In the evolving landscape of workplace safety, staying up to date with industry standards is crucial. The National Fire Protection Association’s (NFPA) NFPA 70E standard is a critical reference for those who specify or wear arc-rated and flame resistant (AR / FR) clothing and related personal protective equipment (PPE). This safe work practice standard is revised every three years to help organizations and employees avoid injuries and fatalities resulting from electrical hazards. The 2024 version of NFPA 70E introduces several updates from the previous 2021 version. While most are unrelated to AR / FR clothing and associated PPE, it’s essential to be aware of the changes relevant to your work.
What NFPA 70E 2024 Edition updates apply to PPE?
Below is a summary of NFPA 70E modifications applicable to AR / FR clothing and PPE:
- Protector Revisions: Throughout the entire standard, the term “leather protectors” has been replaced with “protectors,” and a clear definition of “protector” was added in Article 100. The new definition states that a protector is “a glove or mitten to be worn over rubber insulating gloves.” This change aims to eliminate ambiguity and make the standard more precise.
- Closed Doors and PPE: The informational note in Section 130.5 makes it clear that, in most cases, closed doors are not sufficient to eliminate the need for PPE. This note highlights that doors may not be able to contain all the energy during an arc flash and might blow open, which solidifies the need for PPE while switching or operating equipment that is not in a “normal” operating condition.
- Emphasis on Operating Condition: The 2024 version of NFPA 70E places a significant emphasis on “Operating Condition.” For instance, Table 130.5(C) now uses the term “Operating Condition” in place of “Equipment Condition” to align with the requirements for normal operating condition outlined in Section 110.2(B). A piece of equipment is in “normal operating condition” when specific conditions are met, including proper installation, maintenance, rating for available fault current, usage in accordance with instructions, and other requirements.
- Hearing Protection: Section 130.7(C)(5) has been adjusted regarding hearing protection. The word “working” was removed from the previous text, which read “whenever working within the arc flash boundary.” Now, anyone inside the arc flash boundary must wear hearing protection, regardless of whether they are actively working. This change recognizes that being within the boundary poses a risk to hearing, irrespective of one’s specific tasks.
- Arc Flash PPE Categories for DC Systems: In Section 130.7(C)(15)(b), the table that outlines arc flash PPE categories for DC systems, such as storage batteries, DC switchboards, and other DC supply sources, has been updated. The value range requiring arc flash PPE has increased from 100 – 250 VDC to 150 – 600 VDC. This change is supported by recent test data for a maximum arc duration of 2 seconds and a minimum working distance of 18 inches.
- Informative Annex S: While not a part of the requirements, this newly added informational annex addresses maintenance conditions. Of particular interest is Section 8, which references NFPA 70B, Standard for Electrical Equipment Maintenance. As you may recall from our earlier blog, NFPA 70B recently underwent a status change from a guide – a recommended practice indicating what you should do – to a standard – making it a requirement with proscriptive language (indicating what you shall do). This change increases the necessity for PPE since NFPA 70B contains further information on safeguarding practices.
Tyndale remains committed to staying abreast of all relevant industry news to keep you informed about changes to industry standards applicable to arc flash PPE. These updates are often instrumental in maintaining a safe working environment and reducing the risk of electrical incidents. That’s why it’s crucial to review your safety procedures and PPE and adapt them as necessary.