For electrical workers, the NFPA 70E standard is a familiar name. Even if you can’t quote it to the letter, you almost certainly know about the requirements that it establishes for workplace electrical safety, including arc flash clothing and other electrical PPE. The NFPA recently released its regular three-year update of the NFPA 70E standard. This update has some important revisions for various types of electrical PPE and FR workwear, and it’s always crucial to stay current on standards that affect safety in your workplace. What does every worker and manager need to know about the NFPA 70E 2021 update? We cover the basics up ahead.
Note: This is an overview, not a comprehensive guide or compliance advice. Your safety compliance experts should review the new revisions in detail before adjusting policies.
For many workplaces, the biggest PPE-related elements of the 2021 revision come in the arc flash PPE standards. Previous versions of NFPA 70E required outerwear (such as safety vests or rain jackets) to have an arc rating equal to the incident energy. For example, in a situation that required a CAT 3 ensemble, any outerwear worn on top would also need at least a CAT 3 rating.
Now, outerwear doesn’t need to have an equivalent rating. It’s only required to have an arc rating of at least CAT 1. Thus, a worker could wear a CAT 1 jacket or a CAT 2 hi vis vest on top of CAT 3 coveralls and still be in compliance. Note, however, that the base layer of FR clothing still needs to have the appropriate CAT rating. This change will be a relief for employers and workers since it allows a new range of choices for FR rain gear and other outerwear. The new standard offers more freedom in creating an arc flash kit that addresses other workplace conditions, not just arc flash hazards. See our guide to the best rain gear for working for more tips on choosing the best outerwear!
Other PPE Changes in NFPA 70E 2021
Table 130.5(C) has some other substantial changes to arc flash PPE policies. This table now provides an expanded list of conditions that require workers within arc flash zones to wear PPE. Your workplace policies may need to change to reflect these, including potentially requiring FR workwear where it wasn’t before.
Arc flash footwear standards also received a significant change in the same section. Workers were previously restricted to only leather or dielectric rubber footwear as part of an arc flash outfit. Now, footwear of any material can be compliant, as long as it’s been tested to avoid ignition and melting at the relevant incident energy. The update also includes expanded guidelines to help electrical workers choose the right insulated work gloves. Table 130.7(C)(7)(a), Maximum Use Voltage for Rubber Insulating Gloves, has quickly become an essential tool for glove selection for workers who work around electrical hazards.
What Else Changed in NFPA 70E 2021?
Some other notable changes to the latest edition of NFPA 70E include:
- Article 110: This general requirements article has been reorganized to consolidate multiple important standards, including lockout tagout rules, into one place.
- Article 360: A new article that adds new safety requirements for capacitors.
- Section 350.9: A revision that adjusts the energy level definitions for certain types of scientific equipment.
Top FR PPE Options from Hi Vis Supply
With more room to customize your arc flash PPE setup under the new update, check out these top arc rated options from HiVis Supply:
With its CAT 2 flame resistance and plentiful pockets, this is the ultimate daily-driver arc rated safety vest.
Be tougher than your environment with this ANSI Class 3, CAT 2 rated safety coverall, featuring the comfort of a Westex® UltraSoft Twill fabric.
The Dual Hazard Knit™ in this CAT 2 long sleeve tee stands up to even the most punishing days, and its Scotchlite™ reflective tape delivers outstanding ANSI Class 3 visibility.
When you need the absolute best, suit up in true professional protection with the Hydrolite FR Raingear Kit’s ANSI Class 3 visibility and CAT 3 FR compliance.
5. National Safety Apparel Class 3 VIZABLE FR Control 2.0 CAT 1 Long Sleeve Segmented Safety T-Shirt
Comfort and compliance come together in this CAT 1, ANSI Class 3 work shirt, thanks to its moisture-wicking fabric that helps regulate body temperature and keeps you comfy all day long.
Get Up to Speed on PPE Standards
Safety is our specialty at HiVis Supply, and we always make sure that our customers have the info they need to make an informed choice about PPE. Check out our guide to ANSI 107 to brush up on high visibility standards, and don’t forget our primer on dual performance FR clothing to help you understand the CAT/HRC arc rating system.