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Arc Flash: More Than Just a PPE Label

In fall 2017, NFPA 70E released its 2018 code book with changes to key code articles and trends, which continue to emerge regarding electrical safe work practices. One thing that we would like to see more of, however, is written code article emphasis on the fundamental goals with this life safety code.

From the regulatory aspect, OSHA will always seek evidence from the host employer that your employees have the ability to get equipment to a “safe working condition.” Therefore, shouldn’t the emphasis of NFPA 70E start and end with sound lock-out/tag-out (LOTO) principles?

Simply put, before a company seeks to find engineering expertise to do formal calculations on arc flash risk and exposures, we recommend that they take a step back to contemplate what employees truly need to be effective in their job and adhere to their safety goals.

To be more specific on the host employer liability side of the topic, what are the risks to the host employer if they hire engineering expertise to evaluate arc flash risk levels and put personal protective equipment (PPE) labels on equipment, but nobody stops to ask how accurately the plant equipment is labeled before a vendor comes in to collect equipment data?

Over the code cycle releases dating back to the 2000 edition, there have been no written articles to address the basics of risk and liability associated with how to perform an arc flash study, or what the host employer should expect to see as final deliverables. IEEE 1584.1 has published a scope document on how to conduct arc flash studies, but even that outlines how there are very clear indications that the host employer carries all responsibility for current equipment being accurately labeled before any engineering study is done.

The trends that Faith Technologies has witnessed over the past 18 years regarding NFPA 70E have shown that most employers are unaware of these concepts, so we concentrate on educating organizations on these important fundamentals. The focus with NFPA 70E is still heavily tilted toward the technical engineering aspects of the topic, but we highly recommend that employers pause and focus more energy on the basics including:

  • Validated equipment feeds for LOTO confirmations
  • Simple-to-follow, yet detailed, electrical drawings of your facilities
  • Sound PPE labels that employees can relate to and use

Remember, arc flash is more than just a PPE label! Do your diligence to ensure your employees are safe before the LOTO process begins.