Generally, PPE got a much closer look from reviewers, and that resulted in a few notable changes in language addressing protective ratings and suitability in different exposure scenarios. In substituting references throughout 70E to “flame-resistant” (FR) PPE with “arc-rated,” reviewers sought to clarify the important difference between the two in the nature and level of protection. Transitioning to “arc-rated” terminology began with the 2009 revisions and was carried over to the 2012 edition, which included dropping (FR) completely to ensure employers were fully aware of the possible implications of selecting the wrong types of PPE.

“We’ve too often found that procurement officers tend to go with cheaper PPE that may be flame-resistant but has no arc rating,” Neitzel says. “In the 2012 revisions, we eliminated the term flame-resistant (FR) completely so there wouldn’t be any confusion. We want to ensure that workers are adequately protected with PPE made from fabrics that protect against both incident energy and the flash-flame hazards.”

The 2012 revisions also seek to increase the margin of safety afforded by PPE in some scenarios. Of particular note, a requirement for hearing protection (ear canal inserts) within the arc flash boundary has been spelled out, and a balaclava is now required for Category 2 tasks defined in the HRC tables, a result of the removal of the distinct 2* category that required a balaclava as a supplement to a hard hat and face shield. Larry Ayer, vice president of Biz Com Electric, Cincinnati, and a technical committee member, rates that change as significant in that it’s evidence of 70E’s steadily greater recognition of the need for proper and adequate PPE.

“The balaclava now applies in more instances, even for less hazardous tasks,” he says. “The committee was concerned that Category 2 PPE requirements left the back of the head exposed. So a contractor can’t just put on a face shield in those situations. As a contractor, the way I see it is the more protection, the better.”

PPE, combined with proper training, goes a long way to minimizing risk and mitigating hazards workers may encounter, and the new 70E clearly addresses that in a more robust fashion. But arming workplaces and workers with clear and reliable information on risks and hazards posed by working on electrical equipment is an essential first step. The 2012 revisions seek to address this goal with not only more definitive equipment labeling requirements but also clearer guidelines on the importance of properly maintaining and monitoring equipment that workers routinely encounter.