NFPA 70B Is a Critical Tool for Reliability and Safety
January 2023 was a significant month in the evolution of NFPA 70B as it transitioned from the Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance to the Standard for Electrical Equipment Maintenance. Issued by the NFPA® Standards Council on December 27, 2022, the 2023 edition of NFPA 70B, Standard for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, became effective on January 16, 2023, when it was approved as an American National Standard by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
It has been 50 years since the first version of NFPA 70B was issued in 1973 as a recommended practice, which provided recommendations on what should be done. Now, the move to a standard provides more enforceability for what must be done when it comes to electrical equipment maintenance. That is a win-win for both the reliability of electrical equipment and the overall safety of the electrical systems and those individuals tasked with working on them.
Why is electrical equipment maintenance important?
Unexpected shutdowns can be detrimental to companies, yet they happen every day due to equipment failure. Just as vehicles require regular upkeep to remain reliable as usage and aging persist, maintenance is also vital for electrical systems to stay dependable when they are needed.
Even more critical than the safety of the electrical system itself is the safety of those responsible for working on those systems. Equipment can be replaced; lives cannot. In part, the defined purpose of NFPA 70B is “to provide for the practical safeguarding of persons, property, and processes from the risks associated with failure, breakdown, or malfunction” of electrical equipment. An additional part of the scope also serves to provide “a means to establish a condition of maintenance of electrical equipment and systems for safety and reliability.”
A key term within the defined purpose of NFPA 70B is condition of maintenance. If you work regularly with electrical codes and standards, that term may be familiar to you. According to a quick search using NFPA LiNK®, the term condition of maintenance is used 59 times in the 2023 edition of NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®), and six times in the 2021 edition of NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®.
While the term is mentioned fewer times in NFPA 70E, establishing a condition of maintenance is paramount in being able to accomplish the requirements outlined within the pages of the document to help keep workers safe. As an example, NFPA 70E, Section 110.5(A), requires employers to implement and document an electrical safety program (ESP) that directs activity appropriate to the risk associated with electrical hazards. Additionally, the ESP is required to include elements that consider the condition of maintenance of electrical equipment and systems.
Without question, electrical equipment that has not been maintained properly or is not functioning properly poses a significant additional risk to those who are working on that equipment and its associated systems. NFPA 70E states that we must address and consider conditions of maintenance for applications—for example, estimating the likelihood of severity in both shock risk and arc flash risk assessments.
NFPA 70B is the standard that can now be both utilized and enforced, to ensure that the proper conditions of maintenance have been established.
Along with NFPA 70B and NFPA 70E, it is also important to keep in mind that the NEC is an important part of this conversation. A code-compliant installation that has been designed, installed, and inspected in accordance with NEC requirements is foundational in being able to incorporate the other standards. Once installation has taken place, NFPA 70B can assist in the maintenance aspect, while NFPA 70E can provide the work practices necessary to keep employees safe, while also meeting Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requirements. The NEC, NFPA 70B, and NFPA 70E all become critical components, one just as important as the others, in order to achieve the electrical cycle of safety.
While it may take some time for jurisdictions to determine how to best utilize and enforce NFPA 70B, the NFPA Standards Council’s recent decision to make the document a standard opens the door to that possibility. Because proper maintenance is critical to achieving reliability and safety of electrical equipment and systems—and, more importantly, the safety of workers that interact with them—it is well worth the effort to enforce NFPA 70B as a standard, making it another tool to assist in achieving overall electrical safety in the world.
Find out more information and gain free access to the standard by visiting the NFPA 70B document information page.