Understanding OSHA arc flash regulations means staying up-to-date on an ever-changing range of safety regulations and recommendations. It’s a complex issue, but given the dangers associated with arc flash, it’s one you cannot afford to neglect.

What is Arc Flash?

An arc flash occurs when an electrical current jump off its intended route and travels through the air. The flash can exceed temperatures of over 35,000 Fahrenheit, hot enough to vaporize metal from solid to gaseous states. Injuries due to burns, electrocution, explosions, fires, and shrapnel are all possible within a fraction of a second.

An arc flash is considered a recognized hazard by OSHA, which requires employers to adhere to several stringent safety standards, as outlined below:

  • 29 CFR 1910.132(d)(1) requires employers complete a PPE hazard assessment to determine necessary personal protective gear around equipment capable of producing arc flashes.

  • 29 CFR 1910.332(b)(1) requires all employees be trained and familiar with electrical safety-related work practices as they apply to their job assignments.

  • 29 CFR 1910.333(b)(2)(iv)(B) requires a qualified person test all circuit elements and electrical parts of equipment to which employees may be exposed and verifies that circuit elements and equipment parts are properly de-energized.

  • 29 CFR 1910.335(a)(1)(i) requires all employees working in areas of potential electric hazards be provided with and use electrical protective equipment appropriate for the work to be performed and specific body parts that require protection.

  • •29 CFR 1910.335(a)(1)(iv) requires the use of nonconductive head protection in circumstances where head injury from electric shock or burns due to contact with exposed energized parts is a possibility.

  • 29 CFR 1910.335(a)(1)(v) requires protective equipment for the eyes or face if there is any danger of injury to the eyes or face from electric arcs, flashes, or flying objects resulting from electrical explosion.

  • 29 CFR 1910.335(a)(2) requires the use of insulated tools and handling equipment if contact is likely to be made with conductors or circuit parts.

  • 29 CFR 1910.269(l)(6)(iii) requires employers ensure no employee working at electric power generation, transmission, and distribution facilities who is exposed to the hazards of flames or electric arcs wears clothing that could increase the extent of injury in the event of such hazards.

  • 29 CFR 1926.28(a) requires the use of appropriate PPE during construction work.

What about NFPA 70E?

Understanding OSHA arc flash regulations includes an understanding of the National Fire Protection Association’s reference guide, the 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. OSHA uses the NFPA 70E recommendations when issuing citations.

Training and Retraining

OSHA requires all employees working with electrical equipment understand and implement the safety standards put forth in NFPA 70E. Documentation of training alone is not sufficient—to remain compliant with OSHA arc flash regulations, you also need to prove you perform regular field audits to ensure employees are applying the safety practices covered by their NFPA 70E training.

Some Things Stay Constant

While OSHA arc flash regulations themselves change regularly, some requirements for meeting OSHA arc flash regulations are unlikely to change:

  • All electrical equipment labels must be current and up-to-date

  • Regular field audits are essential

  • Electrical systems must receive real-time updates

  • All employees must receive standardized training in electrical and arc flash safety procedures

  • All training participation, safety procedures, audits, and electrical maintenance must be thoroughly documented.

Understanding OSHA arc flash regulations saves lives and protects companies from liability lawsuits, equipment damage, and costly citations. Stay informed, and keep an eye out for OSHA releases about electrical safety as regulations change.