What is NFPA 70E?
Let’s start with the basics. NFPA 70E is the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. As stated on the National Fire Protection Association website: NFPA 70E requirements for safe work practices to protect personnel by reducing exposure to major electrical hazards. Originally developed at OSHA's request, NFPA 70E helps companies and employees avoid workplace injuries and fatalities due to shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast, and assists in complying with OSHA 1910 Subpart S and OSHA 1926 Subpart K. OSHA 1926 Subpart K outlines Electrical Standards for Construction and OSHA 1910 Subpart S considers design safety standards such as Acceptable Job-Made Extension Cords, Electrical Standards and Computer Security Devices and Electrical Conductor Identification.
What is an ARC Flash?
An arc flash is caused by an arcing fault - a type of electrical explosion due to a rapid release of energy. During an arc flash event, an electric current leaves its intended path – either traveling to the ground or passing by air from one conductor to another.
The NFPA 70E standard provides effective guidance to help you protect your interests as well as assist in directing organizations in establishing the groundwork for correct application. An arc flash incident has severe repercussions from the most disastrous including injury or death, to major and minor inconveniences including disrupting business, damaged equipment and increase insurance premiums to name a few. In this context it is beneficial to understand the standard as well as the updates so you will be alert and well-informed when choosing protective apparel and equipment.
What are the most important changes in the latest version of NFPA 70E (2018)?
As part of keeping up with current technology and safety concerns the NFPA 70E Committee addresses changes and improvements within the industry and updates the standard every three years. NFPA 70E continues to put emphasis on the hierarchy of controls, mitigating risks and eliminating hazards wherever possible. PPE should always be considered the last line of defense against the hazard. The most significant change in the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E related to PPE is the new requirement for manufactures to adopt a conformity assessment program to determine their level of compliance to NFPA 70E. The purpose of this requirement is to provide end users with more information on how their garments meet the requirements of NFPA 70E. National Safety Apparel Inc.’s conformity assessment program is incorporated into our certified ISO 9001:2015 procedures and audited annually by Smither’s Quality Assessments, an ANAB Accredited organization. The conformity assessment program is modeled after ANSI/ISEA 125, with the exception of the non-mandatory 5 year test interval. Products manufactured and supplied by National Safety Apparel Inc, are tested in intervals less than or greater than 5 years, dependent upon changes of component content & design, significant changes in safety standard requirements, and as dictated by those claimed standards. The conformity assessment test interval is aligned with R&D evaluations, schedules and NSA’s ISO 9001 procedures.
Is there a way to confirm that a garment is NFPA 70E compliant?
The garment label is your go-to for proof of compliance. A manufacturer can only include this label once standards are met. This little tag is a big detail when it comes to making certain the standards you need are met to keep you protected for specific situations.
How does your PPE get an Arc Rating?
NFPA 70E, table 130.7(C)(14)
• Clothing = ASTM F1506
• Rainwear = ASTM F1891
• Hoods = ASTM F2178
• Arc Protective Blankets = ASTM F2676
In the flame-resistant garment industry, there are key standards that establish legitimate claims:
- ASTM International Standard Performance Specification F1506 (as listed in the example above) for Flame Resistant and Arc Rated Textile Materials for Wearing Apparel for Use by Electrical Workers Exposed to Momentary Electric Arc and Related Thermal Hazards
- NFPA70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace
Read, Research and Protect
In both flash fire protection () and electrical arc protection (ASTM F1506), specific requirements have been established for the label content. Each standard requires a specific statement for indicating the garment is compliant with the standard. In addition you will find the typical information such as manufacturer name, model number, size, fabric construction and alike that distinguishes the product.
Our legal system and the market does an excellent job of monitoring the market in the US. That said, performing due diligence as an educated consumer provides added assurance and confidence in your purchase that you are choosing the best product and level of protection that meets your needs. Always consider your options carefully, be aware of accredited test reports, choose quality manufacturers and consult the manufacturer as needed if anything is unclear.
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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Melissa Dixon started her career in the technical design department at National Safety Apparel in 2010. After leading the R&D department for several years Melissa transitioned to a role in Product Management where she specialized in FR Clothing and Arc Flash PPE. Melissa now leads the Product Management team at National Safety Apparel where she focuses on innovation, continuous improvement, and customer-centric product development.