TRYING to Get to Know the New 2015 NFPA 70E Standard

The purpose of NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace is to ensure worker safety by reducing electrical hazards; namely shock, arc flash, arc blast and electrocution. It was written upon OSHA’s request by the National Fire Prevention Association (NFPA) in 1979, and it covers OSHA 1910 Subpart S and OSHA 1926 Subpart K. The NFPA is located right in Quincy, MA. This will be the tenth version of the standard.

The 2015 revision of the NFPA 70E Standard includes many changes, too numerous to cover entirely in this blog, and you should refer to the standard in its entirety from NFPA.

In order to access the NFPA 70E Standard for free, you must register online at This will allow you access to the full standard in an online view. You cannot download, save or copy the online version. A full membership to NFPA costs $165 for one year, which includes technical support, and the ability to connect directly with NFPA technical specialists to answer your questions on any of the NFPA codes.

As I was reviewing the NFPA 70E standard online, I encountered some glitches. At one point the text disappeared. In order to get the online view working correctly, I had to close it, refresh the NFPA webpage, and click on “free access to 2015 edition of NFPA 70E” again.

This was mildly frustrating for me, and I can only imagine how that frustration would be amplified if I needed this information to do my job safely. I think we need to do a much better job at making safety regulations open and available to the public in various mediums.

In the end I was able to compile a list of changes from the NFPA 70E Standard. Let’s take a look at some of the most significant changes in the new revision:

1.            The new edition puts an emphasis on how electrical risk is evaluated. What used to be called “Hazard Identification” is now “Risk Assessment”. Risk assessment is a broader approach encompassing hazard identification, estimation of the potential severity of injury or damage to health, and the likelihood of occurrence of injury or damage to health, and determines if protective measures are required.

2.            In the scope statement of the standard, maintenance requirements and other administrative controls have been added. This is to underline that training and auditing are equally important to ensure safe work practices.

3.            Revisions to definitions in Article 100:

                -Energized Electrical Work Permit has been added

        -The definition for Qualified Person has been revised to match OSHA 1910.399 Note 2.

                -Prohibited Approach Boundary has been deleted (from the entire document).

                -Bare-handed work has been deleted (from the entire document).

4.     Electrical safety programs must include the consideration of the condition of maintenance.

5.     Field work audits as part of an electrical safety program must happen at least annually.

6.            The location, sizing and application of temporary protective grounding equipment is required to be identified as part of the employer’s job planning.

7.            Division of Requirements in former 110.4 has been changed. Construction and maintenance are separated from outdoor work.

8.            Either incident energy analysis method or arc flash PPE categories method can be used on the same piece of equipment for the selection of PPE, but not both.

9.            It is the owner’s responsibility to install and maintain field-marked labels on their equipment. The field-marked labels must be updated when the arc flash hazard risk assessment identifies a change making the old label inaccurate.

10.          New equipment-based tables were added for determining the arc flash PPE category that include arc flash PPE category, arc flash boundary and equipment.

11.          Hazard/risk category 0 has been removed from Table 130.7 (C)(16) Hazard/risk category is now PPE category.

12.          The criterion for the use of insulated tools or handling equipment has been changed from the limited approach boundary to restricted approach boundary.

13.          Barricades cannot be placed closer than the limited approach boundary or the arc flash boundary- whichever is greater.

14.          A new section has been added requiring the employer to perform a risk assessment before cutting or drilling into equipment, floors, walls or structural elements where a likelihood of contacting energized electrical lines or parts exists.

15.          The equipment owner or the owner’s representative is responsible for all maintenance of the electrical equipment and documentation.

16.          New maintenance requirements for test instruments and associated test leads utilized in the verification of the presence of voltages were added. The maintenance program for test instruments must include functional verification as described in 110.4(A)(5).

17.          New section 320.3(A)(1) requires a risk assessment to be performed prior to any work on a battery system to identify the chemical, electrical shock, and arc flash hazards and asses the risks associated with the type of tasks to be performed.

18.          Clarification of requirements where normal operation of electricity equipment is permitted.

19.          Annex E includes all of the redefined terms for an electrical safety program.

This is not a complete list of all the changes. I urge you to become familiar with the standard so you can be up to date on the best practices to ensure electrical safety in your workplace. The standard is very large and contains a lot of information, so it may be slow going. Be patient, and hopefully you will not encounter the same glitches I did.

The next edition is scheduled to be published in 2017, and is currently open for public input. The public input closing date is on July 6, 2015.

I am happy to see the change from “Hazard Identification” to “Risk Assessment”. I believe that it will force us to be truly engaged when dealing with electricity and energized equipment, and stop the tendency to work on auto-pilot. My hope for the next revision is that it is more easily accessible to all who need the information to work safely.

If you would like to learn more about the NFPA 70E Standard please call us at (877) 399-1698 and we can schedule a training for you.