I headed out to Las Vegas recently to attend the annual NFPA Safety Conference and Expo. I added this event to my travel schedule for two reasons. First, to keep track of the actions taken on the Certified Amending Motions that had been submitted on the 2011 edition of NFPA 70, “National Electrical Code,” and second, to gain a better understanding of the proposed changes being set forth in the 2012 edition of NFPA 70E, “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.” The revision process for the NEC is in its final stages. As EC&M has done in the past, we'll present the Top 25 Code changes to you a little later in the year. But for this issue, I thought it would be worthwhile to provide you with an update on a few of the proposed changes to be made to the 2012 edition of NFPA 70E, as well as provide you with an update on some research being done in the area of arc flash (turn to page 22 and read what Staff Writer Beck Ireland learned when investigating the work currently being done by industry groups such as the NFPA and the IEEE).

The Report on Proposals for NFPA 70E was posted to the NFPA website on June 2, 2010, and includes a total of 548 proposals. The official comment closing date is Sept. 3, 2010, so head to the NFPA website and download a free copy of the 244-page document. If you're not a fast reader or just don't have the time to devote to submitting a comment, then maybe this summary of a few of the changes I found interesting might get you moving in the right direction.

  • Addition of the word “inspection” to 90.2(A) expands the scope of the standard, and clarifies that those persons performing inspection duties must also be safeguarded like those performing installation, operation, maintenance, and demolition duties.
  • The term “flame resistant (FR)” will be replaced by the term “arc rated (AR)”. This proposed change is meant to clarify that arc-rated clothing has been tested for exposure to electrical arcs, whereas not all FR materials have been.
  • Adding a new section [110.6(D)(3)(d)] that states, “retraining shall be performed at intervals not to exceed three years.”
  • Adding a new section [110.10] that focuses on the hazards associated with excavation work. This will require that a hazard analysis be performed prior to any excavation work near electrical or utility lines and equipment.
  • Specific references and tables will be added to clarify this standard covers both AC and DC systems.
  • Revising the current equipment labeling requirement [130.3(C)] to clearly identify the types of equipment that need to be labeled (i.e., “switchboards, panelboards, industrial control panels, meter socket enclosures, and motor control centers that are likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance while energized”). The following information shall be included on the label: 1) available incident energy or minimum arc rating of clothing; 2) date of arc flash hazard analysis; 3) nominal system voltage; and 4) arc flash boundary.
  • Adding a new section that requires employees to wear hearing protection when working in the arc flash boundary.
  • Adding an “arc flash boundary” column to existing Table 130.7(C)(9)
  • Including a requirement for wearing a balaclava (e.g., sock hood) when working in a Hazard/Risk Category 2 area.

The knowledge gained from the research and testing being performed by groups like the IEEE and the NFPA is invaluable. This work helps support future work practices and standards that further enhance workplace safety. Don't let it go to waste. Pay close attention to the changes being made to a document that is meant to protect you and your fellow workers.