NFPA 70E: What's In Store for Electrical Contractors in 2018?

Lateshutterstock_6.13.17.jpgr this year, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) will introduce the 70E: Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® 2018. The electrical contractor community awaits each new edition of the standard with a mixture of curiosity, optimism, and dread – with good reason. Even seemingly minor changes can have a major impact on a contractor’s established workflow. Most changes necessitate additional training, and some require electrical workers to invest in new or updated equipment. To help electrical contractors prepare, here’s a peek at a few of the more notable changes to the NFPA 70E standard that will impact their day-to-day work practices.

The 2015 edition of the NFPA 70E standard included recommendations for implementing a risk assessment. This procedure identifies hazards, assesses risks, and implements risk controls. Electrical workers can identify the level of risk based on the likelihood of occurrence and severity of an injury. They can then apply the hierarchy of six control methods found in 110.1(G) to mitigate that risk. 
The 2018 edition of NFPA 70E will clarify that this process is required for every job. Risk analysis must be conducted by qualified professionals, including trained electrical contractors and electrical engineers, who will conduct electrical studies and arc flash analysis, resulting in an incident energy level. The new edition of the standard will include expanded tables that help electrical contractors understand what the incident energy level is and help in the estimation of likelihood of an event. This also helps contractors understand and pick appropriate personal protective equipment (PPE) and identify mitigation techniques.
This is a paradigm shift for some seasoned electricians who've been operating without this process for years. As it will be required in short order, electrical contractors would be well-served by incorporating the risk assessment process into elecrical job safety plans and ensuring workers are properly trained on risk controls and how to implement them.
Contractors will be interested to learn the 2018 standard includes a simple but impactful terminology change. Today, if a contractor has an electrical accident, then it must be investigated. An incident, which by definition includes near-miss events or a flash-over with no injury, also requires a formal investigation, even if no injury occurs. In the 2018 edition, ‘accident’ has been changed to ‘incident’ throughout the standard. This simple word change will introduce broad new requirements for the industry as it means all electrical events, including near-miss incidents, must be identified and investigated. This change is intended to reduce flash-overs, improve electrical safety practices, and discourage complacent behavior.
Another global change in the standard is the replacement of the term “available short circuit” with “available fault current.” Many types of equipment are labeled with a ‘short-circuit current rating,’ which represents the maximum level of short-circuit current that a component or assembly can withstand. This is equipment specific, not circuit specific, and has nothing to do with how much energy is available to that component. Available fault current is the maximum current available in