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December 4, 2012 Previous day Next day

Seven new panels started today with the excitement of opening day. People are energized and ready to get underway.

DictionaryIn a big way, today proved my favorite irony of the code making process. We fill rooms (and have long waiting lists) of electrical experts you would think like to debate the advantages and disadvantages of different technologies and that does happen. However if an outsider were to walk in to a panel meeting they might think they might in a meeting of hostile book editors. We fill the panel with technical experts and they fight over English!

To that end the code committees invent words and introduce their own oxymorons. Today’s panels were full of the word overcurrent, which no spell checker likes but every electrical person in the world understands. Additionally, a terrific presentation was done today in panel 10 dealing with circuit breakers introducing arc reduction, but also enhancing the English language with the concept of “adjustable instantaneous” HUH?

Panel 10 did provide us with a great definition of “Good Code,” that it be:

  1. Practical
  2. Enforceable
  3. Adoptable

HOME RUN- a great definition!

Panel 16 talked at length about cables that don’t carry electricity; fiberoptics, another word spell check doesn’t like.

The ECC (Electrical Code Coalition) held an update luncheon today to discuss the progress made on their website which is in the final stages of construction. The Coalition is a group of Electrical Organizations that work together to facilitate the adoption of the NEC, promote the third party assessment, and support the need for code enforcement. A lot of good work has been done and with much more to go. A brief update was given on the current state of adoption for the 2011 edition. The coalition has been very successful in pushing through adoptions, as well as keeping them from going backwards in the area of public safety in a few states. At the end of the meeting the coalition explained its strategy for working with promulgating agencies.

What a day for vocabulary!

The three code making panels (7, 10, and 18) all finished the first day with a new world record. Their efficiency was enhanced by task group work that combined numbers of similar comments so they could be addressed as a group. A great technique used for years by the NEC panels. This concept has been incorporated in the new NFPA codes and standards process, which is one of many enhancements of the new system that will really streamline the NFPA code making process. SO as a new world record was set today it will probably not stand for long as the 2017 NEC will embrace the new NEC process and enhance its efficiency. 

-Bill Burke, NFPA Division Manager, Electrical

With the request to enter into a revision cycle approved by the Standards Council, the Preliminary Daft of NFPA 652, Standard on Combustible Dust, is now accepting public input until January 4, 2013.  The big question circling this document, what are the fundamentals of combustible dusts?


If you were to go through the different NFPA dust standards, you will notice similar requirements.  The requirements may not be exactly the same throughout the standards, but the general underlying ideas are there.

The Technical Committee (TC) started the draft out with four main chapters that circle around four basic concepts in each of the dust standards: hazard identification, hazard assessment, hazard management, and management systems.

 Hazard Identification

The very first thing you are going to do is to Identify whether a hazard exists in your facility. Before getting overwhelmed by the combustible dusts standards, you need to determine if the dust in your facility is a combustible dust and if it presents a flash-fire or explosion hazard.  Can the dust burn? Yes, then you will need to determine if it can cause a flash-fire and/or explosion.  To determine if the the dust can present an explosion hazard, the simplest test that can be performed is known as the “go/no-go” test or ASTM E 1226 Standard Test Method for Explosibility of Dust Clouds.  Further tests may be required based on the hazard management methods you wish to use in your facility.  Knowing whether the dust in your facility has a potential for a flash-fire or explosion hazard is essential to determine where you need to go next within the standard and the other standards.  If you do not properly manage the hazards, you are increasing the chance (or risk) of an incident occurring in your facility. 

 Hazard Assessment

After identifying whether the dust in your facility can present a fire, flash-fire, or explosion hazard, the next step to assess the type of hazard you have and where these hazards exist.  The method can be as simple as going through your facility and determine where these hazards exist and develop a means in which they can be managed (see hazard management).  Simply, this method of accessing your facility for hazards  is known as a process hazard analysis. A process hazard analysis (or PHA) is not intended to be complex analysis requiring a facility to hire consultants.  There are many ways to preform this analysis and the TC is developing some guidance to better help the user understand how to perform a PHA. However, if you do not know the hazards or process equipment well enough to make informed decisions, it wouldn’t hurt to have a 3rd party assist in the review.

 Hazard Management

These are going to be your tools on how to manage the different hazards in the facility: building construction, explosion protection, equipment construction, ignition source control, housekeeping, etc.  There are requirements that will apply to the facility itself and different pieces of equipment.  Some will not apply to your particular facility and other requirements will give you different options that you can apply.

Management Systems

The last major concept when dealing with combustible dusts is management systems.  Management systems cover operating procedures, inspection, testing and maintenance of equipment, training for employees and contractors, emergency planning, incident investigation, management of change, and document retention. Basically, make sure that you use and maintain your equipment properly, train your employees and anyone working in your facility, investigate fire and explosion incidents, keep constant documentation, and procedures for managing any changes in the process, equipment, material, facility, etc.


When taking a high-level view at the concepts in each of the dust standards, there are basic concepts that standout no matter what type of dust your facility has. 

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