Thousands of workers have been injured in workplace electrical accidents over the past decade. Ensuring worker safety is critical for companies that operate high voltage electrical equipment, and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® was created to provide guidance on best practices to help avoid arc flash hazards, arc blasts, and other electrical accidents, and to protect employees working on or near electrical equipment.
NFPA 70E compliance will help ensure employee and contractor safety when working on electrical equipment and also help companies avoid fines leveled by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which enforces the standard.
There are five best practices for ensuring NFPA 70E compliance:
1. Establish a Written Safety Plan: The safety plan should include specific information related to appropriately working around electrical equipment, including guidance on electrical hazards, voltage, energy level, circuit conditions, and other information. The plan should reference the use of the correct personal protective equipment (PPE), as well as the use of NFPA 70E-compliant labeling.
2. Perform an Arc Flash Analysis: One key requirement of the standard is conducting an arc flash risk assessment in order for employees to be able work on or near energized equipment. An actual engineering analysis is recommended for determining arc flash boundaries (as opposed to simply referencing standard tables). While that level of engineering analysis is not required, it is recommended for ensuring compliance and employee safety.
Analysis will also assist you with accurately labeling equipment. NFPA 70E-compliant labels should include the results of the arc flash assessment, as well as specific PPE employees should use for each piece of equipment. You should periodically review and update all labels.
For more on the arc flash analysis process, click here.
3. Create Single-Line Diagrams: Companies should establish an up-to-date electrical single-line diagram that identifies sources of supply to specific electrical equipment. Creating these diagrams may require a site review to ensure the accuracy of existing documents or to establish new diagrams. These schematics can be used for troubleshooting electrical system problems and for communicating information about the power systems to contractors, auditors, or other third-parties.
4. Employee Training: Create a training program specific to arc flash best practices and a PPE plan based on your arc flash analysis. This is to ensure that employees understand the existing arc flash and other electrical hazards, how to reduce their risks, and what equipment and protective gear to use in each scenario. Perform annual reviews or audits for each employee to ensure compliance.
5. Perform Regular Maintenance: NFPA 70E 2015 requires regular maintenance for electrical equipment and designates the owner as responsible for that maintenance. Equipment should be serviced and repaired according to manufacturer recommendations or industry standards. Establish processes that ensure this maintenance occurs and stress the importance of maintenance in employee training.
Compliance is not a one-time event. Your electrical safety needs will evolve as you purchase and install new equipment, upgrade facilities, and hire new employees. In order to maintain compliance, companies should regularly review their NFPA 70E program, update arc flash analyses, update training materials and labels, and repeat arc flash assessments after any major modifications, renovations, or new construction. NFPA 70E also requires the arc flash assessments to be reviewed every five years.
For more information on NFPA 70E compliance and 2NSystems’ arc flash analysis capabilities, visit our page on the subject.