Electrical safety gets a jolt: Diving into NFPA 70E’s latest updates

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November 2, 2023 - The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has released updates to NFPA 70E for the year 2024. These changes are designed to enhance electrical safety in the workplace, and we're here to break down what you need to know.

Background on NFPA 70E

First, let's get acquainted with NFPA 70E. This standard is your go-to resource for electrical safety in the workplace. It details measures for protecting employees from electrical hazards during tasks such as installation, maintenance, and troubleshooting. Occurrences of electric shock and arc flash can result in severe injuries and fatalities, so keeping up with the latest updates is crucial.

What's new in NFPA 70E 2024?

The NFPA 70E 2024 updates build on the foundation of previous editions, prioritizing the safety of personnel working around electrical equipment. Here are some major changes you should be aware of:

  • Risk assessment: The 2024 edition emphasizes the importance of conducting a comprehensive electrical risk assessment. It provides a clearer framework for assessing the severity of potential electrical hazards, helping employers implement more targeted safety measures.
  • Hazard elimination: The new standard aligns with the general hierarchy of controls and encourages employers to prioritize hazard elimination over hazard control when feasible. This means taking proactive steps (e.g., substitution, engineering, administrative controls) to remove or reduce electrical hazards before relying solely on personal protective equipment (PPE).
  • Emergency response plan: Job safety plans must now include an emergency response plan.
  • Normal operating conditions:2(B) (previously 110.4[D]) has been expanded, and Exception No. 1 now includes “The equipment is rated for the available fault current.” This is an important addition because older, existing electrical equipment may have been rated for the available fault current at the time of installation but may have been modified over time and now be underrated, which presents an arc flash and blast hazard.
  • Electrically safe work condition (ESWC): Section 110.2(B) (previously 110.3) has been expanded, and Exception No. 2 now indicates that equipment supplying the disconnecting means or isolating element is exempt from requiring an ESWC as long as a risk assessment is conducted and no unacceptable risks are found.
  • Establishing and verifying ESWC: When testing for the absence of voltage, “at each point of work” has been added to the standard's verbiage.
  • New Informative Annex S: The 2024 update brings something new, Informative Annex S: Assessing the Condition of Maintenance. This addition takes important electrical safety principles (e.g., risk assessments, testing and inspections, monitoring methods, and labeling) and applies them to the maintenance of electrical equipment. Note: This informative annex is not a part of NFPA 70E requirements but has been included for informational purposes.

Benefits of these changes

By applying the NFPA 70E 2024 updates to an electrical safety program, organizations will:

  • Enhance safety: The primary goal of these updates is to reduce electrical hazards, making the workplace safer for all employees.
  • Improve compliance: Staying current with NFPA 70E ensures compliance with industry standards and reduces the risk of regulatory fines or penalties.
  • Reduce incidents: Implementing the new requirements can lead to a decrease in electrical incidents, preventing injuries and fatalities.
  • Lower insurance costs: Safety-conscious organizations may see reduced insurance premiums because of improved safety measures.
  • Peace of mind: Knowing that your workplace is aligned with the latest safety standards provides peace of mind for both employers and employees.

Also read Unveiling OSHA’s 2024 game changer: Electronic submission for safer workplaces, Cracking OSHA's warehouse safety code, and Navigating aviation safety management systems from BSI safety experts and follow our Compliance Essentials for other regulatory updates.

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