The second draft technical committee meeting for the 2021 Edition of NFPA 70E was held July 15–19, 2019 in Indianapolis, Indiana. The public comments submitted for committee action following the first draft meeting were discussed and voted on. NETA was represented at the meeting and participated in the actions.
To remind everyone of the NFPA process for changes to a standard:
1. The public submits an input for change or edit to an existing standard.
2. The technical committee votes to approve, reject, or modify the public input in the first draft meeting.
3. The public comments on the actions taken at the first draft meeting.
4. The technical committee reviews the public comments and can take four actions:
- Accept and create a second revision
- Reject but see a related second revision
- Reject but hold for the next code cycle
Most of the changes under consideration through the public inputs and comments are to make the 70E more user-friendly. Especially in the last two revision cycles, the committee has strived to reorganize and revise the text so it is easier to understand and easier for technicians and electrical workers to apply in the field. This standard is not just for supervisors or managers; it is intended to be used by all workers who need it. (Key point: Remember that! This standard can be a valuable resource for you.) Here a few highlights of the actions taken.
Definition of Barrier (SR No. 5*)
To avoid confusion between the terms “barricade” and “barrier,” the words “or to prevent unauthorized access to a work area” were removed from the term “barrier.” Simply put, a barricade is a physical barrier; a barrier prevents contact with energized parts.
*Editor’s Note: The term “SR No. [x]” signifies Second Revision, which is related to the process of executing a technical committee action.
Definition of Electrically Safe Work Condition — Informational Note (SR No. 1)
Arguably one of the most important definitions in the standard, the Informational Note was modified to more clearly define “electrically safe work condition.” The revised text is as follows:
Informational Note: An electrically safe work condition is not a procedure; it is a state wherein all hazardous electrical conductors or circuit parts to which a worker might be exposed are in a zero energy de-energized state for the purpose of temporarily eliminating electrical hazards for the period of time for which the state is maintained.
Section 250.3 Safety Grounding Equipment, (B) Testing (SR No. 31)
In Chapter 2, Section 250.3 Safety Grounding Equipment, there was a proposal to add a requirement to test temporary grounding equipment when the user determines it is necessary or no more than every three years.
The three-year time requirement was rejected, but the requirement to test temporary grounding equipment “as service conditions require” was approved. This is an important requirement, as you do not want to use worn or damaged temporary protective grounds without testing them first. The section now reads (with revisions shown):
Prior to being returned to service, temporary protective grounding equipment that has been repaired or modified shall be tested. Temporary protective grounding equipment shall be tested as service conditions require. but in no case shall the interval exceed 3 years.
Article 110 General Requirements for Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices
Several sections of article 110 were expanded at the first draft meeting.
Section 110.1 Priority (SR No. 2)
Under the direction of the NEC Correlating Committee, a very important statement was added to clarify the priority of 110.1 Addressing Hazard Elimination. The revised text states:
Hazard elimination shall be the first priority in the implementation of safety-related work practices.
Many electrical workers miss this. They go right into using PPE without following the hierarchy of risk control methods. Elimination is the very first method mentioned and should be the culture in which we all operate. Remember, if you eliminate the hazard, the hazard doesn’t exist!
Informational Note No. 1 refers the user to Informative Annex F Risk Assessment and Risk Control. Informational Note No. 2 incorporates the new wording found in the definition of electrically safe work condition:
An electrically safe work condition is a state wherein all hazardous electrical conductors or circuit parts to which a worker might be exposed are placed and maintained in a de-energized state, for the purpose of temporarily eliminating electrical hazards. See Article 120 for requirements to establish an electrically safe work condition for the period of time for which the state will be maintained. See Informative Annex F for information regarding the hierarchy of risk control and hazard elimination.
This Informational Note was added primarily because there was some question whether placing equipment in an electrically safe work condition met the definition of elimination. This clarifies that it does.
Section 110.2 General (SR No. 7)
To continue that line of thought, Section 110.2 General states:
Electrical conductors and circuit parts shall not be considered to be in an electrically safe work condition until all the requirements of Article 120 have been met. Safe work practices applicable to the circuit voltage and energy level shall be used in accordance with Article 110 and Article 130 until such time that electrical conductors and circuit parts are in an electrically safe work condition.
The two sections, 110.1 and 110.2, reinforce each other.
Section 130.7(C) Personal Protective Equipment (SR No. 26)
One question that often comes up in the field is what to do when an absence of voltage test is required, but you know that the incident energy exposure is very high.
Here’s a typical scenario: You are about to work on equipment between the transformer secondary and the line side of the main breaker, which has incident energy over the rating of your arc flash PPE. You have turned it off. You have a high degree of certainty that it is off, but you need to verify using a voltage detector. Revisions to the Informational Note in 130.7(C)(1) help clear this up:
(C) Personal Protective Equipment (PPE)
When an employee is working within the restricted approach boundary, the worker shall wear PPE in accordance with 130.4. When an employee is working within the arc flash boundary, he or she shall wear protective clothing and other PPE in accordance with 130.5. All parts of the body inside the arc flash boundary shall be protected.
Informational Note: Although PPE is required for all parts of the body within the arc flash boundary, similar PPE can be used for parts of the body outside the arc flash boundary Where the estimated incident energy exposure is greater than the arc rating of commercially available arc-rated PPE, then for the purpose of testing for the absence of voltage, the following examples of risk reduction methods could be used to reduce the likelihood of injury due to sound occurrence of an arcing event or the expulsion of burning particles or other projectiles severity of exposure:
(1) Use of non-contact proximity test instrument(s) or measurement of voltage on the secondary side of a low voltage transformer (VT) mounted in the equipment before use of a contact test instrument to test for the absence of voltage below 1000 volts.
(2) If equipment design allows, observe visible air gaps between the equipment conductors and circuit parts and the electrical source(s) of supply.
(3) Increase the working distance
(4) Consider system design options to reduce the incident energy level.
These are just a few of the revisions being considered for the next edition of NFPA 70E. There are many others, but these should be of general interest to NETA Member Companies. As a suggestion, go online and look at the NFPA’s website, www.nfpa.org, search for 70E, and select the Next Edition tab. Go to the Second Draft section, click on the View Public Comments link, and read the changes. They are all there for you to review the changes that have been proposed.
Although the public comment period has been over for some time, you can still ask us a question and we’ll get back to you — maybe in the next column!
Ron Widup and Jim White are NETA’s representatives to NFPA Technical Committee 70E, Electrical Safety Requirements for Employee Workplaces. Both gentlemen are employed by Shermco Industries in Dallas, Texas, a NETA Accredited Company.
Ron Widup, Shermco Industries Vice Chairman and Senior Advisor, Technical Services has been with Shermco since 1983, and currently serves on the company’s board of directors. He is a member of Technical Committee on NFPA 70E, Electrical Safety in the Workplace; a Principal Member of National Electrical Code (NFPA 70) Code Panel 11; a Principal Member of the Technical Committee on NFPA 790, Standard for Competency of Third-Party Evaluation Bodies; a Principal Member of the Technical Committee on NFPA 791, Recommended Practice and Procedures for Unlabeled Electrical Equipment Evaluation; a member of the Technical Committee on NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, and Vice Chair for IEEE Std. 3007.3, Recommended Practice for Electrical Safety in Industrial and Commercial Power Systems. Ron also serves on NETA’s board of directors and Standards Review Council. He is a NETA Certified Level 4 Senior Test Technician, a State of Texas Journeyman Electrician, an IEEE Standards Association member, an Inspector Member of the International Association of Electrical Inspectors, and an NFPA Certified Electrical Safety Compliance Professional (CESCP).
James (Jim) R. White, Vice President of Training Services, has worked for Shermco Industries since 2001. He is a NFPA Certified Electrical Safety Compliance Professional and a NETA Level 4 Senior Technician. Jim is NETA’s principal member on NFPA Technical Committee NFPA 70E®, Electrical Safety in the Workplace; NETA’s principal representative on National Electrical Code® Code-Making Panel (CMP) 13; and represents NETA on ASTM International Technical Committee F18, Electrical Protective Equipment for Workers. Jim is Shermco Industries’ principal member on NFPA Technical Committee for NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance and represents AWEA on the ANSI/ISEA Standard 203, Secondary Single-Use Flame Resistant Protective Clothing for Use Over Primary Flame Resistant Protective Clothing. An IEEE Senior Member, Jim was Chairman of the IEEE Electrical Safety Workshop in 2008 and is currently Vice Chair for the IEEE IAS/PCIC Safety Subcommittee.