degree burns that are possible with as few as 1.2 cal/cm2.
- The required meeting between host employer and external contractor now has to be documented.
- If you are electrically qualified or are responsible to respond to an electrical accident you now have one more certification to obtain. Automatic External Defibrillator (AED) will now be required.
- Employers shall now use regular supervision or inspections on at least an annual frequency to determine employee compliance.
- Employer’s electrical safety program is to be audited every three years. This will include field work, not just a review of paperwork.
- If GFCI protection is required by other standards, then it is also required by 70E.
- DC shock protection information was added to the new table 130.4 (C)(b)
- The exception of arch flash hazard analysis for certain circuits 240 volt and less supplied by small transformers has been removed.
- An arc rated balaclava or arc rated hood shall be worn when the head is within the arc boundary
- The required labeling has changed significantly. The new edition requires equipment that would be worked on in an energized state to be labeled. These labels must include the following three lines of information:
1. At least one of the following:
- Available incident energy and the corresponding working distance or
- Minimum arc rating of clothing or
- Required level of PPE or
- Highest Hazard/Risk Category (HRC) for the equipment.
2. Nominal system voltage
3. Arc Flash boundary
These are just some of the significant changes to the NFPA 70E that you should be aware of. There are many more that you need to know in order to not only comply with OSHA, but to also give your employees the safest work environment to work in. Get the latest edition now and start establishing comprehensive compliance programs in your organization today.