Understanding Electrical Arc Flash Protection in the Workplace

Learn more about electrical arc flash protection in the workplace and how to protect yourself and others in the process.

understanding arc flash protection

Electrocution is the fifth leading cause of workplace fatalities in the U.S. One to two fatalities occur daily due to arc flash in North America. 97% of all electricians have been shocked or injured on the job.

This informational page details the electrical-related NFPA 70E and OSHA standards and regulations, and also provides answers to commonly asked electrical-related questions, electrical glove sizing guidelines, personal protective equipment (PPE), and much more.


Arc Flash Standards and Requirements

Inside the NFPA 70E 2018 Standard:

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA 70E 2018) standard addresses electrical safety work practices and procedures for employees who work on or near exposed, energized electrical equipment. 

This standard requires employees to wear arc rated (AR) clothing that meets the requirements of ASTM F1959 whenever there is a possibility of an arc flash and the employee is within the restricted approach or arc flash boundaries. Prior to the performance of live work, employees must perform a risk assessment to determine the likelihood and severity of an arc flash to develop based on their work.


OSHA Requirements:

While OSHA has not formally adopted this standard, they have several comparable regulations to cite employers. See the table below charting these regulations.

One of the main things to remember is that, by adopting the use of flame resistant garments, compliance to OSHA requirements can be assured, and potentially more serious burn injuries from garment ignition may be avoided. Below some additional ASTM/OSHA guidelines that will help you stay compliant.


ASTM F1506 vs OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269:

OSHA has confirmed that garments which meet the requirements of ASTM F1506 are in compliance with OSHA 29 CFR 1910.269 Electrical Power Generation, Transmission, and Distribution, with regard to garments not contributing to burn severity.


ASTM F1958 Testing:

To address the industry’s request to utilize non-flame resistant clothing based on an analysis of their exposure level, ASTM developed F1958, whereby non-flame resistant garments, which do not meet the requirements of ASTM F1506, are tested on a manikin to determine the probability of ignition. The major problem associated with applying this test is that accidents typically do not follow a prescribed set of rules, so actual burn injuries could greatly vary from the results of the test.


Guidelines for Live Electrical Work

OSHA only allows work on live electrical parts under two special circumstances—when continuity of service is required and when de-energizing equipment would create additional hazards. In all other cases, lockout/tagout is the law.


Electrical Arc Flash FAQs

Below we’ve provided answers to commonly-asked electrical arc flash questions.

What Causes Arc Flash?

An arc flash occurs when an arc fault is formed from a short circuit or improperly connected conductors, resulting in an electrical explosion or discharge. Temperatures within an arc flash can reach in excess of 35,000 degrees, resulting in third degree burns, among other serious injuries.


What Happens to Clothing During Electrical Arc Flash?

Sometimes as a result of an arc flash, gas rapidly expands due to the superheating of air which produces a concussive blast that propels molten shrapnel at speeds that exceed the speed of sound; NFPA refers to this condition as arc blast. 

A byproduct of arc blast is blast overpressure which is produced when the blast shock wave reaches the sound barrier. Blast overpressure is fatal even down to 2 pounds per square inch where it crushes hollow organ systems such as the respiratory and gastrointestinal systems. For these reasons, 40cal/cm² is the largest arc flash exposure that PPE can protect against.


Related: Need help selecting the right Arc Flash Suit? Read our selection guide on how to choose the right arc flash suit for your job.


What if My Job Task is Not Listed in Table 130.7(C)(15)(a) of NFPA 70E?

An arc flash hazard analysis must be done. The Duke Power Flux Calculator is needed.


Is Compliance with NFPA 70E Mandatory?

No. NFPA 70E is a national consensus safety standard published by NFPA primarily to assist OSHA in preparing electrical safety standards. Federal OSHA has not incorporated it into the Code of Federal Regulations.


Can I Be Cited for Not Complying with NFPA 70E?

No. The employer must assess the workplace for electrical hazards and the need for PPE under 29CFR 1910.335(a)(1)(i). Details on how to comply with this standard are up to the employer. The employer is expected to use the best means available to comply with this requirement, and that is done through consensus standard NFPA 70E. Compliance with 70E will assure compliance with this OSHA requirement. In the event of an injury or death due to an electrical accident, if OSHA determines that compliance with 70E would have prevented or lessened the injury, OSHA may cite the employer under the general duty clause.


What Are the Regulations for Labeling Electrical Equipment?

Employers are responsible for complying with the NEC labeling requirements. This standard requires all switchboards, panel boards, industrial control panels, and motor control centers to be marked.


How Often Should Electrical Gloves Be Tested?

A minimum of every 6 months for most applications (exception is telecom).


Why Are Leather Glove Protectors so Expensive?

These gloves are specifically made to fit over the electrical gloves, offering the best dexterity possible. If customers use standard leather gloves, they will not be afforded nearly as good dexterity. If low-voltage electrical gloves are used without a leather protector, regulation specifies that these gloves be electrically retested to ensure no pinholes have developed.


Electrical Glove Sizing Guidelines

When choosing electrical gloves, you measure your hand as you would other gloves (circumference of the widest part of the hand). While we only stock large (9), x-large (10), and xx-large (11), we can special order electrical gloves down to a size medium (8). For half sizes, it is usually best to go up to the next size.

  • If you add a glove liner, you might want to have the customer consider going up one size.
  • For leather protectors, choose the exact same size as the electrical glove they go over.


Electrical Glove Classes


Shop Electrical Gloves


Arc Flash Accident-Injury Statistics: An Alarming Reality

This whitepaper discusses the dangers of arc flash in the workplace, important electrical-related steps you should be taking to mitigate the potential for injury, and some scary alarming flash accident/injury statistics you should be aware of. Download it for free today!


Download Arc Flash Whitepaper


Related Conney Services & Trainings

Below is information about a variety of electrical-related services and trainings. To learn more about these options contact our Certified Safety Professionals toll-free at 800-462-1947 or safetysupport@conney.com!

Electrical Glove Testing:

OSHA requires the repeated inspection of rubber insulating gloves every 6 months, and we are pleased to provide this service. These tests verify the integrity of the gloves so that the electrical safety of the person wearing them is ensured, and that the product meets or exceeds ASTM standards and OSHA regulations.

Testing options include:

  • Cleaning
  • Visual Inspection/Air Test
  • Electrical Test
  • Re-Certification Sheet/Packing Slip

Other testing services include hot sticks, blankets, sleeves, mats, and line hoses.


Shop Electrical Glove Testing


Arc Flash Assessments:

It is critical that sound arc flash risk assessment programs are in place to support employees in making appropriate decisions on a daily basis. Conney Safety partners with Faith Technologies to offer various package options to properly identify and label electrical systems and production control panels to both NFPA 70E compliance and OSHA expectations. Our focus is on safe work practices vs. some common national trends on performing “arc flash studies” which can sometimes leave employers searching for more help.

Properly conducted safety auditing programs can determine the minimum PPE workers must wear when they are near exposed energized equipment, and in many cases, our team can help recommend solutions to lower equipment hazards. We are here to help you build long-term programs that are based on real life practical applications of OSHA codes and NFPA 70E alike.


Download Arc Flash Whitepaper

Download Arc Flash Assessment Flyer

Download Electrical Arc Flash Ready Reference


Electrical/Arc Flash Training:

OSHA regulations in 29 CFR 1910.332 require electrical safety training for any employees who may reasonably be expected to face risk of injury due to electric shock or other electrical hazards. This basic safety training must cover the safety-related electrical work practices that are mandated by other OSHA rules, as well as any additional safety practices that may be needed to keep workers safe.

Conney provides these Electrical/Arc Flash Trainings, which can run from 30 minutes to 4 hours, depending if “qualified worker” documentation training is required, along with the complexity of the team’s current work environment. OSHA considers any workers who will work on or near exposed energized parts to be “qualified workers,” and those individuals need specialized training to help prevent electric shock. Other workers are considered “unqualified workers,” and primarily need training to recognize hazardous situations and keep away from them. “Qualified workers” must be trained to deal with those situations safely, as part of their duties.

Check out the case study below to learn more about a recent customized NFPA 70E Awareness Training we delivered.

Download NFPA 70E Training Case Study

Conney also delivers Lockout/Tagout services and trainings. You can learn more about our services, by visiting our Safety Services  page.