The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) published the latest edition of the NFPA 70E Standard in 2015. NFPA 70E states, “Employees shall wear FR clothing wherever there is a possible exposure to an electric arc flash.” This requires employees working on or near energized parts and equipment to wear FR clothing that meets the requirements of ASTM F1506 and is appropriate to the potential energy of the hazard. Employers are required to perform an arc flash hazard analysis, now called an arc flash risk assessment, to determine the potential energy of the hazard and the flash protection boundary.
An arc flash risk assessment can be performed by calculating the potential incident energy of a piece of equipment or using PPE Category Classifications. Protective clothing must meet either the calculated incident energy or the corresponding PPE Category that has an arc rating of at least the value listed in the Table 130.7(C)(16).
Most major companies in the US have some employees that work on or near energized parts and equipment. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) considers the NFPA 70E standard a “recognized industry practice” and has levied fines to companies that haven’t protected their employees when arc flash accidents have occurred.
Simplify Compliance to NFPA 70E
Many companies simplify compliance to NFPA 70E through everyday uniform programs using garments made with Westex-brand FR fabric that meet the requirements of NFPA 70E PPE Categories 1 and 2 as a single-layer. This can alleviate employer concerns about leaving the difficult decision of determining whether a specific routine electrical task is PPE Category 1 or 2 in the hands of the employee. Please refer to NFPA 70E Annex H.2 Simplified Two Category Flame Resistant (FR) Clothing Approach.