NFPA 70E takes a leap forward in defining risk assessment for energized work

Understanding the improvements

Just a few years ago, the standard was comprised of five "hazard-risk" categories that outlined the required personal protection equipment (PPE) a worker had to wear to reduce electrical arc flash exposure. But today's version addresses hazard and risk separately, to help site managers and technicians better understand the dangers of energized work via a series of linear steps.

For this process to work, all parties must have an understanding of "hazard" and "risk."

  • A hazard is the calculated heat energy at any given point of an electrical system and is used to determine the correct level of PPE. A hazard is either present or not present.
  • Risk is the combination of likelihood and severity of a potential injury while performing the work task.

To further illustrate risk, consider an electrician at a manufacturing plant operating a circuit-breaker disconnect on a 480-volt low-voltage motor control center (MCC) with the enclosure door closed. The likelihood of a shock injury is near zero, with no exposure to energized conductors, and the likelihood of an arc flash event is extremely low. Now consider a task where the electrician is testing or troubleshooting using a multi-meter to test phase voltages with the MCC enclosure door open. The hazard is the same, but the risk of electrical injury from shock hazard and arc flash is higher because the electrician is exposed to energized conductors.

Know the chances of an arc flash with a thorough risk analysis

NFPA 70E requires an exhaustive risk assessment before energized work begins — a great safety advancement. A risk assessment reviews electrical hazards, the planned work task and the protective measures required to maintain an acceptable level of risk. In practice, this means scheduling a work-plan meeting to discuss and document issues for the task at hand, the tools required, maintenance history of the equipment, test records of the equipment requiring energized work and the calculated amount of heat-energy exposure. The following summarizes the steps technicians should follow before performing energized work:

  1. Characterize the hazard or the electrical process involved.
  2. Identify the energized work to be performed.
  3. Define failures that could result from exposure to electrical hazards and the potential for harm.
  4. Assess the severity of the potential injury.
  5. Determine the likelihood of the occurrence for every hazard. This includes consideration of the resulting impact of possible human error based on the planned work task, such as a tool dropped near energized conductors at a worker's feet.
  6. Define the level of risk for the associated hazard.
  7. Wear appropriate PPE as determined during the hazard analysis. If the risk is too great, do not perform the energized task.

"The changes result in a clearer understanding of energized work and help reduce electrical incidents."
David B. Durocher, global mining, metals, and minerals industry manager

We're all human… and NFPA 70E takes that into account

One new and important aspect of NFPA 70E's prescribed risk analysis is the recognition of human error, as seen in step five, above. Per the standard, "Risk assessment procedures shall address the potential for human error and its negative consequences on people, processes, the work environment and equipment." With that, standard users should not only look to have a detailed process for performing energized work, but also maintain some method of quantifying human error.

In my opinion, accounting for error is an important addition to this evolving standard. To this end, some organizations require the issuance of energized work permits that account for the human element. This puts the onus on site leadership to double-check every detail before giving energized work the go-ahead, ensuring an extra level of business accountability. If work involves unacceptable levels of hazard and/or risk, a decision to perform the work during a future planned outage can be made.

Leadership must take the lead on safety

NFPA 70E is an industry-consensus guide, not binding law, so it's up to an individual business to choose to implement a site-specific electrical safety program. And it's important to note that industries do exist where turning off the power can lead to more severe problems. There are instances in the oil and gas industry, for example, where turning off the power can lead to a greater hazard than working on energized equipment. That said, I believe it's in everyone's best interest to wait for a planned future outage whenever possible instead of working on energized electrical equipment.

Of course, leadership teams have the right to make their own choices. While one group may choose to issue energized work permits, another may skip that step, which is completely within its purview. However, organizations that forego work permits can pay a price. If someone is injured or killed during energized work, regulatory organizations such as the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) or the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) may require an explanation as to how the work was allowed and ask for detailed safety program documentation, including a work permit.

Beyond the standard, new technologies support recent trends of performing energized work outside a defined NFPA 70E flash-protection boundary. Site managers can look to network-connected devices, such as motor management relays, partial discharge on-line monitors and motorized racking technologies, to gather the information they need to troubleshoot electrical systems without requiring workers to suit up and work on energized equipment.

To increase safety, follow NFPA 70E

While it's always better to wait for a planned outage to work on electrical equipment, that's not always an option. Should you need to perform energized work, be sure to identify the hazards and risks and complete a thorough risk analysis that considers all potential risks, including human error. With a clearer understanding of the consensus standards and maintenance/troubleshooting requirements of a defined energized task, you can do more to advance a safety culture at your site, helping to reduce the chances of future shock and arc flash events. 

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See the original full article at: https://www.eaton.com/us/en-us/company/news-insights/for-safetys-sake-blog/risk-analysis.html

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Up to Code: LED Lighting and Compliance Standards

Evolving guidelines for building energy usage, occupant comfort increasingly put LED lighting systems at the heart of code compliance

In a world where building energy efficiency is increasingly prized, pursued and rewarded, it's no surprise that it's also becoming not only expected, but mandated.

Energy-related codes and standards developed by entities committed to setting a high, but attainable bar for efficiency in new and refurbished structures are gaining more visibility and buy-in from jurisdictions that oversee and regulate development.

From the ASHRAE/IES 90.1 building energy standard to ICC's International Energy Conservation Code (IECC) to California's Title 24 Energy Code, needlessly wasted energy in buildings is in the crosshairs, becoming less tolerable with each revision cycle. They all continue to raise the performance bar, reflecting heightened interest in environmental stewardship and operational cost savings, as well as technology advancements.

Over time, many states have incorporated these energy standards and codes into their building codes. But most have been slow to regularly adopt updated versions, resulting in a patchwork of codes of varying rigor. But the pace and breadth of modernization could begin to pick up in the wake of the U.S. Department of Energy's decision last year to anoint the 2016 version of ASHRAE 90-.1 – ASHRAE/IES 90.1-2016 – as the national energy reference standard, and to require state building codes to incorporate it, or an equivalent standard such as the 2018 IECC, by February 2020.

Then, presumably, many state building codes will become more demanding in terms of how structures are designed and built from an energy efficiency perspective. Building designs will have to advance to the next level, incorporating upgraded materials, architecture, mechanical equipment and other components of the infrastructure that together reduce structures' energy footprint.

And a prime focus will continue to be building lighting, a big energy user that has drawn increasing amounts of attention in energy code revisions over time, especially as solid-state lighting technology has advanced and brought energy-saving LED lighting into the mainstream. More demanding energy codes, required to be reflected in more state building codes, translates to the near-inevitability of LED becoming the default lighting choice.

Lighting gets a wealth of attention for good reason: it's one of the single largest contributors to a building's energy load and overall electric grid demand. DOE estimates from 2016 put the annual energy consumption from the nation's 7-billion installed lighting systems at about 5.5 million quads, or 15 percent of the nation's total electricity usage.

Lighting, in other words, is low-hanging fruit ripe for the picking in energy savings pursuits. And it's been made much more possible with the advent of solid-state lighting technologies. Advances in LED lighting that have improved performance and lowered costs of solutions have propelled adoption and yielded significant energy savings for users replacing traditional incandescent or fluorescent lighting. DOE says that installed LED lighting systems in the U.S, estimated to number 874 million in 2016, probably saved some 458 trillion BTUs of source energy.

Little wonder, then, that LED lighting is becoming a foundational element of energy codes and standards. While energy savings is still achievable with enhancements to legacy lighting system design and products, LEDs provide the most direct, though often not the cheapest up-front path to long-term savings on energy needed for lighting. As newer generations of building lighting efficiency targets are developed to reflect new technology and higher aims, LEDs are a primary means to an end.

"The 2019 version of ANSI/ASHRAE/IES Standard 90.1 has shifted to an all-LED baseline in developing the lighting power density values," says Michael Myer, senior lighting researcher with DOE's Pacific Northwest National Laboratory, which assists code-making bodies.

Noting that the newest Title 24 standard also is entirely LED-based, Myer says LED is developing a stronger foothold, and that that's being reflected in code revisions.

"Specifiers, engineers and designers are all primarily specifying LED products," he says. "Shipments of incandescent, fluorescent and HID lamps are all down significantly since 2011."

Energy codes and standards aren't the only building-design-guideline trends that bear watching from a lighting perspective. Those that address the building environment for occupants and users, such as the U.S. Green Building Council's LEED standard and the International Well Building Institute's WELL standard, promote user-friendly lighting systems as an element of occupant experience-focused design. They prioritize systems that are highly controllable from a light delivery, quality and intensity perspective and reflect growing knowledge of the effects that both poor-quality and high-quality light, broadly defined, can have on human beings.

LED lighting, increasingly offering capabilities for high-level control of elements such as dimming and color rendering, stands to become a cornerstone of building design projects that seek LEED and WELL certification. And LED is on track to have a central role in the emerging study of human-centric lighting (HCL), which posits that subtle, but controllable light qualities related to color and intensity affect human circadian rhythms that are linked to health and well-being. HCL is a concept that could find its way into future lighting designs, as well as next-generation building standards.

As knowledge of the impact that the built environment has on the human experience grows, the evolution of codes and standards that address it should be closely watched. And given the central role of lighting in that environment, lighting designers and contractors should pay extra close attention. Moreover, the place that LED lighting technology will have in reducing energy usage and improving occupant experience means they should be investing in greater understanding of LED options and the changing code and standard specifications that relate to LED technology.

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NEC Requirements for Information Technology Equipment

Article 645 of the 2017 Edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) covers equipment, power supply wiring, equipment interconnecting wiring, and grounding (bonding) of information technology (IT) equipment and systems in IT equipment rooms.

Many other areas in the NEC apply to these rooms [Sec. 645.3(A) through (I)]. For example, the non-current-carrying conductive members of optical fiber cables within such a room must be bonded per Sec. 770.14 [645.3(C)]. And you'll find sections of half a dozen other Articles referenced in Sec. 645.3(B)(1) through (6).

You can use Art. 645's wiring methods instead of the wiring methods of Chapter 3 and Parts I and V of Art. 770, but only if you meet the conditions listed in Sec. 645.4(1) through (6).

Branch circuits supplying one or more units of IT equipment must have an ampacity of at least 125% of the total connected loads. If you run branch circuit supply conductors under a raised floor, you must install them per the requirements in Sec. 300.11. You must also use the wiring methods of Sec. 300.22(C) and/or the 17 wiring methods listed in Sec. 645.5(E)(1)(b)(1) through (17).

OCPDs supplying critical systems must be selectively coordinated [645.27] with all supply side OCPDs. 

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You already have OSHA, so why also follow NFPA 70E? And if NFPA 70E can actually make you safer, why don't the OSHA regulations include it?

The OSHA regulations govern the employer. Their main thrust is to ensure the employer has a safety program that meets specific standards of performance and the employer properly trains the employees to conform with that program.

NFPA 70E helps employers and employees provide a practical safe working area relative to the hazards arising from the use of electricity.

So OSHA and NFPA 70E work together. Not only that, key OSHA personnel have been involved in the development of NFPA 70E for quite some time. They have worked directly with electrical industry leaders, including executives of electrical service firms.

It's not an either/or choice. The employer is legally obligated to conform to OSHA regulations. But is the employer obligated to use NFPA 70E? In a practical sense, yes. When the employer and employees utilize NFPA 70E, they reduce hazards not only to employees but to the companies they work for. The financial, operational, and emotional impact on a firm when an employee suffers an arc blast or electrocution can be severe.

NFPA 70E is a practical guide. But don't forget the value of a safety culture. This must be nurtured from the top down and from the bottom up. When everyone is thinking of how to identify hazards and protect workers from them, the way people use NFPA 70E will be far more effective than if they are trying to see what they can get by with or counting on luck (which tends to run out sooner or later).


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Innovation Days: Design Engineer Seminar

 April 9-10, 2019

807 Corporate Centre Drive
O'Fallon, Missouri 63368

The first opportunity of 2019 to see the constantly evolving
Schneider Electric Technology Center in St. Louis!

Join us for an interactive and hands on education session. See our Power Lab,
ask questions to our subject matter experts on critical power trends and learn how
Schneider Electric can help you solve your clients problems.

Get information that will keep you on the cutting edge of the latest technologies.
Meet other engineers from across the country to knowledge share & expand your network.

9 PDH credits will be given for this complimentary seminar.

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