NFPA 70E Changes: Reducing Risk for the Electrical Worker – Absence of Voltage

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If you were not aware, the 2018 edition of NFPA70E will soon be released for publication.  There have been many enhancements, including changes to Article 120 involving lockout/tagout and absence of voltage testing (AVT).

2018 Edition – Article 120

In the upcoming 2018 edition, Article 120 has been arranged and expanded providing clarity to the sequence in establishing an electrically safe work condition.  Article 120 will appear as follows, with emphasis beginning on Lockout/Tagout.  (This is a change from the 2015 edition where the sequence began with testing for absence of voltage.)

Article 120.1, “Lockout/Tagout.

Article 120.2, “Lockout/Tagout Principles

Article 120.3, “Lockout/Tagout Equipment

Article 120.4, “Lockout/Tagout Procedures

Article 120.5, “Process for Establishing and Verifying an Electrical Safe Work Condition

A New Exception

Enhancements to Article 120.5, previously in the 2015 edition as 120.1, now include an exception that offers an alternative to the traditional hand-held test devices.  This new exception provides the option of using a permanently mounted device that is installed in accordance with the manufacturers’ instructions to test the conductors and circuit parts at the point of work.  It must be listed and labeled for the purpose of verifying the absence of voltage as outlined in the standard.  The requirement and new exception reads as follows:

Article 120.5:

  • Use an adequately rated portable test instrument to test each phase conductor or circuit part to verify it is de-energized. Test each phase conductor or circuit part both phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground.  Before and after each test, determine that the test instrument is operating satisfactorily through verification on any known voltage source.

Exception No 1:  An adequately rated permanently mounted test device shall be permitted to be used to verify the absence of voltage of the conductors or circuit parts at the work location, provided it meets all the following requirements:

  • It is permanently mounted and installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and tests the conductors and circuit parts at the point of work.
  • It is listed and labeled for the purpose of verifying the absence of voltage.
  • It tests each phase conductor or circuit part both phase-to-phase and phase-to-ground.
  • The test device is verified as operating satisfactorily on any known voltage source before and after verifying the absence of voltage.

Reducing Risk for the Worker

The benefit of this exception will be significant to the qualified worker performing these tasks.  Today, the sequence of activities includes turning off power, performing Lockout / Tagout procedures, selecting proper PPE for the hazard assuming the presence of power and testing with a hand-held test device.  Now, with the permanently mounted AVT, the worker will have the ability to (automatically) conduct the steps without being exposed to a hazard and needing PPE.

The worker can now verify absence of voltage while eliminating multiple steps in the standard sequence.

This change is one in a number of steps to provide a safer working environment for all electrical workers. To stay updated on NFPA 70E and other code changes, make sure to join our Electrical Contractor Portal, with free educational resources.

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