What is the NFPA 70E?

The NFPA 70E, OSHA, and You...

Currently, the law does not require an Arc Flash study.

That's right.  The law does not specifically require that any employer address the issue of Arc Flash Hazard in their facilities.  Surprised?  Read on...

...a place of employment which [is] free from recognized hazards...
— OSHA 29USC 654 Sec. 5

The “General Duty” clause of the OSH Act of 1970 requires employers to provide a safe workplace for employees. The following, from OSHA 29 USC 654, summarizes OSHA’s position:

SEC. 5. Duties

    (a) Each employer --

        (1) shall furnish to each of his employees employment and a place of employment which are free from recognized hazards that are causing or are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to his employees;

        (2) shall comply with occupational safety and health standards promulgated under this Act.

From an electrical standpoint, OSHA requires companies to provide an electrically safe workplace. To enforce this, it has adopted many regulations on safe electrical work practices (see 1910 Subpart S – Electrical, Part 1910 of 29 CFR [Code of Federal Regulations]). These are based largely on information in the NFPA 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, published by the National Fire Protection Association.

...[a] consensus standard, such as the NFPA 70E, ‘may be used as evidence of hazard recognition...’
— Richard Fairfax, in 2006 letter

Why the NFPA 70E?

The NFPA 70E is a national consensus standard: it does not have the force of law behind it, but OSHA can, and does, use the information in the NFPA 70E standard to enforce the "General Duty" clause. In an October 2006 letter response to an inquiry from Minneapolis, Richard Fairfax, then Director of the Directorate of Enforcement Programs, stated that a consensus standard, such as the NFPA 70E, "may be used as evidence of hazard recognition and the availability of feasible means of abatement."  

He goes on to reinforce that the "General Duty" clause is violated when an employer fails to provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that are "causing or likely to cause death or serious physical harm" to its employees

That's right...recognized hazards such as Arc Flash, described in consensus standards such as the NFPA 70E.

What Does the NFPA 70E Say?

As the national consensus standard on the issue of Arc Flash Hazard in the workplace, the NFPA 70E provides guidelines for recognition of this hazard and for a feasible means of abatement, namely an Electrical Safety Program that includes components that will address:

  • The identification and quantification of the hazard itself (such as and Arc Flash Hazard analysis)
  • The means of abatement (such as Arc Flash labeling, safety training, and correct PPE for personnel)

OSHA’s requirements and regulations are the law, and NFPA 70E is the rulebook that OSHA uses to determine whether an organization is operating within the law.

A company that completes an Arc Flash Study and that provides electrical safety training to its employees according to NFPA 70E can be confident it is in compliance with the OSHA mandate for an electrically safe workplace.