Written by Steve Hudgik
What types of labels does the National Electric Code require?
The most frequently mentioned labels are NFPA 70E arc flash labels. These are also known as NEC arc flash protection labels. When NFPA 70 was originally written the NFPA 70 Committee derived Part I of the 70E standard from the 1978 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC). This established the relationship between NFPA standards and the National Electric Code. Both NFPA 70E and the National Electrical Code specifies the arc flash labeling requirements.
The arc flash labeling requirements are specified in Article 110.16 of the National Electric Code. They state:
"110.16 Flash Protection. Switchboards, panel boards, industrial control panels, and motor control centers in other than dwelling occupancies that are likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance while energized, shall be field marked to warn qualified persons of potential electric arc flash hazards. The marking shall be located so as to be clearly visible to qualified persons before examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance of the equipment."The arc flash labeling requirements of NFPA 70E 2012 included the above and more.
The National Electric Code covers much more than arc flash. For example, the National Electric Code requires labels on solar panels to identify DC disconnects, inverters and combiner boxes.
National Electric Code labeling requirements are also used by OSHA.
OSHA's electrical standards were developed to cover those parts of an electrical system that an employee would normally use or contact. The OSHA electrical standards are based on the National Fire Protection Association's standard NFPA 70E, which means it is based, in part, on the National Electric Code. When NFPA used the NEC they selected those sections most directly related to employee safety and least likely to change with each new edition of the NEC. OSHA has a similar interest.
Since OSHA's electrical standards are performance oriented they contain few direct references to the National Electrical Code. However, if needed, the NEC contains specific information as to how the required performance can be obtained.
OSHA states that electrical equipment shall be free from recognized hazards that are likely to cause death or serious physical harm to employees. Safety of equipment shall be determined, in part, by ensuring it's suitability for installation and use. OSHA states, "Suitability of equipment for an identified purpose may be evidenced by listing or labeling for that identified purpose." This type of labeling is normally done by the manufacturer.
OSHA also requires the identification of disconnecting means and circuits. This type of labeling must be done in your facility, and you are responsible for maintaining it and keeping labels up to date. OSHA states:
"Each disconnecting means required by this subpart for motors and appliances shall be legibly marked to indicate its purpose, unless located and arranged so the purpose is evident. Each service, feeder, and branch circuit, at its disconnecting means or overcurrent device, shall be legibly marked to indicate its purpose, unless located and arranged so the purpose is evident. These markings shall be of sufficient durability to withstand the environment involved.
Each disconnect switch or overcurrent device required for a service, feeder, or branch circuit must be clearly labeled to indicate the circuit's function, and the label or marking should be located at the point where the circuit originates. For example, on a panel that controls several motors or on a motor control center, each disconnect must be clearly marked to indicate the motor to which each circuit is connected.
If the purpose of the circuit is obvious, no identification of the disconnect is required.
All labels and markings must be durable enough to withstand weather, chemicals, heat, corrosion, or any other environment to which they may be exposed."
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