The 2024 edition of NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, is scheduled to be published later this year. First published in 1979, this will be the 13th edition. Although 13 may be considered unlucky by some (ever notice elevators often
do not show a 13th floor and airplanes do not have a row 13?), the 2024 edition is anything but unlucky because it will continue to play a vital role in reducing injuries and fatalities from electrical hazards. Some language was paraphrased and is
based on what was known at the time it was written. Readers should always refer to the final approved version once it is published.
There were several global changes made that can be seen throughout the entire standard.
Electric Shock. The word “electric” is placed before “shock” to help ensure consistent use of the term. “Hearing protection boundary” and “lung protection boundary” are exceptions where the term “shock” refers to “shock wave,” not electric shock.
Protectors. The word “leather” was deleted to permit the use of protectors other than leather.
Scope. Each article now contains a scope located in ABC.1 of each article. The addition of a scope led to the need to renumber some sections.
Definitions. All definitions are now located in Article 100. In the past, some definitions were located in a specific article.
With the required addition of scope as 90.1, sections were renumbered. The new title of this section is 90.3 Workplaces Covered and Not Covered to better reflect the provisions.
90.5(C) Explanatory Material. New language was added that unless a referenced standard includes a date, then the reference is considered to be the latest edition.
Article 100 definitions
Scope. The scope was revised to explain that where an article number in parentheses follows a definition, it applies only in that article. As an example: Battery Effect (310) only applies to Article 310. Previously, some definitions appeared in the specific article rather than Article 100.
Electronic Searching. The definition title structure has been updated. Several definitions now include the term as it appears in the standard in parentheses to assist with electronic searching. For example: Boundary, Arc Flash now includes (Arc Flash Boundary) following it.
Protector. This new definition is: “A glove or mitten to be worn over rubber insulating gloves.” It has been revised for clarity since the term leather or nonleather is overly broad.
Radiation, Ionizing and Radiation, Nonionizing. New definitions are added for these two terms.
Article 110 General Requirements for Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices
110.1 Scope. This new scope states, “This article covers the general requirements for electrical safety-related work practices.”
110.2 Electrically Safe Work Condition. Section 110.2 contains several changes and 110.3 and 110.4 have been consolidated into 110.2.
110.2(A) Policy. This was changed from “Priority” and the text revised to, “An employer shall establish, document, and implement an electrically safe work condition policy that does both of the following:”
110.2(A)(1). “Requires hazard elimination to be the first priority in the implementation of safety-related work practices.” This was relocated from 110.1.
110.2(A)(2). A new informational note 4 was added: “The electrically safe work condition policy could be documented in the employer’s electrical safety program or in the employer’s management system or similar documentation.”
110.2(B) When Required. Exception No. 1, “Normal operation of electric equipment,” was changed from “Normal Operating Condition” to emphasize electric equipment. In addition to the existing six conditions such as the equipment is properly installed, maintained, etc., a seventh condition was added: “The equipment is rated for the available fault current.”
Informational Note 2 was added to item (7): “There is no evidence of impending failure.” The new note references NEMA GD 1-2019 Evaluating Water-Damaged Electrical Equipment, which includes guidelines and safety related information for electrical equipment that has been exposed to water.
110.2(B) Exception No. 2. This new exception permits the operation of an energized disconnecting means or isolating element to achieve an electrically safe work condition (ESWC) or to return equipment to service that has been placed in an ESWC. The equipment supplying the disconnecting means or isolating element shall not be required to be placed in an ESWC provided a risk assessment is performed and there is no unacceptable risk identified.
110.2(B) Exception No. 5. Equipment operating at less than 50V was expanded to “consider the capacity of the source and any overcurrent protection between the energy source and the worker are considered and it is determined there will be no increased exposure to electrical burns or to explosion due to electric arcs.”
110.3 Job Safety Planning. A new item, “f. An emergency response plan,” was added to the list of required information for the job safety planning.
110.4(A)(1) Qualified Person. The word “special” was changed to “applicable” to make it clear that qualified persons need only be familiar with techniques they need to use. (b) A person “shall” be qualified for certain equipment and tasks to be performed. The word “can” was changed to “shall” to address use of the mandatory language.
Article 120 Establishing an Electrically Safe Work Condition
120.5 (A)(1) Locating Sources. A new informational note was added: “Locating sources of supply could include identifying situations where a neutral conductor continues to carry current after phase conductors have been de-energized.” This addresses a potentially hazardous condition that may be overlooked.
120.5(B)(2) Stored Energy. Since mechanical energy involves more than springs, additional text “to the extent that the circuit cannot be unintentionally energized” was added. The text now states, “Other sources of stored energy shall be blocked or otherwise relieved to the extent that the circuit cannot be unintentionally energized.”
120.6 Process for Establishing and Verifying an Electrically Safe Work Condition. This was renumbered from 120.5 and item 7 in the list contains additional text regarding “test each phase conductor or circuit part at each point of work.” Each point of work was added.
Article 130 Work Involving Electrical Hazards
130.4(E) Electric Shock Protection Boundaries. Tables 130.4(E)(a) for AC and 130.4(E)(b) for DC are modified. The restricted approach boundaries in Table 130.4(E)(a) were revised to correlate with OSHA’s minimum approach distances in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.26 Tables. Minor modifications were made to the values in column 2 of the AC and DC tables to address a rounding error. Modifications were also made to Annex C.2.1.
A new note was added to the AC and DC tables regarding elevation. The note states, “The restricted approach boundary in Column 4 is based on an elevation not exceeding 900 meters (3,000 feet). For higher elevations, adjustment of the restricted approach boundary shall be considered.”
130.5 Arc Flash Risk Assessment
(B) Estimate of Likelihood and Severity. Informational Note 2 of 130.7(C)(15)(b) Direct Current (DC) Equipment was relocated to this section. It addresses the situation where closed doors do not provide enough protection to eliminate the need for PPE. This note is considered applicable to all arc flash risk assessments, not just DC, which is the reason for the relocation.
Arc flash tests (some that I have conducted) indicate that doors may not contain all of the energy and may blow open during an arc flash unless it is arc resistant.
Table 130.5(C) Estimate the Likelihood of an Arc Flash Incident. This table is used to determine the likelihood of occurrence of an arc flash based on specific equipment and conditions. The column labeled “Equipment Condition” has been changed to “Operating Condition” to correlate with the requirements for normal operating condition in 110.4(D).
130.5(G) Incident Energy Analysis Method. When there are major changes to an electrical system, it could affect the results of the analysis. A new informational note was added to provide examples of changes that could be made by an electric utility or other entities. This includes changes such as transformer sizes, modifications to protective devices or protective device setting.
Changes to transformer size could affect the fault current, which could also affect the speed of operation of a protective device.
130.5(H) Equipment Labeling. In addition to the existing labeling requirements of the arc flash boundary, voltage and method to define the PPE requirements, this addition requires the label shall be of sufficient durability for the environment involved.
130.7(C) Personal Protective Equipment (1) General, Informational Note 1. The 2021 edition of NFPA 70E introduced risk reduction methods that can be used when the prospective incident energy exposure exceeds the arc rating of commercially available PPE when testing for absence of voltage. The text was revised to “noncontact capacitive test instrument(s) or a permanently installed metering device(s).” Also, the 1,000V limitation was removed since risk reduction may include systems operating below 1,000V.
130.7(C) Personal Protective Equipment (5) Hearing Protection. The word “working” was deleted. Previously the text was “whenever working within the arc flash boundary.”
Being within the arc flash boundary can be a hazard regardless of whether a person is working inside the boundary.
130.7(C)(7)(a) Maximum Use Voltage for Rubber Insulating Gloves. The word “gauntlet” was not widely understood, so it was replaced with “minimum distance between the protective cuff and rubber insulating glove cuff.”
Table 130.7(C)(15)(b) Arc Flash PPE Categories for DC Systems. A major revision was made. The upper part of the table that was for voltages from 100V to 250V DC was deleted.
The new parameters for the table and arc flash PPE categories are greater than 150V and less than 600V.
Recent test data indicates the probability of sustaining an arc for 125V DC nominal systems is minimal for fault currents less than 17,000A.
130.8(M) Reclosing Circuits After Protective Operation. A reference to “qualified person” was added and the word “repetitive” was removed, which could be interpreted as an allowance to re-energize at least once before determining the cause: “shall not be manually re-energized until a qualified person or persons determines the equipment and circuit can be safely energized.” The reference to a device operation caused by an overload was moved to an exception.
New Informative Annex S—Assessing the Condition of Maintenance. A new informative annex provides nonmandatory guidance to assist qualified workers in identifying sources of information that are useful when assessing the condition of maintenance of electrical equipment.
On to 2027
The ink will barely be dry on the 2024 edition before thoughts will turn toward 2027. If you have ideas for improving NFPA 70E, it’s time to get involved and submit a public input during the next revision cycle.
Note: This article reflects the author’s view and may not necessarily represent any official position of IEEE or NFPA.
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About The Author
PHILLIPS, P.E., is founder of brainfiller.com and provides training globally. He is Vice-Chair of IEEE 1584 Arc Flash Working Group, International Chair of IEC TC78 Live Working Standards and Technical Committee Member of NFPA 70E. He can be reached at [email protected].