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Electrical safety

NFPA 70E 2015 has eliminated the prohibited approach boundary and made some changes to the shock hazard boundaries. How will this impact my facility?

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Responding is Brian McCauley, vice president, Salisbury Assessment Solutions, Salisbury by Honeywell, Bolingbrook, IL.

There are many changes that you should be aware of in the new NFPA 70E 2015 edition. Changes in the boundaries will certainly have an effect on the type and rating of the electrical personal protective equipment that qualified electrical workers will be wearing.

Although the prohibited approach boundary has been deleted, there are still shock hazards and arc flash boundaries remaining that must be understood.

First, the restricted approach boundary is closest to the energized equipment and may only be crossed by qualified workers with the proper PPE. Next, you have the limited approach boundary that unqualified workers can cross only if they are in the proper PPE and accompanied by a qualified worker. Finally, the arc flash boundary is the boundary that requires any person that crosses it to be in the appropriate arc flash PPE.

This may be one of the most important boundaries to be aware of in your facility, as it affects not only electrical workers but all personnel. It is critical that all are aware of this boundary because there are no requirements on who can cross this boundary unless your company has an internal policy in place written in its electrical safety program.

Another change in the NFPA 70E 2015 edition to be aware of involves work permits. Any time the restricted approach boundary is crossed, a work permit will now be required.

Please work through your internal electrical safety program team to ensure this process is followed prior to any work taking place within the restricted approach boundary. Keep in mind that a work permit may not be required when troubleshooting, testing or voltage measuring is taking place.

Another change to consider is what electrical PPE is needed when working energized. Since the prohibited approach boundary for shock protection has been deleted, there are some updates in NFPA 70E 2015 around this.

Table 130.4 (D)(a) defines the approach boundaries and there have been some changes as it pertains to voltages. For example, the old NFPA 70E version from 2012 had shock boundaries built around 50V-300V and 301V-750V. However, this has now changed and the shock protection boundaries for 2015 are 50V-150V and 151V-750V. What this means is that shock hazard equipment will be required when inside the restricted approach boundary.

There are many changes you will want to familiarize yourself with in the NFPA 70E 2015 edition that could affect your overall facility, as well as your processes on working in or around energized electrical equipment.

Editor's note: This article represents the independent views of the author and should not be construed as a National Safety Council endorsement.

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