2021 NFPA 70E – Major Changes

Jim Phillips, P.E.

2021 NFPA 70EEvery three years I have the privilege of writing the NFPA 70E Major Changes article for National Electrical Contractor Association’s magazine: Electrical Contractor.   The 2021 edition of this standard will be available September 4, 2020 so it’s time to take a sneak peek and see what is in store this time around.   This article is based on my article that was published in the May 2020 issue of Electrical Contractor.

Disclaimer:  Although I am Vice-Chair of IEEE 1584, International Chair of IEC TC78 Live Working, Technical Committee Member of NFPA 70E and involved with many other codes and standards committees, the views expressed here are mine and may or may not represent the views of any of the above committees.

This article focuses on the more significant changes and is based on what was known at the time it was written. It does not include every change and some language was paraphrased. The reader should always refer to the final approved version once it is published.

The Revision Cycle

 First published in 1979, the 2021 Edition will be the twelfth edition of NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace.  As in the past, there were many changes, additions, deletions and reorganization to this foremost standard.

The revision cycle includes several major steps along the way. The First Draft was based on 332 Public Inputs known as (PE) and 86 First Revisions (FR).  The Second Draft had 115 Public Comments (PC) and 43 Second Revisions.  This article was based on both the First and Second Drafts.

Article 100 Definitions

Each revision cycle contains additions, deletions and revisions to the definitions.  From my own past experience, definitions are very important because sometimes they can become the focus of disputes or legal situations.  i.e. what is the actual meaning of….

Hood and Face Shield

Yours Truly with a Balaclava and Face Shield

Balaclava. The word “hood” and “sock” were deleted and the definition was changed to: “An arc-rated head-protective fabric that protects the neck and head except for a small portion of the facial area.”

Electrically Safe Work Condition. To provide clarity and emphasize that it is a temporary elimination of the electrical hazard, a new informational note was added: “An electrically safe work condition is not a procedure, it is a state wherein all hazardous electrical conductors or circuit parts to which a worker might be exposed are maintained in a deenergized state for the purpose of temporarily eliminating electrical hazards for the period of time for which the state is maintained.”

 Equipment, Arc Resistant. Since arc resistant equipment can be more than just switchgear, the word “switchgear” was removed.  An information note was added referencing IEEE C37.20.7, Guide for Testing Switchgear Rated Up to 52 kV for Internal Arcing Faults.

Voltage, Nominal. Since NFPA 70E is applicable for voltages 50 volts and greater, to provide some clarification regarding battery systems, Informational Note No. 3 was added: “Certain battery units are rated at nominal 48 volts dc but have a charging float voltage up to 58 volts. In dc applications, 60 volts is used to cover the entire range of float voltages.”

Article 110 General Requirements for Electrical Safety-Related Work Practices

 In addition to revisions and additions, Article 110 had a major reorganization with sections from other articles being relocated to this Article.

110.1 Priority. To emphasize the importance of an electrically safe work condition, this section was relocated from 105.4 to the very first section of Article 110. A new Informational Note 2. was also added that states: “An electrically safe work condition is a state wherein all hazardous electrical conductors or circuit parts to which a worker might be exposed are placed and maintained in a de-energized state, for the purpose of temporarily eliminating electrical hazards. See Article 120 for requirements to establish an electrically safe work condition for the period of time which the state is maintained.  See Informative Annex F for information regarding the hierarchy of risk control and hazard elimination”

110.1(l)(1) Job Safety Planning. An informational note was added referencing an example of a job safety planning check list in Informative Annex I.

110.2(A)(3) Additional Training and Retraining.  Since both types of training are addressed in this section, the words “Additional Training” were added to the title.

110.2(A)(4) Type of Training. An informational note was added: “Classroom training can include interactive electronic or interactive web-based training components.” to recognizes that electronic training is widely used.  Ahead of their time, who knew how the year 2020 would go with restricted travel, stay at home orders etc.  Brainfiller has interactive online training for both individuals and large scale company programs which can be found at:

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Brainfiller has a FREE one hour online overview of the major changes for the 2021 Edition of NFPA 70E which includes 1 hour of continuing education credit:

2021 NFPA 70E Major Changes

110.3 Electrically Safe Work Condition. Locating the requirement to de-energize from Article 130.2 prioritizes and emphasizes that de-energizing is a requirement of an Electrical Safety Program and the requirement to de-energize should be located before lockout requirements. Article 130 focuses on requirements related to work involving an electrical hazard.

110.3(C) Documentation. An informational note was added: “On multi-employer work sites (in all industry sectors), more than one employer can be responsible for identifying hazardous conditions and creating safe work practices.”

110.4(A) Testing The text “operating at voltages equal to or greater than 50 volts” was replaced with “where an electrical hazard exists” since there are more hazards then just the shock hazard. The revised text is: “Only qualified persons shall perform tasks such as testing, troubleshooting, and voltage measuring on electrical equipment where an electrical hazard exists.”

110.5(A) Electrical Safety Program. This section was previously 110.1(A) As directed by the Correlating Committee, all references to safety management systems and safety management standards have been removed from this section and relocated to an informative annex.

110.5 (K) Electrically Safe Work Policy. This new sub section states: “An electrical safety program shall include an electrically safe work condition policy that complies with 110.3” This correlates with the requirement in Article 120 and provides clarity by ensuring it becomes part of the employer’s electrically safety program.

110.12 Equipment Use. “Equipment shall be used in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions.”  This is a new section.

Article 120 Establishing an Electrically Safe Work Condition

 120.2(B) Lockout/Tagout Procedure

The text: “The procedure shall meet the requirements of applicable codes, standards, and regulations for lockout and tagging of electrical sources.” was added to require that any Article 120 compliant lockout/tagout procedure meet applicable requirements and regulations.

 120.3(C) Lockout Device. To align with OSHA 1910.333(b)(2)(iii)(E), new text was added “provided that all of the following conditions exist:

(a) Only one circuit or piece of equipment is de-energized.
(b) The lockout period does not extend beyond the work shift.
(c) Employees exposed to the hazards associated with re-energizing the circuit or equipment are familiar with this procedure.”

 120.5 Process for Establishing and Verifying an Electrically Safe Work Condition.

 120.5(5) Clarification was provided with revised text. “Block or relieve stored non-electrical energy devices that could re-energize electric circuit parts to the extent that the circuit parts could not be accidentally energized by the device.”

In addition, a new informational note was added that states: “For more information on methods and procedures to place capacitors in an electrically safe work condition, see 360.3, 360.5, and Informative Annex R, Working with Capacitors.”

 120.5(7) Informational No. 2 was added to reference the applicable product standard. “For additional information on rating and design requirements for permanently mounted absence of voltage testers, refer to UL 1436, Outlet Circuit Testers and Other Similar Indicating Devices.”

Article 130 Work Involving Electrical Hazards

 130.1 General. Sections 130.1 through 130.3 were rewritten to accommodate the relocation of information to 110.3.

130.4(B) Estimate of Likelihood and Severity. “The estimate of likelihood of occurrence of injury or damage to health and the potential severity of injury or damage to health shall take into consideration all of the following:

(1) The design of the electrical equipment
(2) The electrical equipment operating condition and the condition of maintenance”
This information was inserted to provide clarity and usability by aligning with 130.5.

Table 130.5(C) Estimate of the Likelihood of Occurrence of an Arc Flash Incident for ac and dc Systems. A new task was added as YES for likelihood of an arc flash incident for any condition. “Operation of a CB or switch the first time after installation or completion of maintenance in the equipment.”

 130.5(G) Incident Energy Analysis Method. Informational Note (e) was added stating: “The arc rating of outer layers worn over arc-rated clothing as protection from the elements or for other safety purposes, and that are not used as part of a layered system, shall not be required to be equal to or greater than the estimated incident energy exposure.” The rationale is the arc rating of outerwear that is not part of a layered system, is primarily for flame resistant properties if it is exposed to electrical arc discharge energy.

130.7 Personal and Other Protective Equipment (C)(1) General A new information note was added regarding examples of risk reduction methods that could be used when testing for absence of voltage when the estimated incident energy exposure is greater than the arc rating of commercially available arc-rated PPE.

NFPA 70E CapacitorsArticle 360 Safety-Related Requirements for Capacitors. This new article has been added regarding safety and capacitors.  In the past, capacitors have had only a brief mention including the statement introduced in the 2018 edition “Release stored electrical energy” as one of the steps in the process of establishing an electrically safe work condition.  This new Article contains six sections:

360.1 Scope.
360.2 Definitions.
360.3 Stored Energy Hazard Thresholds
360.4 Specific Measures for Personnel Safety
360.5 Establishing an Electrically Safe Work Condition for a Capacitor(s)
360.6 Grounding Sticks

Informational Annex D.4 IEEE 1584-2018 Calculation Method. This was updated to provide an overview of the new 2018 edition of IEEE 1584. Due to the complexity of the equations in the latest edition, they are not included in Annex D.

Informative Annex F.7 Battery Risk Assessment.  New annex material provides guidance for users on how to select PPE using a battery risk assessment process when multiple hazards are present.

Informative Annex R Working with Capacitors

This new annex was added as additional information regarding capacitors.

The 2021 Edition of NFPA 70E is scheduled to be available on September 4, 2020. Then comes the refresher training to bring everyone up to date with the latest requirements.  Before you know it, we will begin working on the 2024 Edition.


Based on my article originally published in the May 2020 Edition of Electrical Contractor Magazine.

Jim Phillips, P.E., is founder Brainfiller.com and provides electrical power, arc flash and electrical safety training globally.  His four decades of experience includes planning transmission systems, design and analysis of industrial, commercial and utility power systems and co-generation plant design. He is Vice-Chair of the IEEE 1584 Arc Flash Working Group, International Chair of IEC TC78 Live Working, Steering Committee Member – IEEE/NFPA Arc Flash Collaborative Research Project, Member of NFPA 70E Technical Committee and Associate Director – Electrical Safety UK Ltd. Rotherham, England