Improving Electrical Safety in Non-Residential Buildings: An Overview of Updated NFPA 70E Requirements


Electrical hazards are a leading cause of injuries and fatalities in many non-residential workplaces such as manufacturing facilities, warehouses, and commercial buildings. Implementation of proper electrical safety programs and procedures is critical to protect employees and reduce risk. This article provides an in-depth overview of key updates in the 2021 edition of NFPA 70E and how electrical safety programs in non-residential buildings can be improved to meet the latest requirements.

Overview of NFPA 70E

The National Fire Protection Association's (NFPA) 70E standard outlines best practices for electrical safety in the workplace. It covers key aspects such as risk assessments, establishing an electrically safe work condition, selection of personal protective equipment, safe work practices, and training.

Some key points about NFPA 70E include:

Compliance is not legally required but strongly recommended to mitigate electrical hazards. The 2021 edition includes important updates that non-residential facilities should implement.

Major Changes in the 2021 NFPA 70E

The latest edition of NFPA 70E contains over 75 changes from the 2018 version. Some of the most significant updates that impact non-residential building electrical safety programs are highlighted below:

Expanded Requirements for Arc Flash Risk Assessments

Arc flash risk assessments must now identify all locations where employees may be exposed to arc flash hazards. Detailed parameters include specifying available incident energy levels, arc flash boundaries, and required PPE. Annual reviews are required.

New Approach to Hazard Analysis and Labeling

The hazard analysis and labeling requirements were reorganized. Hazard identification now focuses on the voltage, arc flash and shock boundaries, and available incident energy. Equipment labels must include nominal system voltage, arc flash boundary, available incident energy, limited approach boundary, restricted approach boundary and prohibited approach boundary.

Increased Emphasis on Human Factors in Safety

Human factor principles, such as human behavior and capabilities, must be considered in the electrical safety program procedures and training. The goal is reducing the likelihood of unsafe electrical work due to inappropriate planning, lack of understanding, or improper implementation.

Work Involving Electrical Hazards in Enclosed Spaces

Enclosed spaces with electrical hazards require additional safe work practices, signage, atmospheric testing, ventilation, and monitoring. Two attendant personnel must also be assigned when working in enclosed spaces.

Improving Electrical Safety Programs

In light of the updated NFPA 70E requirements, here are some ways that non-residential facilities can improve their electrical safety programs:

Perform Comprehensive Arc Flash Analysis

A detailed arc flash analysis on all electrical equipment can accurately identify hazards and determine appropriate PPE levels needed during work activities. Any deficiencies must be addressed.

Update Electrical Safety Procedures

Safety procedures and training programs should be updated to incorporate the latest NFPA 70E requirements related to establishing an electrically safe work condition, enclosed space entry, human factors, hazard analysis, risk assessments, approach boundaries and PPE selection.

Implement Robust Training

Effective training on electrical hazards, proper use of PPE, establishing safety clearance distances, enclosed space procedures and human factor principles is essential. Hands-on exercises should supplement class sessions.

Utilize Current-Limiting Protective Devices

Installing current-limiting fuses or circuit breakers can reduce the amount of available incident energy during an arc flash event. This potentially minimizes the required level of PPE.

Adopt Arc-Rated Apparel and PPE

Using arc-rated clothing and PPE, selected based on the detailed arc flash analysis, is vital for worker protection in accordance with NFPA 70E. All PPE must be properly maintained, stored and replaced at end of service life.


Regularly updating electrical safety programs to align with NFPA 70E requirements is critical to protect personnel in non-residential facilities from electrical hazards. Key focus areas in the latest 2021 edition include expanded arc flash risk assessments, new hazard analysis and labeling specifications, increased emphasis on human factors, and additional safeguards for enclosed space entry. By conducting arc flash analysis, updating procedures, delivering robust training, utilizing current-limiting devices and adopting proper PPE, non-residential buildings can significantly improve electrical safety. Staying current with the latest NFPA 70E standards is essential for reducing risk and preventing workplace electrical injuries, deaths and property damage.