Solutions for Safety & Visual Communication
By Steve Hudgik
A new section was added to the 2012 edition of NFPA 70E that raises the level of detail required on certain labels. Section, 130.5(C) requires:
Electrical equipment such as switchboards, panelboards, industrial control panels, meter socket enclosures, and motor control centers that are in other than dwelling units and are likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing or maintenance while energized, shall be field marked with a label containing all the following information:
NFPA 70E 2012 provides an exception to the above so that labels that were applied prior to September 30, 2011 do not need to be replaced. These older labels are acceptable, if they contain the available incident energy or required level of PPE.
In addition to the above, many facilities are labeling bus ducts and other electrical equipment. Any electrical equipment that might be accessed while hot poses a risk of arc flash, and should be labeled to make workers aware of the hazard.
Technically, equipment installed prior to 2002 only needs to be labeled if it has been modified or upgraded in any way since 2002. An arc flash survey done by the NEC in 2007 showed that only about 14% of equipment installed prior to 2002 had arc flash labels. This is not good news, both from the employee safety and liability standpoints. Without regard to the age of the equipment, arc flash labels are the first line of defense in preventing arc flash injuries.
What Information Must Be Included on Labels? NFPA 70E 2012 requires that one of two specific pieces of information appear on arc flash labels: available incident energy or the required level of PPE. These values are determined by an arc flash hazard analysis, and need to be calculated separately for each piece of equipment labeled.
Danger or Warning Labels? ANSI Z534.4 states that a DANGER header should only be used in the "most extreme situations" in which an accident can result in injury or death. A good guideline is to use DANGER labels when incident energy is above 40 cal/cm2. A WARNING header should be used in all other situations in which an accident can result in injury or death. The colors of the headers should match those shown on this page.
Updating Your Arc Flash Labels: NFPA 70E requires that all arc flash analysis be reviewed at least every five years to "account for changes in the electrical distribution system that could affect the results of the arc flash hazard analysis." Although this does not require changes in arc flash labels, some consultants are recommending that the date of the arc flash analysis be included on the each label.
Other Information On Labels: Additional information such as approach boundaries, voltage, or assumed working distance is also commonly included on arc flash labels.
The labels shown on this page were made by the DuraLabel PRO printer using DuraLabel supplies. The DuraLabel PRO can print die-cut arc flash labels, like those shown above. This type of label provides a consistent format for all arc flash labels with space for all desired information.
The DuraLabel PRO can also print single color vinyl labels or two-color vinyl labels, shown to the left. This type of label provides the greatest flexibility for formatting and design.
The NEC requires that labels must be located so that they are clearly visible to personnel before beginning maintenance or inspection. In other words, workers must be able to see and read the label before they are exposed to an arc flash hazard. This includes workers who might not be involved in working on the equipment, but are just passing through the area. Labels must be large enough to be legible at distances of up to several yards, depending on the severity of the hazard.