What is NFPA 70E? - Workplace Electrical Safety

By R.W. Hurst, The Electricity Forum

What is NFPA 70E?
What is NFPA 70E?


The risks of shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast are a significant health and safety concern in the workplace. Many electrical incidents could have been prevented through compliance with the latest safety codes and nfpa standards. The standard, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, is a critical national fire protection association nfpa document to help provide a working area for employees that is safe from unacceptable risk associated with the use of electricity in the workplace. With the release of the latest edition for 2024, the standard clearly establishes safe work practices that use policies, procedures, and program controls to reduce these risks to an acceptable level.

People often ask: "What is NFPA 70E?" Officially, it is titled: "Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace," the standard is published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). It provides guidelines for electrical safety-related work practices to safeguard employees from electrical hazards such as arc flash, arc blast, and electric shock. The primary objective is to reduce the risk of injury or death due to electrical incidents in the workplace.


Here are some key aspects:

  1. Risk Assessment Procedures: The standard emphasizes the importance of conducting thorough risk assessments before performing any electrical work. This includes identifying potential hazards, assessing the level of risk, and implementing measures to mitigate these risks.

  2. Establishing an Electrically Safe Work Condition: The standard outlines procedures for ensuring an electrically safe work condition, including the de-energization of equipment, application of lockout/tagout (LOTO) procedures, and verification of the absence of voltage.

  3. Personal Protective Equipment (PPE): The standard provides guidelines on the selection and use of appropriate PPE based on the level of risk associated with specific tasks. This includes arc-rated clothing, gloves, face shields, and other protective gear.

  4. Arc Flash Hazard Analysis: The standard requires an arc flash hazard analysis to determine the arc flash boundary, incident energy levels, and appropriate PPE. This analysis helps in understanding the potential energy release during an arc flash event and preparing accordingly.

  5. Training and Qualification: NFPA 70E mandates that employees working with or near electrical equipment receive proper training. This includes understanding the hazards, safe work practices, and the use of PPE. Only qualified personnel are allowed to perform certain tasks.

  6. Maintenance Requirements: The standard includes requirements for maintaining electrical equipment to ensure it operates safely. Regular maintenance helps prevent equipment failures that could lead to electrical hazards.

  7. Safety-Related Work Practices: NFPA 70E outlines specific work practices to enhance safety, such as the use of insulated tools, maintaining safe distances, and following proper procedures for working on or near energized parts.


What is NFPA 70E?

The standard for electrical safety is critical for ensuring workplace safety in environments where electrical hazards are present. By following its guidelines, employers and employees can significantly reduce the risk of electrical injuries and fatalities.

The core objective is practical, accomplishable electrical safety that helps ensure the employee goes home safe at the end of the day. The risk controls discussed in this standard are intended to be sound, viable, workable applications of safety procedures and policies to be implemented by both the employer and employee. The requirements at the heart of the standard are suitable for use and implementation by agencies and employers charged with the responsibility of electrical safety plan development, implementation, and maintenance. 

The National Fire Protection Association developed this standard which governs best electrical safety work practices to help protect industrial electricians from electric arc flash and arc blast explosions, which often result in potential injury and death.  As a result, OSHA has referenced the the standard. In fact, many organizations have now designed a 70E Compliance Guide to help protect their electrical personnel from the hazards associated with arc flash.

OSHA acting by adopting the 70e regulations for safe electrical work practices in 1990, and has proposed a revised standard that meets the most recent edition of the standard.

The standard governs employees who work on or near exposed energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. This includes electrical maintenance personnel, operators, troubleshooters, electricians, linemen, engineers, supervisors, site safety personnel or anyone exposed to energized equipment of 50 volts or more.

The goal of the standard is to keep electrical workers free from the hazards of shock, electrocution, arc flash and arc blast through a hierarchy of risk controls. In support of this goal, 70e, and the NEC require or recommend facilities provide:

OSHA adopted regulations on safe electrical work practices based on the standard, and is proposing a revised standard that conforms to the most recent editions of the standard. Given that the NEC (National Electrical Code) and OSHA have both started referring to it in their documents, citations are now being written based on the electrical safety standard.


How does the standard address the roles of both the employer and the employee regarding electrical safety?

Electrical safety is a shared responsibility between employers and employees. Compliance with safety regulations is not just an employer responsibility - the electrical safety of employees requires a collaborative effort between workers and management. Employers are required to have an electrical safety program (ESP) for employees to follow. In turn, the employees are required to put into practice the policies and procedures of the ESP, which includes the training to perform their tasks safely and the use of required tools and safety equipment. the standard is not just about the actions an employer took before an incident’s investigation - it is about preventing the worker from being injured. Regardless of the employer’s ESP, it is the employee who can have the biggest impact on his or her own electrical safety.


Some Major Changes

• Article 110: Some requirements in Article 110 have been reorganized for a more logical progression, including moving general principles of lockout/tagout from Section 120.2 and general principles of an electrically safe work condition and energized work requirements from Section 130.2. New subsection 110.5(K) requires that an employer’s electrical safety program include a policy on establishing an electrically safe work condition.

• Article 130: Sections 130.1 and 130.2 have been rewritten to accommodate the relocation of information from former Sections 130.2(A) to 110.3 and to keep the focus of Article 130 on requirements related to work involving electrical hazards.

• Table 130.5(C): Revisions have been made to Table 130.5(C), which can be used to help estimate the likelihood of occurrence of an arc flash incident, including a new entry for the initial circuit breaker or switch operation and again after maintenance, as each has a higher likelihood of an arc-flash event.

• Section 350.9: Energy thresholds for electrical equipment and systems in laboratories have been revised to accurately reflect the data in the Informational Note’s resource document, and the capacitive circuit threshold has been deleted to prevent duplication and potential confusion with new Article 360.

• Article 360: This new article on the safety-related requirements for capacitors has been added.


Chapter 1 Safety-Related Work Practices

  • 100 Definitions
  • 105 Application of Safety-Related Work Practices
  • 110 General Requirements for Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices
  • 120 Establishing an Electrically Safe Work Condition
  • 130 Work Involving Electrical Hazards

Chapter 2 Safety-Related Maintenance Requirements

  • 200 Introduction
  • 205 General Maintenance Requirements
  • 210 Substations, Switchgear Assemblies, Switchboards, Panelboards, Motor Control Centers, and Disconnect Switches
  • 215 Premises Wiring
  • 220 Controller Equipment
  • 225 Fuses and Circuit Breakers
  • 230 Rotating Equipment
  • 235 Hazardous (Classified) Locations
  • 240 Batteries and Battery Rooms
  • 245 Portable Electric Tools and Equipment
  • 250 Personal Safety and Protective Equipment

Chapter 3 Safety Requirements for Special Equipment

  • 300 Introduction
  • 310 Safety-Related Work Practices for Electrolytic Cells
  • 320 Safety Requirements Related to Batteries and Battery Rooms
  • 330 Safety-Related Work Practices for Use of Lasers
  • 340 Safety-Related Work Practices: Power Electronic Equipment
  • 350 Safety-Related Work Requirements: Research and Development Laboratories

Annex A Referenced Publications

  • Informative Annex B Informational References
  • Informative Annex C Limits of Approach
  • Informative Annex D Incident Energy and Arc Flash Boundary Calculation Methods
  • Informative Annex E Electrical Safety Program
  • Informative Annex F Hazard Analysis, Risk Estimation, and Risk Evaluation Procedure
  • Informative Annex G Sample Lockout/Tagout Procedure
  • Informative Annex H Guidance on Selection of Protective Clothing and Other Personal Protective Equipment
  • Informative Annex I Job Briefing and Planning Checklist
  • Informative Annex J Energized Electrical Work Permit
  • Informative Annex K General Categories of Electrical Hazards
  • Informative Annex L Typical Application of Safeguards in the Cell Line Working Zone
  • Informative Annex M Layering of Protective Clothing and Total System Arc Rating
  • Informative Annex N Example Industrial Procedures and Policies for Working Near Overhead Electrical Lines and Equipment
  • Informative Annex O Safety-Related Design Requirements
  • Informative Annex P Aligning Implementation of This Standard with Occupational Health and Safety Management Standards


What is NFPA 70E?

It is a critical standard for ensuring workplace safety in environments where electrical hazards are present. By following its guidelines, employers and employees can significantly reduce the risk of electrical injuries and fatalities. The standard applies to employees who work on or near exposed energized electrical conductors or circuit parts. This includes electrical maintenance personnel, operators, troubleshooters, electricians, linemen, engineers, supervisors, site safety personnel or anyone exposed to energized equipment of 50 volts or more.