Is Compliance with NFPA 70E Mandatory?

NFPA 70E has since been revised in 2021, though updates pertaining to AR / FR clothing were minor.

There are no shortcuts when it comes to keeping workers safe. In fact, it’s usually in the company’s – and the employee’s – best interest to incorporate voluntary safeguards above and beyond the mandatory safety regulations. One common question we receive is, is compliance with NFPA 70E mandatory for utilities? The short answer is no, it’s not mandatory. However, there is a lot to consider before dismissing this standard and once you take a closer look – you will likely come to the conclusion that following NFPA 70E guidelines is critically important for companies and their workers.

The 2018 edition of NFPA 70E was published in October 2017 – read our post to learn more about the important changes of this edition.

Keep in mind, NFPA 70E addresses electrical safety requirements necessary to safeguard employees during activities such as the installation, operation, maintenance, and demolition of electric conductors, electric equipment, signaling and communications conductors and equipment, and raceways. Specifically exempt from NFPA 70E are ships and watercraft, installations in mines, railway power used exclusively for operating rolling stock, communications equipment under exclusive control of communications utilities, and transmission and distribution work performed by electric utilities.

As a national consensus safety standard, NFPA 70E is not a law and it has not been incorporated into the Code of Federal Regulations. Therefore, compliance is not deemed mandatory. Even so, OSHA has cited NFPA 70E in cases where lack of compliance has resulted in a workplace accident.

NFPA 70E requires that employers conduct a flash hazard analysis and provide clothing to workers designed to protect against the level of risk associated with each task. Recognize that the guidelines available in NFPA 70E are just that – guidelines. They are a good starting point, but are not a substitute for a complete flash hazard analysis.

Typical OSHA citations include non-compliance with 29CFR 1910.335(a)(1)(i) which requires the use of protective equipment when working where a potential electrical hazard exists or 29CFR 1910.132(d)(1), which requires employer assessment of workplace hazards and the use of personal protective equipment. These regulations, written in general terms, are supported by NFPA 70E. NFPA 70E helps employers by providing the requisite “how-to” for compliance.

OSHA citations have impacted a broad variety of work environments – from Fortune 500 companies to Federal Labs – and have resulted in increased standard awareness, improved worker safety, and the recognition that compliance with NFPA 70E is of critical importance to companies and their employees. So, although NFPA 70E is not a standard or a law, the intent is clear: companies are expected to maintain a safe place of employment for their workers, including appropriate protection from electric arc flash.

At Tyndale, we have years of experience in managing turnkey flame resistant (FR) apparel programs for companies and their employees. We offer flexibility and exceptional service, with the desire to develop and implement a program that’s right for your company. Contact us today to learn more about our unique solution. Or, schedule a one-on-one technical consultation with Tyndale’s VP of Technical, Scott Margolin to discuss any questions you may have regarding compliance or safety standards.

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