NFPA 70E 2018 Update: What You Need To Know

Every three years, the National Fire Protection Association releases an update to the NFPA 70E regulations, a series of guidelines meant to protect those who work with and around electricity. 2018 is no exception, and while the majority of changes in this year’s edition involve minor sentence changes and general editorial housekeeping, there are a few important alterations you should keep in mind.

Electrical Safety Programs Must Now Include Incident Investigation

NFPA 70E now states that electrical safety programs must include information on how to properly investigate any incidents that may occur in a facility. Guidelines for how this education should occur are brief, as each business will require a unique plan specific to its facilities, but these programs must include primers on root-cause analysis, near-miss reporting, and protocols for follow-up investigations.

Risk Assessment Should Focus Heavily On Human Error

“Studies indicate that human error is often a root cause of incidents,” according to the National Fire Protection Association. As a result, NFPA 70E 2018 includes an informative new annex dedicated to how human performance can be included in risk assessment efforts. Exhaustively detailed, the aforementioned Annex Q includes tools for improving awareness and communication between workers, warning signs for managers and supervisors to keep in mind, and methods of altering process functionality and/or business culture to reduce the likelihood of employee-caused incidents.

Proposal Of Nationwide Personal Protective Equipment Standard

Everyone can agree that those who work with or around electricity should be wearing some form of Personal Protective Equipment (PPE). What is less clear, however, are which PPE items a business should purchase for its workers to properly ensure their safety in a world where hundreds of manufacturers all claim to offer unparalleled protection. To alleviate confusion (and, hopefully, protect people from harm), NFPA 70E 2018 proposes that all PPE conform to section 9 of the ANSI/ISEA 125 reference standard, and that conformity levels be clearly marked on both PPE labels and the equipment wearers will be working with.

Arc Flash Boundaries Have Changed

Earlier editions of the NFPA 70E standard defined the arc flash boundary as the distance at which a human being would suffer a second degree burn. The NFPA 70E 2018 revision, however, is a bit more precise. “The arc flash boundary shall be the distance at which the incident energy equals 1.2 cal/cm2 (5 J/cm2),” it states before pointing readers to the new Informative Annex D, an addendum that summarizes prescribed calculations for determining the power of a potential electrical discharge. It’s a very math-intensive Annex, but is invaluable information for safety planners and those working with or around powerful sources of electricity.

If you’re hungry for more information on the NFPA 70E 2018 revision, you can either ask your company’s safety officers for a copy or purchase your own from the National Fire Protection Association’s website.

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