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Are you ready to comply with the National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) 2018 edition of NFPA Standard 70E for electrical safety in the workplace?  This standard provides requirements to help employers reduce risks to employees from arc flash and other hazards when working on or near energized equipment.

The 2018 edition of NFPA 70E makes several important changes related to arc flash safety. Significantly, it promotes the importance of the hierarchy of risk control methods (including placing the hierarchy on the front cover of the 2018 edition).  It also considers the likelihood of occurrence of arc flash hazards when assessing risks.

In NFPA 70E 2018, the hierarchy of risk control methods has been moved from an informational note into the main text of the standard, which emphasizes its importance. In this hierarchy, elimination of the hazard is the first priority, and each subsequent method is considered less effective than the one above it. Notably, personal protective equipment (PPE) is listed as the last priority in the hierarchy.  Thus, arc flash safety should not be considered to be solely a matter of determining the right level of PPE for a given task.  For each process, PPE only comes into use after other more effective means of risk control have been considered.

Example Scenario

An electrical employee receives a work order to rack out a breaker on a 4,160 volt bus. After reviewing the label that annotates a calculated arc flash incident energy of 26 calories/cm2, the employee would don the appropriately rated arc flash clothing kit and rack the breaker out. While this is still allowed in NFPA 70E, the emphasized philosophy change would implore the team to use available measures to remove the hazard exposure instead. In this case, a more preferred method would be to make use of a remote racking mechanism so that the employee can be outside the arc flash boundary, and thus negate the need for the arc flash clothing kit by mitigating the hazard exposure. Other examples of such mitigating tactics are maintenance mode switches, advanced protective devices, and installing arc-rated equipment.

As you consider your next arc flash analysis, ask yourself:

  1. Has your electrical equipment been properly maintained and tested according to the manufacturer recommendations?
  2. Have you reviewed the areas in your facilities to determine how you can eliminate or reduce the arc flash hazards, even if you have appropriate PPE?

To learn more about the impacts of NFPA 70E 2018 or to discuss arc flash studies, contact us.

Joshua Cryer is an electrical engineer with 16 years of experience with electrical power systems, including project management, protection and control, and transmission and substation projects. He offers comprehensive knowledge of North American Electric Reliability Corporation Critical Infrastructure Protection (NERC CIP) requirements; arc flash incident energy analysis; and power delivery infrastructure engineering design, procurement, construction, maintenance, and management.