If you are involved in electrical safety then NFPA 70E “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace” may be a standard you often hear about. But many businesses ask, “How do I know if it applies to my company?” This standard virtually applies to every industry. Nearly every business has employees who work on or near energized parts. This includes employees who remove or install circuit breakers or fused switches, or who work on control circuits with energized parts greater than 120 volts. It’s important to understand how the standard applies to your business and ultimately how you provide your employees — your largest resource — with the proper equipment that will save lives.

Using NFPA 70E in your business may appear to be a daunting task. When you look at the standard, with its fine print, legal language and charts, just knowing where to begin can be overwhelming.

The process to become compliant begins with an assessment of the hazards associated with the jobs of your employees. In Table 130.7 (C)(9)(a) the standard lists various tasks and assigns a Hazard/Risk Category or HRC for each task.

Once you’ve completed the hazard analysis, the next step is to select the proper protective garments for the jobs your employees perform. With each HRC there is a minimum arc rating required for the protective garments. The arc rating, measured in cal/cm2, refers to the units of incident energy personal protective equipment can withstand only causing the onset of a second degree. The minimum requirements can be found in Table 130.7 (C)(11) of the standard. To put it in simple terms, you need to provide garments with arc ratings that match those of the Hazard/Risk Categories.

Sounds simple…

Let’s look at an example. Your employees perform jobs that are in HRC 1 for half of the day and HRC 2 for the remainder of the day. Every few days, a job will be in HRC 4. So, how do you provide your employees with protective garments to fulfill the minimum requirements of each of these categories?

Many companies are using a simplified approach, just as it is outlined in Annex H of the Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, 2004 Edition. The standard describes this as a “simplified approach to assure adequate PPE for electrical workers.”

This simplified approach breaks the clothing requirements into a two-category system instead of a four-category system. Using the example mentioned above, the employees need level 1, 2 and 4 protection. Instead of having three sets of clothing for each employee for each of these categories, companies may provide employees with one set of clothing to meet the minimum requirements for level 2 protection, which will provide adequate protection for most jobs. Then for those days when Level 4 jobs are performed, companies may have a few sets of the Level 4 gear to put on when needed. Ultimately, you would be using a two-category system, providing Level 2 protection as your daily-wear and Level 4 protection when needed.

Now comes picking out which garments and fabrics are best suited for your employees. There are some differences between clothing of these two hazard risks. The basic difference between the clothing for HRC 2 and HRC 4 is the minimum arc rating or ATPV. For HRC 2, clothing must have a minimum arc rating of 8 cal/cm2. For HRC 4, clothing must have a minimum arc rating of 40 cal/cm2. In other words, clothing for HRC 4 uses heavier fabrics (or layered fabrics) that can withstand greater amounts of energy than HRC 2 clothing.

To meet HRC requirements five primary flame-resistant fabrics are used in various garments: Nomex®/Rayon, Nomex® IIIA, Nomex® AP, Indura® and Indura® UltraSoft®.

To meet the HRC 2 clothing requirements (8 cal/cm2) the following garments in the following weights may be worn:


  • 4.5 oz. Nomex® IIIA Shirt (ATPV 4.4) *
  • 7 oz. Indura® Ultra Soft® Shirt (ATPV 8.2)
  • 8 oz. Nomex® AP Shirt (ATPV 8.9)


  • 6 oz. Nomex® IIIA Pants (ATPV 5.7) *
  • 9 oz. Indura® Ultra Soft® Pants (ATPV 11.1)
  • Indura® Denim Jeans (ATPV 16.0)


  • 6 oz. Nomex® IIIA Coveralls (ATPV 5.5) over cotton T-shirt and natural fiber pants
  • 9 oz. Indura® Ultra Soft® Coveralls (ATPV 11.1)

* Requires cotton undergarments to be Level 2 compliant

To meet the HRC 4 clothing requirements (40 cal/cm2) the following three items should be worn over natural fiber garments:

  • Arc Flash Jacket (minimum 40 cal/cm2)
  • Arc Flash Bib Overall (minimum 40 cal/cm2)
  • Arc Flash Hood (minimum 40 cal/cm2) with protective face shield

There are a several brands for the arc flash equipment, which are made of various fabrics. The brands include ArcGear™, Arc Guard® and Pro-Wear™.

Complying with NFPA 70E does not have to be complicated. Simplify it — this way you are managing and purchasing fewer garments and still achieving the same goal of protecting your employees.