by Tim Coffey
Manager, Electrical Safety Services

Unplanned downtime, equipment failures and safety hazards brought on by the electrical infrastructure that was installed as a “run to fail” system can have severe consequences. To address these concerns, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has developed the NFPA 70B. This set of guidelines provides a framework for establishing and maintaining an effective electrical preventive maintenance (EPM) program. The NFPA 70B transitioned from a recommended practice to a standard as of January 2023. Understanding that a standard has language such as “shall” means that the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) can use the 70B as an enforceable code.

What Does the NFPA 70B Cover?
NFPA 70B, titled “Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance,” focuses on the maintenance of electrical systems and equipment to ensure their proper functioning and longevity. The standard covers a wide range of topics, offering guidelines on inspection, testing, and maintenance practices for various electrical components. One of the main benefits of following the NFPA 70B is that it allows for routine inspections and downtime for the electrical equipment. This is needed to perform the ongoing maintenance requirements in a nonstop demand of electricity. Machines need to have some maintenance performed from time to time, and following a program outlined from the NFPA 70B allows for frequency of inspections and testing.

Here are a few key components of NFPA 70B:

Scope and Purpose:

  1. NFPA 70B provides a systematic approach to electrical system maintenance, emphasizing the importance of preventing equipment failures and minimizing downtime.
  2. The standard works to establish a balance between cost-effectiveness and risk mitigation by defining the scope and purpose of an effective EPM program.

Risk Assessment:

  1. NFPA 70B encourages organizations to conduct a thorough risk assessment to identify critical equipment and potential failure modes.
  2. Understanding the risks associated with specific components allows for a tailored maintenance strategy, prioritizing resources where they are most needed.

Maintenance Intervals:

  1. The standard outlines recommended intervals for inspecting, testing and maintaining electrical equipment based on factors such as equipment type, criticality and historical performance.
  2. Most commonly used practices would include infrared inspections, grounding and bonding inspections and breaker testing.
  3. This approach helps organizations develop a proactive maintenance schedule rather than reacting to issues as they arise.

Documentation and Recordkeeping:

  1. NFPA 70B emphasizes the importance of maintaining detailed documentation of maintenance activities, test results and equipment history.
  2. Accurate recordkeeping facilitates trend analysis, identifies recurring issues and supports informed decision-making for future maintenance efforts.

Training and Qualifications:

  1. The standard highlights the need for trained and qualified personnel to perform maintenance tasks safely and effectively.
  2. Training programs should cover the specifics of the electrical systems in use, as well as the proper procedures for testing and maintenance outlined in NFPA 70B.

There are many benefits of adhering to the NFPA 70B such as:

Increased System Reliability:

  1. Following NFPA 70B guidelines helps organizations identify and address potential anomalies before they lead to equipment failure, increasing overall system reliability.

Enhanced Safety:

  1. Regular maintenance reduces the risk of electrical accidents, ensuring that equipment operates within safe parameters and meets relevant safety standards.
  2. Following manufacturers guidelines of normal working conditions means the equipment will perform at peak performance for safety and dependability.

Cost Savings:

  1. Proactive maintenance can extend the lifespan of electrical equipment, reducing the need for costly emergency repairs or premature failures and replacements.
  2. The era of “run to fail” with electrical equipment has ended, and the cost savings are exponentially higher when equipment has a preventative maintenance routine assigned to it.

Compliance with Regulations:

  1. Adhering to the NFPA 70B ensures compliance with industry standards and may be required by regulatory authorities, promoting a culture of safety and accountability.
  2. In the event of a catastrophic failure, not following the NFPA 70B could have costly implications from AHJ’s not to mention, employee safety.

The NFPA 70B standard plays a crucial role in promoting the reliability and safety of electrical systems. Utilizing an electrical preventive maintenance program based on these standards not only minimizes the risk of equipment failures but also contributes to the overall efficiency and longevity of the entire electrical system. As technology evolves and the demands on electrical infrastructure and equipment increases, utilizing programs outlined within the NFPA 70B helps to ensure that the equipment can meet the demands set before it.

As the demand for electricity grows every year, we must ensure the safe work environments for our workers and the public. Following the NFPA 70 (National Electrical Code), the NFPA 70E (Standard for Energized Electrical Work) and the NFPA 70B (Standard for Preventative Maintenance) allows for an overall safe work environment and reduces the risk of electrical failures including electrical fires.

How We Can Help
Should you have any questions regarding arc flash training or assessments, or have electrical safety concerns, please contact Tim Coffey at (404) 695-1013 or [email protected].