What is NFPA 790 & NFPA 791?

NFPA 790 – Standard for Competency of 3rd Party Field Evaluation Bodies and NFPA 791 – Recommended Practice and Procedures for Unlabeled Electrical Equipment Evaluation were published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in 2013. Together, NFPA 790 and 791 act as guidance documents for AHJs and offer a recommended framework for managing the evaluation and labeling process for uncertified electrical equipment. Prior to the publication of NFPA 790 and 791, AHJs did not have a formal process for recognizing Field Evaluation Bodies. NFPA 790 and 791 are resources which AHJs can use to manage field evaluation activities and formally recognize third parties performing field evaluations in their jurisdictions. Both standards are significant to the 2017 National Electric Code (NFPA 70) which for the first time references Field Evaluation Bodies.

What is an FEB? What do they do and why are they important?

FEBs are third-party conformity assessment bodies which evaluate unlisted electrical equipment to determine compliance with national product safety standards. They are referred to as Field Evaluation Bodies because the evaluations take place on-site at points of installation rather than in a laboratory-setting. They’re important because they fill the gap for equipment that is not subject to a traditional certification or safety listing.

How do FEBs help inspectors?

FEBs help inspectors by assuring compliance to relevant standards in commercial and industrial settings in an inspector’s jurisdiction. Inspectors are responsible for verifying compliance to the NEC (NFPA 70), however, the NEC is not a primary assessment document. The evaluations performed by FEBs demonstrate that the unlabeled equipment is capable of being installed in accordance with the National Electrical Code.

How do AHJs decide which FEBs to approve?

Prior to the publication of NFPA 790 and 791, there have been no formal criteria for the qualification of Field Evaluation Bodies. Some AHJs recognized groups affiliated with Nationally Recognized Test Laboratories or groups with similar conformity assessment credentials such as IAS accreditation. Other AHJs have created their own qualification criteria.

What is the difference between a FEB and an NRTL? Can a NRTL be an FEB?

Historically, the industry has viewed NRTLs as qualified to perform Field Evaluations; however, OSHA’s NRTL Directive does not include requirements or provide recognition for field evaluation activities. While many NRTLs may offer FEB services, their NRTL status should not be viewed as a FEB accreditation. NFPA 790 and 791 aim to clarify FEB qualifications by setting forth procedural guidelines and other criteria for the recognition and operation of field evaluation activities.

What impact will NFPA 790/791 have on me?

While not mandatory, NFPA 790 and NFPA 791, set the standard for FEB recognition and the performance of a field evaluation. NFPA 790 and 791 were developed as consensus standards by the American Council of Electrical Safety and involved the input of numerous NRTLs, FEBs, and other industry stakeholders. Together, NFPA 790 and 791 close a critical gap for product safety by formalizing the process and requirements for unlabeled electrical equipment. AHJs should adopt these requirements within their jurisdictions to assure that equipment evaluated in the field is done in a safe, consistent way.