Changes In NFPA 70E for 2015

  • Post comments:3 Comments
Changes In NFPA 70E for 2015

The 2012 edition of NFPA 70E has marked a way-point in electrical safety standards, and has continued to evolve to meet the electrical safety needs of both employers and employees.

The 2015 edition of the NFPA70E has continued this legacy. New research, new technology, and technical input from users of the standard have provided the foundation for new and revised requirements that address the electrical hazards encountered by employees in today’s workplaces.

Here we’ve compiled a list of changes located within the 2015 Edition of the NFPA70E Standard.

2015 70E: Not Just for Work Practices.

What is Covered?

This standard addresses electrical safety-related work practices, safety-related maintenance requirements, and other administrative controls for employee workplaces that are necessary for the practical safeguarding of employees.  In the new edition:

  • Maintenance must be part of an overall electrical safety program
  • Repair of equipment must be completed by competent personnel
  • Test instruments must be included in the maintenance program

Mining Is No Longer Excluded

The mining exclusion has been removed from the 2015 Standard.  The Canadian standard (CSA-Z462) is expected to align with this. The Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) has informally endorsed the application of the NFPA 70E as “Arc Flash Accident Prevention Best Practices.”

A Shift in Approach from Hazard Analysis to Risk Assessment

The 2015 edition signifies a substantial shift in the approach to assessing risk.  Identifying the hazard is the first step; estimating the potential severity of injury and likelihood of occurrence is the second step to determining the protective measures required. The impact of this shift is seen throughout 70E, most noticeably in the tables regarding PPE selection and PPE categories.

Specific changes related to this include:

  • Definitions have been modified to accurately reflect the new terms.
  • There is no baseline “0” PPE category in the standard in 2015, although minimum PPE guidelines still exist and natural fibers are still required in under layers.
  • The arc hazard tables have been restructured, separating task from equipment.
    • The Task Table now specifically focuses on arc flash hazard identification only.
      • It lists the task, equipment condition and whether PPE is required based on those two things.
      • Insulated gloves and tools are no longer covered by the table.
      • Hazard/Risk Category (HRC) has been replaced with PPE Category.


The equipment tables are focused on the specific safety measures required, with separate tables for ac and dc systems.

They list:

  • The equipment parameters
  • The corresponding category of arc flash PPE required
  • The applicable arc flash Boundary

In the shock protection boundary tables, lower voltages have been regrouped and the prohibited approach boundary has been eliminated.  Since the restricted approach boundary triggers the need for shock protective equipment, and no additional protection is required at the prohibited approach boundary, the term is unnecessary.

What’s in the Task Table?

The new task-based table combines the previously separated ac and dc tables and makes them consistent for easier use.  Type of task and condition of the equipment, taken together, determine whether PPE is required or not.  The resulting “yes” or “no” is based on the assessment of risk—the likelihood arc flash may occur—instead of hazard identification alone.  For example, reading a panel meter while operating a meter switch, in any condition, requires no PPE.

Table 130.7(C)(15)(A)(a))

What’s in the Equipment Tables?

The separate equipment-based tables, one for ac and one for dc systems, list the types and parameters of equipment to allow for PPE and boundary determination regardless of task.  For example, metal-clad switchgear of 1 kV through 15 kV requires Category 4 PPE and an arc flash boundary of 12 m (40 ft.)

Table 130.7(C)(15)(A)(b) and Table 130.7(C)(15)(B)

PPE Changes

  • Annex H outlines what was “HRC 0” PPE for arc flash exposures less than 1.2 cal/cm², so functionally HRC 0 still exists, but the tables have upgraded to Arc-Rated Clothing PPE Category 1 (ARC 1) for low level hazards when any PPE is required.
  • HRC 0 is removed. The new table specifies work within the arc flash boundary;  if no arc flash hazard exists, there is no need for PPE.  IF any protection is needed for arc flash, 100% natural fibers, which were permitted in HRC 0, are now considered inadequate.
    • Annex H.3 still requires 100% natural (non-melting) fibers for <1.2 cal/cm² exposure when incident energy level has been determined, but if the PPE table is used, an arc rating is required and under layers shall be 100% natural fibers.
    • The standard continues to prohibit wearing melting fabrics of any kind (Article 130.7(C)(12)).
  • HRC is out; ARC is in
    • The term ARC, or Arc-Rated Clothing, is not required by the standard but it is commonly used. The standard refers to the old HRC as PPE Level, but PPE Level 1, for example, could easily be confused with cut resistance and other “levels”.  Best practice would be to differentiate.
  • Arc-rated gloves are becoming available. Work governed by OSHA 1910.269 now requires a minimum of 14 cal/cm² or rubber gloves with leather (?) If the leather protectors must be removed for high voltage tasks, the rubber gloves must meet the 14 cal/cm2 minimum requirement.
  • The new standard adds a boundary to the use of conductive articles, such as jewelry or metals. They shall not be worn within the retricted approach boundary (or, as before, where they present an electrical contact hazard with energized conductors or circuit parts.
  • The standard clarified that either the incident energy analysis method or the arc flash PPE categories method can be used for the selection of PPE, but not both. Nor can an incident energy analysis be used to specify an arc flash PPE category.

130.2 (A)(4) Normal Operation

The new standard clarifies when normal operation of electric equipment without PPE is permitted.  All of the following conditions must be satisfied:

  • The equipment is properly installed AND
  • The equipment is properly maintained *

(*installation and maintenance to be in accordance with applicable codes, standards and manufacturer’s recommendations)

  • The equipment doors are closed and secured
  • All equipment covers are in place and secured
  • There is no evidence of impending failure (marked by arcing, overheating, loose or bound parts, visible damage or deterioration). The standard specifies that the equipment owner, or his designated representative, is responsible for equipment maintenance.

Updated Label Requirements

Any electrical equipment that may need adjustment, servicing or maintenance while energized shall, according to the new standard, be field-labelled with all of the following:

  • Nominal system voltage
  • Arc flash boundary
  • At least one of the following:
  1. Available incident energy and working distance OR arc flash PPE category in Table 130.7(C)(15)(A)(b) or 130.7(C)(B) for the equipment, but not both
  2. Minimum arc rating of clothing
  3. Site-specific level of PPE

If a review of the hazard/risk assessment uncovers any changes that affect the accuracy of a label, the label needs to be updated.  As with maintenance, the owner of the equipment is charged with the responsibility of documenting, installing and maintaining the label.

Significant New Requirements

  • Overhead line clearances are to be maintained to minimize the risk of unintentional contact
  • 2015 addresses employers’ requirements prior to cutting/drilling into surfaces that might contain energized lines or parts
  • Establishes owner of electrical equipment as responsible for installing/maintaining labels
  • LO/TO now includes retraining and documentation
  • Sets the frequency of Field Work Audits; intervals are not to exceed one year.
  • GFCI are added for activities; they are not just location-based

Changes to Improve Clarity

Some changes have been made to eliminate confusion and clarify meaning.  For example,

  • Revised informational note clarifies importance of maintaining protective devices
  • Shirts shall be tucked into pants
  • “Qualified person”
    • definition now specifies “demonstrated skills”
    • Adds list of knowledge necessary to be considered “qualified” 110.2(D)(1)
  • Adjusts the Energized Electrical Work Permit (EEWP) boundary requirement to the Restricted Approach Boundary (RAB)
  • Prohibited Approach Boundary is obsolete and has been removed

Hugh Hoagland

does research and testing of PPE exposed to electrical arcs and is an arc flash expert. Hugh is a Sr. Consultant at ArcWear and Sr. Partner at e-Hazard. Read more about Hugh.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Avatar
    Greg Leslie

    This may be a very dumb question, but here it is:
    For PPE Category 2 garments, I keep seeing that an ATPV rating of 8cal/cm2 is good for up to, but not including an arc-flash event of 25cal/cm2, PPE Category 3 is good for incident energy events from 25cal/cm2 up to but not including 40cal/cm2, and so on. Is this correct? I guess I just can’t get my mind around a PPE Category 2 garment providing the appropriate protection in an arc-flash event with the incident energy of 24cal/cm2. It is my belief that PPE Category 3 garments being required for incident energy potential >8cal/cm2 up to and including 25cal/cm2. Please tell me that what I have been seeing lately is not based on air gaps and the properties of undergarments. Any clarification will be greatly appreciated. Thank you in advance! GL

    1. Hugh Hoagland
      Hugh Hoagland

      This is totally incorrect. That was a mistake made my many training companies and a few less knowledgeable PPE manufacturers. The opposite is true. HRC 2 (Now PPE Category 2) is PPE which has a rating of 8-24.9 cal/cm² BUT the category hazard from the tables is expected to deliver no greater than 8 cal/cm².

      The idea of the categories was developed by Dr. Tom Neal at DuPont. He sent me his table and a list of the PPE he had tested which met the four categories. Since I tested for many companies and he had only DuPont data, I validated his findings. We did tweak the categories based on my data but the idea was Tom’s.

      The idea was that every single layer system on the market in 1998-1999 (or so because this entered NFPA 70E in 2000) would meet HRC/ARC/CAT 1.
      Every two layer system would meet HRC/ARC/CAT 2
      Every Three layer system would meet HRC/ARC/CAT 3
      And a two layer with a flash suit would meet HRC/ARC/CAT 4.

      There is no magic in the categories but at the time most garments and almost NO systems were rated so we developed this idea with the NFPA 70E Table committee to offer protection and ease of selecting PPE.

      Now with systems and garments rated, we know many single layer systems can meet HRC/ARC/CAT 2 and Many two or three layer systems can meet HRC/ARC/CAT 4. Over time we eliminated the layering concept but this was the original idea. Match to the hazard was the concept but we didn’t have enough data to require that at the time. Now it is easier. If you have calculations, you don’t even need the categories.

      Hope this helps,

      Hugh Hoagland

  2. Avatar
    John Dolishny

    I’m trying to understand the NFPA 70E code and when the PPE is to be worn. Hopefully someone can clarify this for me. Does PPE have to be worn when resetting a breaker (up to 600v) when it trip due to a power surge as long as all covers are closed on the panel?
    Thanks in advance.

Leave a Reply