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The National Fire Protection Agency (NFPA) has been the steward of the NFPA 70 also known as the National Electrical Code (NEC) since 1911. The NEC has undergone many revisions since that time with the oversight of the NFPA Technical Committee. This standard is mainly focused on the design and installation of electrical systems. In the United States, compliance with the NEC is mandated by OSHA and enforced by local jurisdiction.
Though the NEC is not a document focusing on safety from a procedural approach there are several safety aspects to the code, one of them being NEC Article 110.16, which reads: “Flash Protection” – Switchboards, panelboards, industrial control panels, meter socket enclosures, and motor control centers in other than dwelling occupancies, which are likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance while energized, shall be field marked to warn qualified persons of potential electric arc flash hazards*. The marking shall be located so as to be clearly visible to qualified persons before examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance of the equipment.”
A fine-print note (FPN) to Section 110.16 suggests that warning label design should comply with ANSI Z535.4, which specifies colors and signal words to be used, as well as a direct reference to the most recent edition of the NFPA 70E at the time of print. These FPN give consistency to the look of the label as well as what information is contained therein.
NFPA 70E 2015 REQUIRES THAT THE FOLLOWING TYPES OF ELECTRICAL EQUIPMENT, IN LOCATIONS OTHER THAN DWELLINGS, BE MARKED WITH AN ARC FLASH WARNING LABEL:
Industrial control panels
Meter socket enclosures
Motor control centers
Our practice is to label all three phase equipment, even items not shown in this list. Though this list is published as a guideline, it is considered the minimum requirement for workplaces, and is not to be taken as an indicator where Arc Flash Hazards can only exist.
THE LABELING REQUIREMENTS CHANGED IN 2012
NFPA 70E 2015 requires arc flash labels to include Nominal Voltage, Arc Flash Boundary, and at least one of the following:
Available incident energy and the corresponding working distance
Minimum arc rating of clothing
Required level of PPE
The 2015 NFPA 70E also added a prohibition for applying labels with PPE categories (formerly Hazard Risk Categories) if an incident energy analysis was performed. This means that most labels made in 2015 and beyond will not have pipe categories of #1, #2, #3, and #4 which correspond to a certain level of PPE.
Labeling equipment with the requirements of the 2012 NFPA 70E and following safe work practices, does not ensure an electric arc event will not take place. But it does provide personnel with the knowledge and resources to properly protect themselves, mitigate, and some cases, eliminate injury.
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