7 Important FAQs: What Should Be on Arc Flash Labels

OSHA requirements, NFPA 70E guidelines, and more

When it comes to arc flash labels, exactly what should be on them and what you need for OSHA compliance can be a bit of a gray area. This is because OSHA regulations often mandate that you must put a safety precaution in place but do not always specify exactly how you should do it. In some cases, an OSHA regulation may specifically cite standards developed by other organizations. Meanwhile, in other cases, OSHA may leave it up to employers to choose how to accomplish the goal. Often, when the latter is the case, employers choose to follow widely accepted standards anyway to help protect employees from harm and themselves from possible litigation.

As we've mentioned before when discussing OSHA versus ANSI, OSHA must strike a balance between safety and practicality to make sure employers can realistically follow their regulations. However, organizations like ANSI, and in this case, the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), do not have the same practical concerns. Like ANSI, the NFPA is not a government agency but rather a non-profit organization devoted entirely to safety.

Because of the gray area that surrounds arc flash labels, in this article we are answering important, frequently asked questions that can help clear up the confusion. To that end, we will break down exactly what the OSHA regulations state, the NFPA 70E guidelines for arc flash labels, the right label materials and sizes to use, how to print them yourself, and more.

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1) Does OSHA require arc flash labels?

In a nutshell: OSHA does require labeling for electrical safety, but it does not specify how to warn employees of specific hazards, for example by requiring arc flash labels. To explain further, OSHA 29 CFR 1910 and 1926 cover requirements for electrical power generation, transmission, and distribution. While neither part specifies arc flash labels directly, two subparts discuss employer responsibilities for warning employees.

What are the OSHA rules on arc flash?

Firstly, 1910.303(e) states that "Electrical equipment must be marked with descriptive markings as necessary (voltage, current, wattage, etc.)." Secondly, 1910.335(b) states that "Employers must use alerting techniques (safety signs and tags, barricades, attendants, etc.) to warn and protect employees from hazards that could cause injury due to electric shock, burns, or failure of electric equipment parts."

You may be thinking that that is somewhat vague, and you're right. This is a prime example of a gray area you may encounter when interpreting OSHA regulations. Indeed, OSHA itself has discussed the interpretations of these regulations in more depth.

A diagram and example of what should be on arc flash labels. The diagram includes three elements required by NFPA 70E and three elements that are generally recommended as best practices. The NFPA 70E requirements include the nominal system voltage, arc flash boundary, and PPE requirements. Other recommendations include a danger or warning header, the limited approach distance, and the restricted approach distance.
Here is an example of what to include on an arc flash label following NFPA 70E guidelines and general best practices.

2) What should be on an arc flash label?

If OSHA doesn't explain what "properly labeled" means, then how do you know what to put on an arc flash label? As previously mentioned, the NFPA is an organization devoted to safety, and thus their guidelines are widely accepted as industry standards. Specifically, the NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace provides guidelines for what should be on arc flash labels.

Following NFPA 70E guidelines, there are three things that should be on any arc flash label. Firstly, the nominal system voltage (i.e., the value assigned to a system or circuit of a given voltage class for the purpose of convenient designation). Secondly, there is the "arc flash boundary." This is the farthest established boundary from an energy source where an employee could be exposed to curable second-degree burns during an arc flash. Thirdly, the type of personal protective equipment (PPE) that should be used in order to prevent injury.

Complete breakdown directly from NFPA 70E 130.5(H)

  1. Nominal system voltage
  2. Arc flash boundary
  3. At least one of the following:
    • Available incident energy and the corresponding working distance or the arc flash PPE category in Table 130.7(C)(15)(a) or Table 130.7(C)(15)(b) for the equipment but not both
    • Minimum arc rating of clothing
    • Site-specific level of PPE

Other elements you may want to include

  1. Danger or warning headers alert employees to possible workplace hazards. Danger headers on safety labels and signs typically indicate more serious and immediate hazards and require special precautions. Warning headers alert employees to hazardous situations of lesser severity in comparison to situations that require danger headers. For arc flash labels, a good guideline is to use danger headings whenever there is voltage over 600 or incident energy over 40 cal/cm2. Generally, you can use warning headers for voltage and incident energy lower than that.
  2. "Limited Approach," which means the distance within which a shock hazard exists.
  3. "Restricted Approach" indicates the distance within which there is an increased likelihood of electric shock.

Reasons you should use NFPA 70E guidelines

Firstly, NFPA 70E guidelines are standardized and widely accepted among industry professionals. Thus, it is more likely that electrical workers in general will already be at least somewhat familiar with them. Secondly, arc flash label requirements are discussed thoroughly by the NFPA, and NFPA 70E covers a variety of arc flash label requirements. Consequently, there is less guesswork for you.

Lastly, following widely accepted standards for safety often helps cover legal gray areas by satisfying vague OSHA requirements like the use of "alerting techniques." Should an incident occur, if you followed NFPA 70E labeling, it would be one way to demonstrate that you used a standard alerting method to warn and protect employees.

3) What are the 4 arc flash categories?

The four arc flash categories indicate levels of risk that help determine what type of PPE employees will need in order to work safely. Accordingly, each category requires a different level of protection.

  1. PPE Category 1: Minimum Arc Rating 4 cal/cm2
  2. PPE Category 2: Minimum Arc Rating 8 cal/cm2
  3. PPE Category 3: Minimum Arc Rating 25 cal/cm2
  4. PPE Category 4: Minimum Arc Rating 40 cal/cm2

4) What size label is best for arc flash?

Generally, for electric equipment, labels about the size of an index card or postcard are the most practical. On the whole, that means a range of sizes from 3 by 5 inches to 5 by 7 inches. Specifically, we recommend these 3-1/2" x 5" vinyl labels or these 5" x 7" vinyl labels. Our vinyl labels are very durable and are ideal for heavy-duty spaces indoors and outdoors, and they even adhere well to difficult surfaces such as cinderblock, cement, and curves. However, other types of label materials, such as UltraDuty®, Surface Safe®, and reflective film, can also work well for arc flash labels in the same sizes.

On the other hand, adhesive safety signs for arc flash safety should be big enough to read from several feet away, so 7 by 10 inches is an appropriate size. Again, vinyl material is the best for creating this type of safety sign, so we recommend our 7" x 10" vinyl sign labels. Similar to arc flash labels, while vinyl is usually the best choice, Ultra Duty, Surface Safe, and reflective films can also work for arc flash safety signs.

Of course, if you need a different size label for specific equipment, you can also buy blank labels by the sheet. Besides reflective film, all of the materials mentioned above are available by the sheet. You can choose any size up to 7" by 10" and even request custom sizes at no extra cost. Moreover, you can print our blank labels (whether bought in packages or by the sheet) right from your desktop printer. Incidentally, for the best print quality, it's important to always choose the labels that match the type of printer you have. You can read more in depth about that here.

Best printable label sizes & materials for arc flash safety

Best Sizes

Label Material




3-1/2" x 5"

5” x 7”

7" x 10"

Surface Safe (PET) Film



Temporary Use

3-1/2" x 5"

5” x 7”

7" x 10"

Outdoor Vinyl


UV Rays
Tears Abrasion

Semi-Rough Surfaces

3-1/2" x 5"

7” x 10”

UltraDuty GHS (PET) Film


UV Rays
Tears Abrasion


3-1/2" x 5"

5” x 7”

7” x 10”

Reflective (PET) Film


UV Rays
Tears Abrasion


Table 1. Use this table to compare different label materials in the best sizes for arc flash labels.

An image showing an example of where arc flash labels should be placed. Two workers in orange safety vests and hard hats are standing next to an industrial control panel with a large 7 by 10 inch warning label for arc flash and shock hazard.
Arc flash labels should be placed on electrical equipment such as switch boards, panel boards, industrial control panels, meter socket enclosures, and motor control centers.

5) Where should arc flash labels be placed?

Presently, this is another question that the OSHA regulation does not answer. However, NFPA 70E 130.5(H) specifically addresses the issue:

"Electrical equipment such as switchboards, panelboards, industrial control panels, meter socket enclosures, and motor control centers that are in other than dwelling units and that are likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing, or maintenance while energized shall be marked with a label ..."

Two images side by side show examples of custom arc flash labels printed on Avery labels. The image on the right side shows several sheets of warning and danger labels for arc flash and shock hazards. The image on the left side shows a laptop with a screen open to Avery Design and Print Online free software next to a laser printer with labels coming out.
You can make your own arc flash labels right from your desktop. Customize a free template online, then print on Avery signs and labels for laser printers.

6) Who makes arc flash labels?

While a variety of retailers manufacture preprinted arc flash labels, Avery Industrial makes arc flash labels (and signs) that you can customize and print on standard desktop printers. In fact, you can start making arc flash labels immediately by using our templates, which you can use as-is or customize for free using Avery Design and Print Online (ADPO).

Furthermore, we designed ADPO to be a cloud-based software with all the design tools you expect, plus a few extra features for the workplace. For example, we built in a free barcode generator tool within ADPO that is simple to use. Additionally, with a paid subscription, you can access the Avery GHS Wizard® and create GHS chemical safety labels in minutes.

Try customizing an arc flash label template in ADPO now.

Watch a short video with tips for printing on Avery labels.

7) How do I print arc flash labels?

All things considered, printing arc flash labels is relatively easy because, provided you use Avery Industrial labels, you don't need any special equipment. In fact, the general instructions for how to print labels apply to all Avery labels, so if you've printed on any Avery label product before, then you're all set. However, here is a quick rundown of the basic steps for printing arc flash labels:

  1. Go to ADPO and enter your product number
  2. Select the layout of your labels (e.g. portrait or landscape)
  3. Choose the design you want to use
  4. Enter custom text as needed
  5. Preview, save the project, then download the PDF to print

Helpful tips for printing arc flash labels

Additionally, you will want to use these tips to make sure your arc flash labels print at the best quality. Although we've mentioned it before, it really is very important to make sure the labels you use match the type of printer that you have. For instance, if you try to use laser-printable labels with an inkjet printer, the ink will not be stable and simply never "dry" or set. If you try to use inkjet-printable labels with a laser printer, your labels may melt.

Additionally, for the best print quality, go into your printer settings and set the scale to 100. Then print a test sheet on plain paper to make sure everything is correct. If no adjustments need to be made, go back to settings and change the printer type to "labels," "cardstock," "specialty," or "heavy-weight." These settings communicate to your printer that it will be printing on sheets that are thicker than regular paper.

Of course, after customizing, you can also order custom-printed arc flash labels using our affordable custom-printing services. Order as few as two sheets of labels or hundreds of sheets, and your order ships in as little as three days.

What you need to know about arc flash labels

OSHA does not specifically reference arc flash labels, but at the end of the day, employers are still morally and legally responsible for alerting employees to electrical hazards in the workplace. Because this includes warning against the risk and preventing electrical shock from arc flashes, looking to other safety experts is paramount.

Fortunately, the NFPA is a non-profit organization dedicated to safety. Additionally, the guidelines that they develop are widely accepted as industry standards. For that reason, many consider it best practices to follow the NFPA 70E guidelines for electrical safety. Moreover, NFPA 70E specifically addresses what should be on arc flash labels, which includes the following:

  1. Nominal system voltage
  2. Arc flash boundary
  3. PPE requirements

Of course, there are other elements that employers commonly include as well. These include danger or warning headers, limited approach distances, and restricted approach distances.

Creating and printing arc flash labels yourself

When it comes to the size of arc flash labels, sizes about the size of an index card or postcard (approximately 3" x 5" to 5" x 7") work for most electric equipment. In comparison, 7" x 10" is a more appropriate size for arc flash signs. Regardless of the size you need, it's very easy to make your own arc flash labels right from your desktop. Overall, we recommend our vinyl labels for arc flash labels and signs. However, UltraDuty, Surface Safe, and reflective films also work well, and all of the labels mentioned can be printed on regular desktop printers. And, you can customize arc flash label templates online for free using Avery Design and Print Online. Or, we can print them for you.

Shop vinyl labels and signs

Please note, the contents of this article and related articles on avery.com/industrial are for informational purposes only, are general in nature, and are not intended to and should not be relied upon or construed as a legal opinion or legal advice regarding any specific issue or factual circumstance.