Electrical panels are an integral part of large and small facilities throughout the United States. They provide control over the energy that keeps machines operating, lights buzzing, and computers running, yet they’re easy to ignore during the day-to-day routine. (In fact, electrical requirement violations are routinely among OSHA’s top 10 safety citations each year.)
It’s important, then, to know OSHA’s regulations for maintaining clear, safe areas around electrical panels—and how to best communicate those boundaries.
Complying with OSHA Regulations for Electrical Panels
OSHA’s standard for general electrical requirements (29 CFR §1910.303) includes a section for establishing and maintaining space around electrical panels and other systems that require servicing, adjustments, or maintenance while energized.
Here’s a broad breakdown of space requirements when planning around electrical panels:
- Sufficient access and working space must be provided around an electrical panel
- The width of the space in front of an electrical panel must be the width of the equipment or 30 inches, whichever is wider
- The working space must allow for a hinged panel or equipment door to open at a 90° angle
- The vertical space must extend from the grade, floor, or platform immediately in front of the electrical panel to either:
- 6 feet, 3 inches above the ground (for buildings or areas constructed before August 13, 2007)
- 6 1/2 feet above the ground (for buildings constructed after August 13, 2007)
- The clear working space in front of an electrical panel (or piece of electrical equipment) must be:
- 2 1/2 feet if the electrical equipment was built before April 16, 1981
- 3 feet when the nominal voltage is between 0 and 150 volts
- 3 to 4 feet when the nominal voltage is between 151 and 600 volts
- 3 to 5 feet when the nominal voltage is between 601 and 2,500 volts
- 4 to 6 feet when the nominal voltage is between 2,501 and 9,000 volts
- 5 to 9 feet when the nominal voltage is between 9,001 and 25,000 volts
- 6 to 10 feet when the nominal voltage is between 25,001 and 75,000 volts
- 8 to 12 feet when the nominal voltage is over 75,000 volts
Note: The exact working space measurements depend on voltage, insulation, and exposed live and ground parts that may be present. Consult Table S-1 and S-2 in 29 CFR §1910.303 for more detailed guidance on boundary measurements.
OSHA also lists specific requirements for switchboards, panelboards, and distribution boards that control a building’s light and power circuits. Those installations must follow these requirements:
- The vertical space must extend from the grade, floor, or platform immediately in front of the electrical panel to a structural ceiling or 6 feet, whichever is lower
- The space equal to the width and depth of the equipment must be kept clear, unless it’s used to protect against condensation, leaks, sprinklers, and other damage
Additional Tips for Electrical Panel Compliance
OSHA also maintains a few rules when pipes, ducts, and other equipment may be present near electrical panels. Those rules include the following:
- The area of the electrical equipment should generally be kept clear of any other material, equipment, piping, or ducting systems
- This clear space should include the entire footprint of the equipment, and extend upwards to six feet above the top of the equipment (or to the structural ceiling, if that is lower)
- Pipes, ducts, and other equipment may not be located in this “headroom” space unless there is effective physical protection in place, including drip-proofing or leak-proofing, as appropriate
Establishing Boundaries with Floor Marking
Once you’ve established boundaries around an electrical panel, it’s time to consider how to best communicate those borders. OSHA offers no requirements for specific floor marking colors or requirements, but generally accepted best practices can guide your decision-making process.
Here’s how floor marking can make those borders clear and keep workers safe:
- Striped hazard tape: The bright colors and stark contrast of striped hazard tape makes it easy to see from a distance; most facilities use red-and-white striped tape or black-and-yellow striped tape for outlining clearance areas around electrical equipment
- Solid color floor marking: Solid floor marking tape can denote areas when striped floor marking is used elsewhere as part of a wider color-coded system; yellow floor marking typically signals caution and indicates pedestrian paths and work areas, while white tape is most often used for general purposes
- Floor signs: Use large, durable floor signs to alert workers to electrical panels, and remind them to keep the area clear; this can clarify and reinforce the messages communicated with floor marking tape
Floor Marking Resources from Graphic Products
Get started with floor marking with two free guides from Graphic Products. Learn more about floor marking applications, regulations, and resources with our Best Practice Guide to Floor Marking, and learn about common uses for various types of floor marking tape with our Floor Marking Color Chart.