NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, NFPA, and National Fire Protection Association are registered trademarks of the National Fire Protection Association, Quincy, Massachusetts, 02169.

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This edition of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, was prepared by the Technical Committee on Electrical Safety in the Workplace, released by the Technical Correlating Committee on National Electrical Code, and acted on by NFPA at its June Association Technical Meeting held June 12-15, 2011, in Boston, MA. It was issued by the Standards Council on August 11, 2011, with an effective date of August 31, 2011, and supersedes all previous editions.

This edition of NFPA 70E was approved as an American National Standard on August 31, 2011.

Foreword to NFPA 70E

The Standards Council of the National Fire Protection Association, announced on January 7, 1976, the formal appointment of a new electrical standards development committee. Entitled the Committee on Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces, NFPA 70E, this new committee reported to the Association through the Technical Correlating Committee on National Electrical Code. This committee was formed to assist OSHA in preparing electrical safety standards that would serve OSHA's needs and that could be expeditiously promulgated through the provisions of Section 6(b) of the Occupational Safety and Health Act. OSHA found that in attempting to utilize the latest edition of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC), it was confronted with the following problems:

(1) Updating to a new edition of the NEC would have to be accomplished through the OSHA 6(b) procedures. OSHA adopted the 1968 and then the 1971 NEC under Section 6(a) procedures of the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Today, however, OSHA can only adopt or modify a standard by the procedures of Section 6(b) of the OSHA Act, which provide for public notice, opportunity for public comment, and public hearings. The adoption of a new edition of the NEC by these procedures would require extensive effort and application of resources by OSHA and others. Even so, going through the Section 6(b) procedures might result in requirements substantially different from those of the NEC, thereby creating the problem of conflict between the OSHA standard and other national and local standards.

(2) The NEC is intended for use primarily by those who design, install, and inspect electrical installations. OSHA's electrical regulations address employers and employees in their workplaces. The technical content and complexity of the NEC is extremely difficult for the average employer and employee to understand.

(3) Some of the detailed provisions within the NEC are not directly related to employee safety and, therefore, are of little value for OSHA's needs.

(4) Requirements for electrical safety-related work practices and maintenance of the electrical system considered critical to safety are not found in the NEC, which is essentially an electrical installation document. However, OSHA must also consider and develop these safety areas in its regulations.

With these problem areas, it became apparent that a need existed for a new standard, tailored to fulfill OSHA's responsibilities, that would still be fully consistent with the NEC.

The foregoing issues led to the concept that a document be put together by a competent group, representing all interests, that would extract suitable portions from the NEC and from other documents applicable to electrical safety. This concept and an offer of assistance was submitted in May 1975 to the Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA, who responded as follows: "The concept, procedures, and scope of the effort discussed with my staff for preparing the subject standard appear to have great merit, and an apparent need exists for this proposed consensus document which OSHA could consider for promulgation under the provisions of Section 6(b) of the Act. OSHA does have an interest in this effort and believes the proposed standard would serve a useful purpose." With this positive encouragement from OSHA, a proposal to prepare such a document was presented to the NFPA Electrical Section, which unanimously supported a recommendation that the NEC Correlating Committee examine the feasibility of developing a document to be used as a basis for evaluating electrical safety in the workplace. In keeping with the recommendation of the Electrical Section and Correlating Committee, the Standards Council authorized the establishment of a committee to carry out this examination.

The committee found it feasible to develop a standard for electrical installations that would be compatible with the OSHA requirements for safety for the employee in locations covered by the NEC. The new standard was visualized as consisting of four major parts: Part I, Installation Safety Requirements; Part II, Safety-Related Work Practices; Part III, Safety-Related Maintenance Requirements; and Part IV, Safety Requirements for Special Equipment. Although desirable, it was not considered essential for all of the parts to be completed before the standard was published and made available. Each part is recognized as being an important aspect of electrical safety in the workplace, but the parts are sufficiently independent of each other to permit their separate publication. The new standard was named NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces. The first edition was published in 1979 and included only Part I.

The second edition was published in 1981. It included Part I as originally published and a new Part II. In 1983, the third edition included Part I and Part II as originally published and a new Part III. In 1988, the fourth edition was published with only minor revisions.

The fifth edition, published in 1995, included major revisions to Part I, updating it to conform to the 1993 edition of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC). In Part II of the fifth edition, the concepts of "limits of approach" and establishment of an "arc" were introduced. In 2000, the sixth edition included a complete Part I update to the 1999 NEC, as well as a new Part IV. Part II continued to focus on establishing flash protection boundaries and the use of personal protective equipment. Also, added to Part II for 2000 were charts to assist the user in applying appropriate protective clothing and personal protective equipment for common tasks.

The seventh edition, published in 2004, reflected several significant changes to the document. The major changes emphasized safe work practices. Clarity and usability of the document were also enhanced. The name of the document was changed to NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. The entire document was reformatted to comply with the National Electrical Code Style Manual, providing a unique designation for each requirement. The existing parts were renamed as chapters and were reorganized with the safety-related work practices relocated to the front of the document to highlight the emphasis, followed by safety-related maintenance requirements, safety requirements for special equipment, and safety-related installation requirements. The chapter on safety-related work practices also was reorganized to emphasize working on live parts as the last alternative work practice. An energized electrical work permit and related requirements were incorporated into the document. Several definitions were modified or added to enhance usability of the document, and Chapter 4 was updated to correlate with the 2002 edition of the NEC.

Essential to the proper use of Chapter 4 of this standard is the understanding that it is not intended to be applied as a design, an installation, a modification, or a construction standard for an electrical installation or system. Its content was intentionally limited in comparison to the content of the NEC in order to apply to an electrical installation or a system as part of an employee's workplace. This standard is compatible with corresponding provisions of the NEC but is not intended to be used, nor can it be used, in lieu of the NEC.

It can be debated that all of the requirements of the NEC, when traced through a chain of events, relate to an electrical hazard, but, for practical purposes, inclusion has not been made of those provisions that, in general, are not directly associated with employee safety. In determining the provisions that should be included in Chapter 4, the following guidelines were used:

(1) The provisions should provide protection to the employee from electrical hazards.

(2) The provisions should be excerpted from the NEC in a manner that maintains their intent as they apply to employee safety. In some cases, it has been judged essential to the meaning of the excerpted passages to retain some material not applying to employee safety.

(3) The provisions should be selected in a manner that will reduce the need for frequent revision yet avoid technical obsolescence.

(4) Compliance with the provisions should be determined by means of an inspection during the normal state of employee occupancy without removal of parts requiring shutdown of the electrical installation or damaging the building structure or finish.

(5) The provisions should not be encumbered with unnecessary details.

(6) The provisions should be written to enhance their understanding by the employer and employee.

(7) The provisions must not add any requirements not found in the NEC, nor must the intent of the NEC be changed if the wording is changed.

Chapter 4 of NFPA 70E was, therefore, intended to serve a very specific need of OSHA and is in no way intended to be used as a substitute for the NEC. Omission of any requirements presently in the NEC does not in any way affect the NEC, nor should these omitted requirements be considered as unimportant. They are essential to the NEC and its intended application; that is, its use by those who design, install, and inspect electrical installations. NFPA 70E, on the other hand, is intended for use by employers, employees, and OSHA.

For 2009, over 1300 proposals and comments were reviewed by the committee, upgrading requirements throughout the document. Among the most significant, Chapter 4 was deleted because it was a duplicate of National Electrical Code installation requirements. Since the NEC and NFPA 70E are on different revision cycles, there was always the risk that the contents of Chapter 4 of NFPA 70E were not up to date with the NEC. Article 350 was added for R&D facilities. Other changes included significant revisions to Annex D, Annex F, and Annex J and the addition of Annex M, Annex N, and Annex O.

The 2012 edition of NFPA 70E marks another waypoint as this standard continues to evolve and meet the electrical safety needs of employers and employees. New research, new technology, and technical input from users of the standard provide the foundation for new and revised requirements that address the electrical hazards encountered by employees in today's workplaces. Revisions that expand or clarify requirements in the 2009 edition, inclusion of new technical material that had not been covered by previous editions of the standard, and removal of requirements that were related to the safe installation of electrical equipment (particularly from Article 320) rather than being safe electrical work practices are some of the major actions undertaken by the Technical Committee on Electrical Safety in the Workplace in this revision cycle. In addition, provisions throughout the standard covering the separate but directly related concepts of hazard identification and risk assessment have been revised to clarify these concepts. A significant revision to Annex F provides extensive coverage of this topic to assist users of the standard with implementing effective hazard identification and risk assessment procedures.

As was the case in the 2009 revision cycle, the majority of changes have occurred in Chapter 1. With the exception of the major revisions in Article 320, Safety Requirements Related to Batteries and Battery Rooms, the revisions in Chapters 2 and 3 are primarily for clarification and editorial purposes. In addition to Annex F, Annexes D, H, J, and O have seen substantive revisions. A new Annex P on aligning NFPA 70E implementation with occupational health and safety management standards has been added. Major revisions in Article 90 and Chapter 1 include the following:

(1) Scope has been revised to align with the NEC.

(2) Definitions of terms not used in the standard have been deleted.

(3) "Flame-resistant (FR)" has been changed to "arc-rated (AR)" in regard to personal protective equipment (PPE) throughout the standard.

(4) New Article 105, Application of Safety-Related Work Practices, with requirements formerly included in Article 110 that apply throughout Chapter 1 has been added.

(5) Three-year intervals for employee retraining and for electrical safety program auditing have been included.

(6) Work practice requirements on use of GFCIs to protect employees have been added.

(7) Former 110.8, Working While Exposed to Electrical Hazards, has been moved to 130.3.

(8) New safety-related work practice for underground electrical lines and equipment has been added.

(9) Individual qualified employee control procedure has been deleted from Article 120.

(10) Clarification that requirements of Article 130 apply whether incident energy analysis or hazard/risk table is used to determine use and level of PPE has been provided.

(11) New requirements and information have been added covering use of PPE to protect against arc-flash hazard associated with enclosed electrical equipment.

(12) The content of energized electrical work permit (EWP) has been revised and its use clarified.

(13) New approach boundary and hazard/risk category tables for direct current circuits have been added, as well as information in Annex D on arc flash calculations.

(14) A requirement for hearing protection when working within arc flash boundary has been added.

(15) Arc-flash protection for hands has been revised to specify "heavy-duty" leather gloves.

(16) Hazard/risk category tables have been changed to include short-circuit current, fault clearing time, and potential arc flash boundary information in each of the major equipment categories instead of in specific notes at the end of the table.

(17) "2*" delineation for certain H/R Category 2 tasks has been deleted.

(18) Former Tables 130.7(C)(10) and (C)(11) on PPE selection when hazard/risk category method is used have been combined into a single table.

(19) New information requirements to the equipment labeling provisions have been clarified and added, and an exception for existing installations has been added.

A reference in brackets [ ] following a section or paragraph indicates material that has been extracted from another NFPA document. As an aid to the user, the complete title and edition of the source documents for extracts are given in Annex A. Extracted text may be edited for consistency and style and may include the revision of internal paragraph references and other references as appropriate. Requests for interpretations or revisions of extracted text shall be sent to the technical committee responsible for the source document.

Information on referenced publications can be found in Annex A and Annex B.

Joe Tedesco, NEC Consultant