Changes to NFPA 70E - 2009

This is the second of two articles that provides a glimpse of the significant changes to NFPA 70E—2009. The first appears in the January 2009 issue. This article reviews the balance of Chapter 1 along with changes in Chapters 2 and 3. Chapter 4 has been deleted from NFPA 70E, as it included installation requirements that paralleled- current requirements already provided in the National Electrical Code (NEC).

Article 120 Establishing an Electrically Safe Work Condition

Section 120.2(D)(5) has been revised to require retraining of personnel as changes in the lockout/tagout procedure, job assignments or hazards occur. Note that no time intervals are specified in this requirement. This is based on conditions that may change to necessitate the need for retraining at intervals more frequent than an established time frame. The retraining is based on identified needs.

Section 120.2(F)(2)(f)(1) requires selection of what voltage detector will be used, the required personal protective equipment (PPE), and who will use it to verify proper operation of the voltage detector before and after use. The revision to this section specifically addresses the mandatory use of PPE in the voltage-detection step of verifying the absence of voltage.

Article 130 Work Involving Electrical Hazards

Section 130.1(A)(3) has been revised by adding a new sentence. The revision clarifies that if the purpose of crossing a limited approach boundary is for visual inspection only and the restricted approach boundary will not be crossed, then an energized electrical work permit is not required.

Section 130.3 has been revised to require the flash hazard analysis to be updated when major modifications or renovations take place. The flash hazard analysis also is now required to be reviewed periodically with intervals not exceeding five years to account for changes in the electrical distribution system that could affect the result of the initial analysis. Changes in the electrical distribution system can significantly impact the amount of available short circuit current at any point on the system. This new label requirement provides workers with more information on the equipment that assists them in selecting PPE suitable of the level of incident energy.

Section 130.6(A)(3) has been revised resulting in a change in scope. Employees shall be instructed to be alert for changes in the job or task that may lead the person outside the electrically safe work condition or may expose the person to additional hazards that were not part of the original plan. An example might be a facility that has a standby power system and a normal power system. In the normal mode, the incident energy levels might be at one value, and if the power fails, the standby mode is energized, which could have a significant impact on the available short circuit current. Since power system failures are unplanned, this could result in an unanticipated condition.

Section 130.6(C)(1) and (C)(5) now require workers to wear arc-rated flame-resistant PPE when any part of the worker’s body is within the arc flash protection boundary. Section 130.1(A)(3) has been revised by adding a new sentence. The revision clarifies that if the purpose of crossing a limited approach boundary is for visual inspection only and the restricted approach boundary will not be crossed, an energized electrical work permit is not required.

PPE and other protective equipment requirements are provided in Section 130.7. The general requirement for protection in 130.7(A) calls for protective equipment that is designed and constructed for the specific part of the body protected. New fine print notes clarify that compliance with the provisions in 130.7 is intended to protect people from arc flash and shock hazards. It should be understood that even if the appropriate PPE is selected and worn during live work operations, there is no guarantee an injury will be prevented. The PPE ensures the degree of burn or injury would be reduced, not eliminated.

Section 130.7(B) has been revised by including a new sentence that addresses storage and protection (care of personal protective equipment). PPE should be stored in a fashion that prevents damage from damaging conditions, such as those associated with moisture, dust and other deteriorating agents or conditions. This revision clarifies the requirements for protecting PPE from physical damage by the way and location in which it is stored. Tools have to be routinely cared for to work properly, so does PPE.

Section 130.7(C)(1) has been revised to require all parts of the body inside the arc-flash boundary be protected. A clarification has been made that requires full head-area protection where there is a danger of head injury from electric shock or burns resulting from contact with energized electrical conductors or circuit parts or from flying debris resulting from an electrical explosion (arc blast).

The exception to Section 130.7(C)(5) has been deleted. This exception used to permit flammable clothing to be used up to energy levels not exceeding 2 cal/cm². The result of this change requires employees to wear flame-resistant clothing where there is possible exposure to electrical arc flash hazards above the incident energy level of [5J/cm²(1.2 cal/cm²)].

Section 130.7(C)(6) addresses hand and arm protection requirements. This section has been revised to include maintenance and use of PPE. PPE is only as good as how it is maintained. It has to be maintained in a safe and reliable condition and must be inspected before each daily use and upon completion of tasks that could impact its ability to adequately protect workers. Gloves are required to be air tested and visually inspected for damage. The test voltages and required testing intervals are provided in Table 130.7(C)(6)(c).

Table 130.7(C)(1) has been revised to include additional requirements for protective clothing and equipment. Table 130.7(C)(10) is now required for hazard/risk categories 0 and 1. Flammable 12-oz./yard denim jeans are no longer allowed to be used instead of flame-resistant pants. A flash suit hood or face shield is now required for Hazard/-risk category 1. Table 130.7(C)(10) now includes hearing protection (ear canal inserts) under the flame-resistant protective equipment category.

Chapter 2 Safety-Related Maintenance Requirements

Chapter 2 of NFPA 70E covers practical safety-related maintenance requirements for electrical equipment and installations in the workplace and applies to maintenance operations that are directly related to and require employee safety.

Article 205 General Maintenance Requirements

Section 205.3 is new and provides a requirement for maintaining overcurrent protective devices. Overcurrent devices are an integral safety component in an electrical system and proper operation of such devices is related to safety of people and property. The requirement is that overcurrent protective devices be maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s maintenance instructions. This information is provided with the equipment when purchased.

Article 210 Substations, Switchgear Assemblies, Switchboards, Panelboards, Motor Control Centers, and Disconnect Switches

A new fine print note has been added to Section 210.5 covering protective devices. The note emphasizes the importance of properly maintaining protective devices and maintaining a consistent level of awareness relative to devices being used within their rating ranges. Protective devices must operate during fault events in a timely manner that minimizes equipment damage and possible injuries to personnel. The importance of preventive maintenance programs are often not realized until after an event causes serious damage or injuries. As the available fault current experiences changes over time, proper maintenance operations often can identify the need for equipment upgrades or even replacements that are necessary to ensure sufficient ratings for the amount of fault current that must be interrupted.

Article 225 Fuses and Circuit Breakers

Article 225 includes requirements for fuses and circuit breakers. Section 225.1 has been revised to address fuse holders for current-limiting fuses. The NEC includes a requirement that fuseholders for current-limiting fuses shall not permit the insertion of a fuse that is not current-limiting. This is an important safety feature for equipment and workers. The revision to 225.1 clarifies that fuse holders for current-limiting fuses shall not be modified to permit the insertion of fuses that are not current-limiting.

Article 250 Personal Safety and Protective Equipment

Article 250 covers personal safety and protective equipment. PPE is a worker’s defense to minimize injuries in the event of an incident. It is essential that PPE be maintained in optimum operational condition to ensure the highest degree of safety anticipated with its use. Section 250.1 has been revised to bypass jumpers and insulated tools and equipment to the list of personal safety and protective equipment that are required to be maintained in safe working condition.

Chapter 3 Safety Requirements for Special Equipment

Chapter 3 of NFPA 70E covers special electrical equipment in workplaces such as batteries and battery rooms, lasers, power electronic equipment, research and development laboratories, and electrolytic cells. The requirements in this chapter align with the scope of NFPA 70E as a whole and modify or amend the requirements contained in Chapter 1.

Article 300 Introduction

Section 300.3 has been revised by clarifying that research and development laboratories are covered within Chapter 3’s scope.

Article 310 Safety-Related Work Practices for Electrolytic Cells

Section 310.5(D)(2) has been revised to limit the frames of eye protection to nonconductive frames only. Protective face shields are now included in the list and are limited to polycarbonate or other nonmelting type of product.

Section 310.5(D)(4) has been revised to indicate that bonding is permitted as a method to equalize potential differences between conductive surfaces and electrically energized surfaces. This bonding can be accomplished by a direct (solid) bonding connection or a connection through a resistor. The objective is to reduce potential differences to a voltage level that is insufficient to create an electrical hazard.

Article 320 Safety Requirements Related to Batteries and Battery Rooms

Article 320 has been revised to better align with several IEEE standards covering the same subject. Batteries and battery rooms present multiple hazards for workers. Not only are there concerns for energized parts (electrical hazards). There are hazards of exposure to electrolyte used in batteries. Workers must be familiar with the hazards of hydrogen gases created during the charging process and must be protected accordingly.

Section 320.4(B)(2) has been revised to include a requirement for minimum space between batteries, which is now not less than 12.5 mm (½ in.).

Section 320.5(A)(4) was revised to address spill containment for some installations in accordance with the applicable fire code.

Article 350 Safety-Related Work Requirements:

Research and Development Laboratories

Article 350 is new to Chapter 3 in the 2009 edition of NFPA 70E. This article addresses unique hazards and conditions that might exist in laboratory and research centers. Many experiments and test operations can present hazards for workers, many known and some unknown. This new article is an effort to address electrical installations in those types of environments. The article applies only to those areas designated by the facility management as research and development or laboratories, and it applies to entire facilities in some cases and is applicable to designated areas within educational facilities or other facilities.


Electrical safety is both an individual (worker) and organizational (employer) responsibility. Workers need safety training to understand, recognize and avoid hazards. Working on electrical installations that are de-energized (placed in an electrically safe work condition) is the rule. Working on energized electrical equipment is an exception to the rule and must include documented reasons that show either the task is unfeasible in a de-energized state or that de-energizing introduces additional hazards.

Remember, this is simply an overview of the changes. To learn the new requirements in their full detail, obtain a new edition of NFPA 70E.

JOHNSTON is NECA’s executive director of standards and safety. He is a former director of education, codes and standards for IAEI; a member of the IBEW; and an active member of the NFPA Electrical Section, Education Section. Reach him at

About the Author

Michael Johnston

Executive Director of Standards, NECA
Michael Johnston is NECA’s executive director of standards and safety. He is chair of the NEC Technical Correlating Committee. He served as a principal representative on NEC CMP-5 representing IAEI for the 2002, 2005, and 2008 cycles and is currently...

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