What is the difference between NFPA 70E and EN 50110?

The differences between the United State’s NFPA 70E standard and Europe’s EN 50110 standard are enough to warrant a comparison of the two. The following are a handful of significant differences between the two electrical safety standards:

Training requirements and personnel responsibilities

  • NFPA 70E – There are two different classifications of personnel described in this standard and those are the qualified and the unqualified. The qualified are those authorized to work in a specific area after extensive training of the construction and operation of electrical equipment residing there. The qualified must also be able to recognize all the relevant hazards present in their workspace. On the other hand, the unqualified are only trained for safety related practices around electrical equipment and the relevant hazards.
  • EN 50110 – There are three levels of training within the EN 50110 standard and those are the skilled, the instructed, and the ordinary. The skilled operators are the only ones responsible for all working activities and the instructed workers are responsible for their specific equipment. The ordinary classification is for those who need supervision when performing their tasks. Both the skilled and the instructed need to have a certification to prove their competence.

Personnel who hold organizational responsibilities

  • NFPA 70E – The employer is the one responsible for organizing tasks to be completed by certain employees for installation and general work activity whereas work procedures that need approval are organized by personnel that hold the title of Authority Having Jurisdiction, or AHJ. This person, office, or organization is usually specially trained in specific technical procedures that managers normally lack expertise in.
  • EN 50110 – Electrical installation and approvals are usually handled by those with the tile of Nominated Person in Control of the Electrical Installation, or NPCEI. Work activity is handled by those with the title of Nominated Person in Control of the Work Activity, or NPCWA. The idea with these two authorities is that they work together to meet the company’s objectives in electrical safety rather than give all the power to higher ups that may not have enough experience in particular situations.

General work requirements

  • NFPA 70E – The NFPA standard requires an electrical safety program for planning that includes specifications for practical use involving LOTO procedures and safety audits. 70E also requires the employees to check before and after the work is completed with voltage detectors to ensure safety. Lastly, there must be regular verification and testing to see if all electrical components are working.
  • EN 50110 – The European standard hands the work planning responsibilities to the NPCEI and the NPCWA rather than lay out a safety program for all electrical procedures. Rather than prioritizing LOTO and audits, 50110 focuses on protective devices and procedures. Lastly, they encourage employees to use voltage detection devices before and preferably after the task is performed.

Space limitations in work areas

  • NFPA 70E – This standard specifies flash protection boundaries in the air as well as has approach limits for workers. The approach limits are specified as limited, restricted, and prohibited.
  • EN 50110 – Europe’s standard for distances in air are described as electrical distance, ergonomic component, and minimum working distance. On the other hand, their approach limits are described as the live working zone and the vicinity zone.

Overall, the users of these standards may notice that the 70E standard is more specific than the EN 50110 standard. This is because 70E is an all-encompassing document in comparison to the EN 50110 standard which incorporates other more detailed standards that the user must follow in addition to the EN 50110 standard. With that being said, the intentions of keeping workers safe are the same, just the way that both standard documents go about getting there is slightly different.


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