Background and Relevant Standards

May 18, 2022

Electrical Safety Background and Relevant Standards

Electrical regulations can be confusing and at times vague. This post will provide a brief introduction to some of the safety requirements and standards that you will need to be familiar with and refer to when building your program. As a subject matter expert for your organization it is your responsibility to become thoroughly familiar with all applicable local, state, and federal regulations that your particular organization must adhere to. This is a crash course on where and how to get started.

For California, Cal/Osha Title 8 is the law of the land. Sub chapter 5 contains the electrical orders and is an enforceable government regulation which is meant to define minimum safety requirements for the installation, operation, and maintenance of electrical systems.

CAL/OSHA Title 8 subchapter 5 is comprised of low voltage and high voltage electrical safety orders. While the subchapter 5 orders all pertain to a safe installation or worker safety, we are going to focus on a few of the regulations that directly impact worker safety and will be needed in building your organizations electrical safety program.

Within the low voltage safety order Article 3 Work Procedures describes minimum requirements for working around and on low voltage systems. This article should be thoroughly read, and I recommend keeping a copy that can be highlighted as you build your program so that you know that you have addressed each of the requirements within your electrical safety program document.

Title 8 defines any thing above 600V as high voltage while the NEC defines high voltage beginning at anything above 1000V. The manufacturing industry often refers to anything between 600V and 15kV as medium voltage. For this post I will use the title 8 definition and anything above 600V will be considered high voltage.

For many manufacturing plants, power distribution within the plant will be accomplished at 12kV and will then be stepped down to 4160V, 2400V, 480V, or 208V for utilization by the facilities motors lighting and utilization electrical equipment.

Title 8 Subchapter 5 Group 2 is the High Voltage Electrical Safety Order. The requirements in this section are more rigorous than what is found in the Low Voltage Electrical Safety Order. Specifically, attention should be paid to Article 36 - Work Procedures and Operating Procedures.

I recommend taking the same approach as Article 3 in the low voltage safety order. Read it and create a copy of the regulations so that you can highlight it as you address each of the requirements in your safety program.

Within Article 36, Regulation 2940.0 General Provisions and 2940.11 Protection From Flames and Electric Arcs are foundational. I recommend starting with these two articles and building the safety program around these minimum requirements. Once your document has begun to take shape you can continue to bring in the rest of the worker safety requirements in subchapter 5 into the document.

Separately, if you need to satisfy lock out tagout (LOTO) requirements refer to 2940.13 Hazardous Energy Control Procedures. Your companies LOTO program should include LOTO for your whole organization and is beyond the scope of this post. Verify that your LOTO program has incorporated the requirements in 2940.13.

Regulation 2940.11 Protection From Flames and Electric Arcs

“(a) (2) For each employee exposed to hazards from electric arcs, the employer shall make a reasonable estimate of the incident heat energy to which the employee would be exposed.”

Estimating of the incident heat energy is normally done using commercial power systems analysis software such as ETAP or SKM. These estimates of incident energies are done as study of the overall facilities power system and consider information from the utility connection, equipment attributes, cable lengths, and protective devices. A report is generated and normally labels are printed which are adhered to the equipment and updated on a 5-year basis. We will talk about the arc flash study process in detail in a future post.

The basis of the calculations performed by the software is normally the IEEE1584 – Guide for performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations. If you are responsible for producing these calculations, I recommend purchasing a copy of the standard for reference. If you are responsible for developing the report too the IEEE 1584.1-2013 - IEEE Guide for the Specification of Scope and Deliverable Requirements for an Arc-Flash Hazard Calculation Study will demystify what should go into a report.

In the United States the National Electric Code governs much of the design and installation requirements of electrical systems for buildings and facilities. The NEC does not however, provide much guidance to industry on the use of safety related work practices to protect electrical workers and prevent worker injuries and fatalities. In the mid-1970s, OSHA and NFPA began working together on a new document to address this gap and by 1979 the first section of NFPA 70E had been published. For the manufacturing and commercial industries, the NFPA 70E and CAL/OSHA are the standards and regulations that must be met.

A significant amount of time should be spent becoming familiar with the NFPA 70E. While it is not a large document it is dense and can be nuanced. The standard is not enforceable but is referenced by OSHA and can be used to support their justification for issuing violations.

The standard is 3 chapters, and the end of the document includes safety related work practices and informative Annex’s A-R. As an engineer or technician, you are likely familiar with the NEC and its layout, The NFPA 70E is similar. First, pay attention to the table of contents, Article 90 – Introduction, Article 100 – Definitions, and the Index.

Chapter 1 – Safety Related Work Practices

Chapter 2 – Safety Related Maintenance Requirements

Chapter 3 – Safety Requirements for Special Equipment

Chapter 1 sets the stage in article 110.5 Electrical Safety Program. It outlines general requirements for inspection, condition of maintenance, awareness, program principles, program controls, procedures, risk assessments, incident investigations, electrical safe working conditions, LOTO, and auditing of the program.

Article 130 outlines the requirements of safety related work practices, energized work permits, and risk assessments.

Start with 110.5 and 130 in addition to the Cal/OSHA requirements and continue to add detail to the document. This will no doubt be an iterative process with many revisions over the years. Do a web search for different government agencies many institutions and agencies electrical safety programs are available in PDF form and could be in the public domain. See what’s out there and what fits your organizations needs be sure and make the citations where necessary.

Safety Standards and Regulations

NFPA 70E – Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace

OSHA Title 29 1910 Subpart S –

CAL/OSHA Title 8 – Subchapter 5

NESC – National Electrical Safety Code

IEEE 1584 – Guide for Performing Arc-Flash Hazard Calculations

IEEE 1584.1 - IEEE Guide for the Specification of Scope and Deliverable Requirements for an Arc-Flash Hazard Calculation Study

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