There are big changes coming to the 2015 edition of the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA 70E) standard in 2015. Now is the time to get ready for this major change.
What Is Changing?
The key change for employers is that electrical equipment must now be deemed to be operating in “normal condition” to reduce the safety risk to employees.
“You can still use the electrical equipment if it’s old, but if it’s faulty or has not been maintained, it can actually increase your risk of an arc flash or shock incident,” said Bob Herzig, the Owner of Herzig Engineering, a firm specializing in arc flash prevention and training. “It’s kind of like an old car. It’s not as safe as a new car if it hasn’t been maintained properly over the years, and maybe has bad brakes, worn tires, aged hoses, and cracks in the windshield.”
What Is an Arc Flash?
An arc flash is an extreme blast of heat that can sometimes happen when a malfunction occurs with electrical equipment. Workers exposed to an arc flash can be grossly disfigured or debilitated with burns requiring skin grafts and major medical expenses. It can also lead to death. Thousands of arc flash events occur every year in the U.S., with nearly 1,000 incidents that lead to burn center care or death.
“In the 1990s, the big focus with electrical safety was lockout/tagout,” Herzig said. “During the decade of 2000-2010, it was arc flash hazards and personal protective equipment, or PPE. Today, in 2015, the big focus is equipment maintenance, and how it impacts electrical safety.”
Why Do Employers Need to Make These Changes?
It’s important to keep your equipment and processes current with the latest NFPA 70E standards in order to stay compliant with OSHA, Herzig said. With new arc flash safety standards, you are reducing the risk of fines and liabilities—while at the same time, helping to protect employees from burns, injuries, and fatalities.
“Restoring and maintaining your electrical equipment is absolutely essential to your employees’ safety,” Herzig said. He adds that this includes:
- Panel boards
- Motor control centers
- Industrial control panels
- Service equipment
Do I Need a Hazard Assessment?
OSHA requires employers to conduct a hazard assessment to look for the risks associated with arc flash incidents, in accordance with 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1) and 1910.335.
Herzig Engineering partners with IBT to systematically assess electrical equipment per the NEC, NFPA 70E, and NFPA 79. This helps bring the client’s equipment up to the latest codes and standards—similar to an automobile inspection that determines what has deteriorated over the years. They give clients a “punch list” of items to help restore their equipment to its normal intended operation.
Herzig’s team of electricians and engineers investigates the facility to perform incident energy assessments, update electrical arc flash one-lines, provide training, and install labels for arc flash and shock hazard. These arc flash safety standards also help companies mitigate their electrical hazards and look at selective coordination issues.
“IBT and Herzig Engineering can come in and assess the state of your electrical equipment to help reduce the risk of an arc flash incident,” Herzig said. “It also helps decide which PPE your employees need.”
A Few Key Changes to Know
Herzig points out a few of the more significant changes to the 2015 edition of the NFPA 70E:
- The “prohibited approach boundary” was deleted.
- An electrical safety program must now include maintenance.
- Addition of new requirements that clarify where normal operation of electric equipment is permitted.
- Electrical equipment must now be properly installed and maintained, equipment doors closed and secured, and all covers in place and secured, with no evidence of impending failure.
- The hazard/risk category of 0 has been removed.
- The employer must now perform a risk assessment before cutting or drilling into equipment, floors, walls, or structural elements.
- The equipment owner (or designated representative) is now responsible for maintenance of electrical equipment and documentation.
For a complete list of standards, get the 2015 edition of the NFPA 70E.