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The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has issued NFPA 70E 2015, its updated Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. Here’s our snapshot of what’s changed from the 2012 edition.

Back in 2012, you wouldn’t even think about sticking your work shoe inside the prohibited approach boundary. In 2015, you will think carefully before putting your footwear inside a restricted approach area. Let’s run down some of the key NFPA 70E-2015 changes.

Terminology Changes

In order to align 70E’s language with generally accepted industry terms, there are several minor terminology changes, including those below.

2012 Term
  • Work shoes
  • Arc flash hazard analysis
  • Shock hazard analysis
  • Voltage detector
2015 Term
  • Footwear
  • Arc flash risk assessment
  • Shock risk assessment
  • Test instrument

No More HRC

In 2015, the Hazard Risk Category is replaced by the Arc Flash PPE Category. All references to HRC are removed throughout the updated Standard. With the changes to the PPE Category and removal of references to HRC, the Personal Protective Equipment Table 130.7(C) (16) will now be used only in the absence of an Incident Energy Analysis and in conjunction with tables 130.7(C) (15). The Incident Energy Analysis and associated documentation will now indicate the appropriate PPE.

Boundary Changes

One of the more significant changes is the elimination of the prohibited approach shock boundary. In the 2012 edition, the prohibited approach boundary for 751-15kV was listed as 0 feet and 7 inches, and was defined as essentially the same as coming into actual contact with the exposed energized part. It was felt that the concept of this boundary was merely adding data and information with no real practical safety value.

Work Permit Requirements

In the 2012 edition, an energized electrical work permit was required when working within the limited approach boundary or the arc flash boundary and exposed energized conductors were not placed in an electrically safe condition. Now in the 2015 edition, when energized electrical work is permitted due to conditions including: Infeasibility, Greater Hazard, Less than 50 Volts, or Normal Operation (see below), an energized electrical work permit is required when work is performed inside the restricted approach boundary, or when the employee interacts with the equipment when conductors or circuit parts are not exposed, but an increased likelihood of injury from an exposure to an arc flash hazard exists.

Normal Operation

The term “Normal Operation” is now one of four conditions (enumerated above) that would eliminate the need to place a system in an electrically safe work condition, and it is primarily associated with the arc flash hazard, more so than the electrical shock hazard.

What is Normal Operation? It indicates that the equipment is properly installed in accordance with applicable industry codes and standards and the manufacturer’s recommendations, and that it is properly maintained in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations and applicable industry codes and standards. All equipment doors should be closed and secured. All equipment covers should be in place and secured, and there should be no evidence of impending failure. Despite the potential subjectivity of the phrase “no evidence of impending failure,” industry consensus suggests the phrase refers to obvious signs such as arcing, overheating, loose or bound equipment parts, visible damage or deterioration.

Other Changes

There are several other changes that affect the qualified worker including:

  • A clearer explanation of exemptions to an energized electrical work permit.
  • Safety interlocks.
  • A better setup for using the tables (and understanding the limitations associated with them).

The Upshot

Between the elimination of the prohibited approach boundary, the introduction of Normal Operation and the revision of when the energized electrical work permit is required, the 2015 edition of NFPA 70E allows for a more workable solution in dealing with electrical hazards for users who ensure correct installation and are diligent in the proper maintenance of their equipment.

Return to Spring 2015 Field Notes

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Beginning in June, the National Field Services Training Center will be providing four-hour refresher courses on the new NFPA 70E and Electrical Safety in the Workplace. Find out more here.


The 2015 edition of NFPA 70E allows for a more workable solution in dealing with electrical hazards.