It's Almost Here: The 2012 NFPA 70E

The 2012 NFPA 70E, The Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, is nearing completion. This will be the ninth edition since it was first published in 1979.

During the last revision cycle, the NFPA 70E committee received 548 proposals; 540 from the public and eight from the 70E committee. The Report on Proposals (ROP) details the actions the committee took regarding each proposal. The committee received 433 public comments about the ROP. The action the committee will take on these comments will be published in a Report on Comments, which was not available as of the writing of this article.

As a result, the changes this article covers could be altered based on the public comments to the proposals or actions at the upcoming 2011 NFPA Annual Conference and Exposition. For a more definitive view of the changes, obtain a copy of the 2012 NFPA 70E, the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, when it is published.

Changes Throughout Document
Arc-Rated (New)
The 2012 edition of NFPA 70E will use the term “arc-rated” or “AR” before any reference to “flame-resistant” or “FR.” The term “arc-rated” refers to a material property or attribute in terms of a material’s performance when exposed to an electric arc. Arc-rated material is flame-resistant, but flame-resistant material may not be arc-rated.

Fine Print Note (Revision)
The term “fine print note (FPN)” is changing to “informational note.” This change provides consistency between the National Electrical Code (NEC) and NFPA 70E.

Article 90 Introduction
Section 90.2(A) (Revision)
This section now uses a very important word: “inspection.” Electrical inspectors also can be exposed to hazards during inspections of installations, and this standard will now cover them. The proposed language reads: “This standard addresses electrical safety requirements for employee workplaces that are necessary for the practical safeguarding of employees during activities such as the installation, inspection, operation …” (emphasis added).

Section 90.2(A)(4) (Revision)
The words at the end of this section, “… that are not an integral part of a generating plant, substation or control center …” will be deleted, and this section will now read: “Installations used by the electric utility, such as office buildings, warehouses, garages, machine shops and recreational buildings.” This deletion clarifies that NFPA 70E applies to these areas, even if they are part of a generating plant, substation or control center.

Article 100 Definitions
Incident Energy Analysis (New Definition)
The 2012 edition will feature a new informational note added to the existing arc flash hazard analysis definition. It defines the term “incident energy analysis” as “a method used to predict the incident energy of an arc flash for a specified set of conditions.”

Arc Flash Boundary (Revision)
Previous editions referred to the arc flash protection boundary. The 2012 edition will use the term “arc flash boundary” (AFB). The word “protection” has been deleted.

Article 110 General Requirements for Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices
Section 110.5(C) (New)
This section is new to the code and will require a documented meeting between the host employer and contract employer.

Section 110.6(C) Emergency Procedures (Revision)
The 2012 edition will require the use of an automatic external defibrillator (AED) in addition to the existing requirement of training and employer certification of cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR).

Section 110.6(D)(1)(f) (New)
The language proposed for this new section reads: “The employer shall determine through regular supervision and through inspections conducted on at least an annual basis that each employee is complying with the safety-related work practices required by this standard.” This mirrors similar language in OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269(a)(2)(iii).

Section 110.6(D)(3)(c) (Retraining) (New)
The 2012 edition will require all employees to be retrained at intervals not to exceed three years.

Section 110.6(E) (Training Documentation) (Revision)
Language will be added that requires training content documentation in addition to the section’s existing requirements.

Section 110.7(E) Electrical Safety Program Procedures (Revision)
The 2012 edition will incorporate language to include working within the AFB in addition to the existing requirement for working within the limited approach boundary (LAB). It is possible that the AFB could be greater than the LAB and vice versa.

Section 110.7(F) (Hazard/Risk Evaluation Procedure) (Revision)
This section’s requirements will apply to work within the AFB in addition to the existing language regarding work within the limited approach boundary.

Article 120 Establishing an Electrically Safe Work Condition
Section 120.2(C)(2) (Form of Control) (Revision)
The 2012 edition will remove individual employee control as one of three forms of control of hazardous electrical energy, leaving the two methods: simple and complex lockout/tagout.

Article 130 Work Involving Electrical Hazards
Section 130.1 (Relocation and New Section)
The 2012 edition will feature Section 130.1 renumbered as 130.2. Proposed language for a new 130.1 states: “All requirements of this article shall apply whether an incident energy analysis is completed or if the tables 130.7(C)(9) and (C)(10) are utilized in lieu of incident energy analysis.” The new language is intended to help clarify that, when the table method is used, the other requirements of this section, such as providing proper justification and completing the energized work permit, still apply.

Section 130.1(A) General (Revision)
The 2009 edition requires that energized conductors or circuit parts be placed into an electrically safe working condition before an employee works within the LAB. New language expands this requirement to apply if any of the following conditions exist:
• The employee is within the LAB (same as before)
• The employee is within the AFB
• The employee interacts with equipment where conductors or circuit parts are not exposed, but an increased risk of arc flash hazard exists
• An informational note is added that refers to the definition of “arc flash hazard” in Article 100.

Section 130.1(B)(1) Where Required (Revision)
The proposed text changes and additions include “When working within the limited approach boundary or the arc flash boundary of exposed energized electrical parts … .” This language is intended to help clarify when the code requires an energized work permit.

Section 130.1(B)(2) (Elements of the Work Permit) (Revision)
The 2012 edition features a renumbered and modified list of elements. There is a proposal that several items be combined under item (6):
(6) Results of the arc flash hazard analysis
a. The arc flash boundary
b. The necessary personal protective equipment to safely perform the assigned task
c. The available incident energy or hazard risk category
Existing items (7) and (8) would become items a and c.

Table 130.2(C) Approach Boundaries to Energized Electrical Conductors or Circuit Parts for Shock Protection (Revision)
The 2012 edition will feature a renumbered version of this table as Table 130.2(C)(1), and it will specifically apply to alternating current (AC) power systems. A new table, 130.2(C)(2) will apply to direct current (DC) power systems.

Section 130.3 Exception No. 1 (Revision)
This exception is based on language found in Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Std. 1584—Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations. Exception 1 stated that an arc flash hazard analysis shall not be required on circuits rated 240 volts (V) or less and supplied by one transformer if the transformer is less than 125 kilovolt-amperes. This exception will be deleted. In its place, an informational note will state that an arc flash hazard analysis may not be necessary for some three-phase systems rated less than 240V. It will then reference the IEEE standard for more information.

Section 130.3(A) Arc Flash Boundary (Revision)
The 2012 edition will not feature the “four foot rule” in this section, and there will no longer be separate sections for the AFB at voltage levels between 50V and 600V and voltage levels above 600V. The revised language will state that the AFB for systems 50V and greater shall be the distance at which the incident energy is 1.2 calories per square centimeter. Instead of the “four foot rule,” AFB will be located in Table 130.7(C)(9).

Section 130.3(C) Equipment Labeling (Revision)
This section will provide more guidance on what equipment needs labeling based on language similar to the 2011 NEC. Electrical equipment—such as switchboards, panelboards, industrial control panels, meter socket enclosures and motor control centers—and that are likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing or maintenance while energized, shall be field-marked with a label containing all of the following information:
(1) Only one of the following:
a. Available incident energy
b. Minimum arc rating of clothing
(2) Date of arc flash hazard analysis
(3) Nominal system voltage
(4) Equipment identification
(5) Arc flash boundary

Section 130.7(C)(X) (Hearing Protection) (New)
Employees shall wear hearing protection whenever working within the AFB. Previous editions only listed hearing protection in Table 130.7(C)(10) Protective Clothing and Personal Protective Equipment and did not address it specifically. The new language will clarify when hearing protection is required as well as the appropriate requirements for that protection.

Table 130.7(C)(9) Hazard/Risk Category Classifications (Revision)
Short Circuit and Clearing Times (New)
The maximum short-circuit current and clearing times that previous editions listed in the table’s footnotes will be relocated within the appropriate sections of the table. This will help ensure users are aware of the appropriate limits.

Arc Flash Protection Boundaries (New)
A new column will list the AFB for each task. This addition coincides with the deletion of the “four foot rule” from 130.3(A).

DC Hazard/Risk Tables (New)
Table 130.7(C)(9) will be renumbered as Table 130.7(C)(9)(1). A new table 130.7(C)(9)(2) will feature specifications for hazard/risk categories for DC systems.

Category 2* Deleted (Revision)
The 2012 edition will feature all references to hazard/risk category 2* in Table 130.7(C)(9) changed to HRC 2 based on the information below.

Table 130.7(C)(10) Protective Clothing and Personal Protective Equipment (Hazard/Risk Category 2 Balaclava Requirement) (Revision)
Category 2 will require a balaclava sock or an arc flash suit hood. There was an inconsistency with Section 130.7(C)(1), which required all parts of the body inside the AFB to be protected.

Section 130.7(C)(13)(a) (Arc Flash Suits) (Revision)
Additional language will state: “When the incident energy exposure is greater than 12 cal/cm2, a suitably rated arc flash suit hood shall be used.”

Section 130.7(C)(13)(b) (Face Protection) (Revision)
The 2012 edition will feature new language in this section, requiring face shields with a wraparound guarding to protect the face, chin, forehead, ears and neck to be used.

Remember ...
The 2012 edition of NFPA 70E will establish many positive changes, including those in this article and others that are too numerous to list. The revision process is a massive undertaking and relies on the efforts of many people. Thanks to everyone who submitted proposals and a special thanks to the NFPA 70E committees that had the daunting task of sorting though it all. And just think, before you know it, the next revision cycle begins.

PHILLIPS, founder of and, is an internationally known educator on electrical power systems and author of “Complete Guide to Arc Flash Hazard Calculation Studies”. His experience includes industrial, commercial and utility systems, and he is a member of the IEEE 1584 Arc Flash Working Group. Reach him at

About the Author

Jim Phillips

Arc Flash Columnist

Jim Phillips, P.E., is founder of and is an international trainer.  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...

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.