The National Fire Protection Association maintains more than 300 separate safety guidelines for various industrial settings. The NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace might be the organization’s most-monitored criterion, as working groups regularly submit amendments in an effort to address new fabrication and installation techniques, or confront safety concerns.
Policymakers for the NFPA are set to implement a number of changes that will take effect in the new year. Here are just a few of the consequential code modifications included in the 2018 edition of the NFPA 70E:
Previous versions of the NFPA 70E included standards related to job planning. However, this latest iteration includes new mandatory preparation policies designed to facilitate optimal fire safety, according to Electrical Construction and Maintenance Magazine. These revised codes stipulate that worksite managers or other workers in charge must “complete a job safety plan and conduct a job briefing with the employees involved.” The NFPA 70E explains that only qualified individuals should spearhead the creation of these strategies, which should include the following components:
- A detailed description that outlines the overall objective of the job and addresses the specific tasks required to complete it.
- Information on potential hazards.
- A shock risk assessment.
- An arc flash assessment.
- An outline of work procedures.
Under the new codes, job briefings are required to cover the details described in the safety plan, as well as the specific facets of any applicable energized electrical work permits.
Arc flash assessment
The NFPA has always emphasized the importance of arc flash prevention techniques, as this particular worksite occurrence poses a serious safety hazard to workers. In fact, an estimated 2,000 people are treated for arc flash burns in emergency wards annually, according to research from Connecticut Department of Labor.
In recent years, the NFPA has ratcheted up its standards referencing the subject. The latest version of NFPA 70E includes new language addressing the issue of human error as it relates to arc flash safety, according to Occupational Health and Safety. Now, the NFPA requires worksite managers to roll out arc flash risk assessment procedures “that shall address the potential for human error and its negative consequences on people, processes, the work environment and equipment.” NFPA 70E goes deeper into the topic in Annex Q, which specifies some of the variables that might lead to human error, including excess familiarity with work processes, fatigue and negligence.
This change is immensely important, as past research has proven that human error is often the root cause of many arc flash injuries, OHS reported.
For personal protective equipment (PPE) to effectively protect workers, it must be able to withstand harmful forces. Unfortunately, not all PPE has historically lived up to these standards, leaving some employees unknowingly exposed to danger. With this in mind, key industry organizations and oversight bodies have pushed for PPE standardization. For example, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health launched a databases in 2016 that allows workers to view data on available PPE.
The NFPA is contributing to this push for PPE awareness and standardization, beginning with NFPA 70E. This latest iteration includes conformity assessment protocols and labeling standards for all safety equipment, according to Electrical Construction and Maintenance Magazine. PPE manufacturers must provide declarations of equipment design conformity and undergo inspection by a third-party organization using the new PPE standardization and marking criteria established in the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E. All PPE items must include the following information:
- Manufacturer name.
- Product performance metrics.
- Arc rating data.
- Product identification data such as a model or serial number, or traceable bar code.
- Equipment maintenance guidelines.
The revised standards state that every unit of PPE gear distributed must include the above information. Overall, these protocols are designed to promote PPE standardization and drive equipment manufacturers to produce safe PPE that not only offers protection but also helps employees make informed decisions when preparing for work.
Organizations should review the NFPA 70E further to understand the full scope of changes that have been incorporated into the document. Adherence will help mitigate electrical hazards risk and lead to fewer compliance penalties.