PPE Labels: The Foundation of a Sound NFPA 70E Program

August 2008 marked a dramatic shift in the NFPA 70E code. The 2009 edition eliminated the use of generic warning labels on electrical equipment. In an attempt to comply with the new code, employers began utilizing formal facility assessments to accurately list personal protective equipment (PPE) needs.

Today employers and contractors still face challenges determining what should be on a PPE label. While the NFPA code has evolved, the current code does not include a thorough example to ensure employers and contractors are eliminating liability and risk challenges.

NFPA 70E training is a great way to begin educating employers and contractors of the intricacies of the code. However, since historically retention of new policies and procedures is low, professionals in the safety industry firmly believe a truly sound NFPA 70E program must focus on solid PPE labeling.

The most important component of a PPE label is the Lockout/Tagout (LOTO) component. It is imperative employers support the basic safety goals with the development and implementation of their NFPA 70E programs. If your PPE label does not focus on all three key aspects of electrical safety – arc flash, shock hazard, and LOTO – you run the risk of having critical gaps in your program.

Faith Technologies regularly holds electrical safety workshops to further discuss this topic. Please contact me to find a workshop near you.

See the definitions below for further explanation of each PPE label component:

  • Flash Hazard Boundary: First degree or bad sun burn. This boundary establishes a distance to where employees shall adhere to FR PPE use. A second degree burn begins at exposures over 1.2 cal/cm2
  • Working Distance: Established at 18” for systems <600 Volts
  • PPE Level: FR Clothing and other required PPE needed per the category listed.
  • Shock Hazard: Nominal voltage present at the item labeled.
  • Limited Approach: Limited approach is the outer most safety boundary to maintain to keep non-qualified people out.
  • Restricted Approach: Required to use shock hazard tools and gloves when at or closer than 12” to energized equipment.
  • Prohibited Approach: Required to use shock hazard tools and gloves when hands are within the boundary.
  • Device Name: The specific equipment ID or name.
  • Fed From: The upstream lock out tag out source to identify in order to practice a de-energized work method. This is not an engineering reference but the actual first upstream disconnecting source feeding the equipment labeled.
  • Fault Current: Information used to properly size and rate breakers installed in panels or switchgear, it is recommended to include the fault current levels on the labeling to help contractors and maintenance staff select the right equipment to be installed for AIC ratings.