How do you know if your arc flash hazard labels are compliant with NFPA 70E?  

Like a magic trick, a capable engineer can spot a non-compliant label from a distance. How they do it is easier than you may think.

Since the 2015 code cycle, NFPA 70E dictates that compliant arc flash hazard labels should no longer display a “PPE Category” on them to indicate the level of incident energy present within the enclosure of the particular electrical equipment. 

All too often, even a quick walkthrough inspection will reveal labels that were issued after 2015 as part of an arc flash study, but still contain a “PPE Category.” Labels like this are out of compliance with NFPA 70E and OSHA. 

There are only two methods to calculate the level of incident energy present in electrical equipment: the PPE Category Method or the Incident Energy Method

While a neat trick, the ramifications for compliance and safety are serious.

The PPE Category Method is primarily utilized when electrical equipment does NOT have an arc flash hazard label adhered to its dead front.  This means that anyone attempting to work energized on electrical equipment of this type must use the calculation method found in NFPA 70E Table 130.7(C)(15)(a-b) to estimate the category level of PPE that must be worn before exposing live parts to perform energized work. 

This method also prohibits permanently marking the electrical equipment with its estimated category rating, because in the event the power system architecture changes, the category could potentially change too.  In other words, the PPE Category Method has to be performed EVERY time someone needs to perform energized work on unlabeled equipment.

On the other hand, the Incident Energy Method is utilized after a comprehensive arc flash study is conducted on a power system.  The study will produce arc flash hazard labels with the calculated incident energy rating displayed on them, but not a PPE category.  PPE is then selected to meet or exceed the calculated incident energy (cal/cm2) rating on the label.  Arc flash hazard labels are adhered to electrical equipment not only for your team’s safety but also to reduce inefficiencies when properly preparing to perform energized work.

Reducing the time needed to be safe is a key component of any well-run safety program.

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Author | Dave Hernandez, PE, CEM, GBE, CESCP Chief Operating Officer, EPSCO

Author | Dave Hernandez, PE, CEM, GBE, CESCP Chief Operating Officer, EPSCO