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2020

The leaves are falling, there is a nip in the air, and for us folks up north, we’ve even had snow on the ground already. All of these things can mean only one thing, summer has packed her bags and left the building! However, as sad as I might be that my days of soaking up the sun and hanging out at the beach have come to an end, we are now blessed with my personal favorite holiday of the year, Thanksgiving!electrical safety

 

As we begin preparing our menus and our meals for the big event, I thought this would be the perfect time to talk about kitchens. Did you know that food events such as Thanksgiving significantly transformed the electrical systems in today’s kitchens? Yes! And to understand this relationship more fully, we first need to understand the purpose of NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC), which is stated very clearly in section 90.1(A):  the practical safeguarding of persons and property from the hazards arising from the use of electricity. In other words, the NEC aims to install an electrical system in a building that is going to minimize that system’s potential to harm the building or the people in the building.

 

Commercial/Industrial Properties and Dwellings

Still wondering what that has to do with turkey, stuffing, and cranberries? Well, the NEC approaches receptacle outlet placement two different ways. First, in commercial or industrial type properties, it is generally known what will get plugged in and its placement. So, the NEC doesn’t see the need in those occupancies to specify where receptacle outlets must be placed. Sometimes however, it’s not clear what equipment will need connections or where that will/should be. Dwellings (such as homes) tend to fall into this second category. It means that if there isn’t a spot to plug in a given piece of equipment, an extension cord is most often used to bring the power to where it needs to be.

 

This has led the code making panels (CMP) over the years to tackle dwelling unit systems with more of a proactive approach. Simply put, receptacle outlets are now placed throughout the space such that the typical equipment used in that area is never out of reach of an outlet. This helps minimize the use of extension cords and reduces the risk of fire hazards due to these cords being used constantly as though they are a part of the permanent wiring system of the home.

 

Today’s Modern Kitchen and Receptacle Placement

That brings us back to the kitchen. Having sat in on discussions taking place at CMP meetings about where to place receptacle outlets in kitchens, I have the pleasure to report that these panels have absolutely considered just about every conceivable kitchen configuration possible. And in this consideration, they have also considered just about every possible use scenario as well. This is where we tie Thanksgiving to receptacle outlet placement in the NEC. When it comes to family gatherings, or at least my family’s gatherings, if there is open counter space, it’s probably going to get taken up by a slow cooker or other small kitchen appliance like warming trays and coffee percolators. Based on discussions at the code meetings, it seems everyone around the tables have had the same experience. So, CMP-2 has done their best to consider as many kitchen layouts as possible, and as many kitchen use scenarios as possible to ensure that no matter who buys the house and how they use the kitchen, they’ll be covered. This translates to a few different requirements in the NEC that we should be aware of.

 

Wall Space Behind Kitchen Countertops

First, let’s take a look at receptacle outlets along the wall space behind the kitchen countertops. Any countertop space that is 12 inches in width or more is most likely the place where Aunt Edna’s famous green bean casserole will go and therefore it needs at least one receptacle outlet. From there, the requirement is that no space along the countertop wall line should be more than two feet from a receptacle outlet. Anyone want to take a guess at the standard length of a kitchen small appliance cord? You guessed it, two feet! So, this is what has become known as the “2 & 4-foot” rule. Place the first receptacle outlet within the first two feet of countertop and then every four feet after that, making sure that there is one within the last two feet of countertop. That way, an appliance should never be sitting out of reach of a receptacle outlet. While this rule is great for countertops with walls behind them, what about peninsulas and islands? Well, the last few cycles have had discussions around these types of installations, as well, because what was once a kitchen feature that was rather rare, now has become a rather popular design tool in today’s age of open concepts and feng shui.

 

Island Countertops and Peninsula Space

In order to ensure that your island countertop or peninsula have enough receptacle outlets, they took the approach of basing the number of required outlets on how large the island or peninsula countertop space is. The requirement is to install one receptacle outlet for the first nine square feet and then one for each additional 18 square feet or fraction thereof. This means that the bigger the island or peninsula, the more receptacle outlets you are going to need. However, with the exception of one within the last two feet of a peninsula, the placement of these receptacles is up to the owner or designer. For an example, let’s say we build a kitchen where the only countertop space happens to be an island. The dimensions measure 24 feet long by 30 inches wide. We know we need one receptacle for the first nine square feet, but how many do we need after that? In total, this island is 60 square feet. This means after the first nine square feet, we still have 51 square feet to account for. Dividing 51 square feet by 18 square feet gives us 2.83, which means we need a total of three additional receptacles for a total of four receptacle outlets for this island. Previous editions of the NEC only required a single receptacle outlet to serve this island, which just wouldn’t be enough to fulfill the demand for today’s large family holiday events like Thanksgiving or Christmas.

 

So, the next time you find yourself at a holiday event, look around to see if there are enough outlets in your kitchen to serve demand, while still in alignment with the purpose of the NEC. If there are, you can give thanks to the members of Code Making Panel 2 who spent considerable time discussing how families will use their countertops and applying the needed, related code requirements to help keep everyone safe from electrical hazards.

 

For more information about this topic, check out one of our recent blog posts that highlights three key changes in the 2020 NEC that helps make kitchens safer.

 

Tips and resources about cooking fire safety can be found on NFPA’s Thanksgiving and holiday safety webpage.

We live in a world where flammable and combustible liquids are all around us. Gasoline, rubbing alcohol, nail polish remover, hand sanitizer, and cooking oils are just a few common examples. When storing large quantities of flammable liquids, it’s important to understand how to protect them properly because of their rapid rate of fire growth. This blog will dive into some of the requirements for the sprinkler protection of stored flammable and combustible liquids. Designers will often go to NFPA 13 Standard for the Installation of Sprinkler Systems for all sprinkler system requirements, but many don’t know that flammable and combustible liquid storage is covered by NFPA 30 Flammable and Combustible Liquids Code.

 

What is a flammable or combustible liquid?

 

Before discussing sprinkler protection requirements for these liquids, the first step is figuring out what exactly we’re talking about when we say flammable or combustible liquids. When defining these liquids, we often refer to their flash point, which is the temperature at which a liquid gives off enough vapor to form an ignitable mixture with the air. With that in mind we define flammable and combustible liquids as follows:

Flammable liquid – flash point below 100°F (37.8°C)

Combustible liquid – flash point at or above 100°F (37.8°C)

NFPA 30 then further divides flammable and combustible liquids into classifications.  These will be used to determine the correct design criteria to your storage. Classifications of flammable and combustible liquids are as follows:

Flammable Class IA = Flash Point <73°F (22.8°C) & Boiling Point < 100°F (37.8°C)

Flammable Class IB = Flash Point < 73°F (22.8°C) & Boiling Point > 100°F (37.8°C)

Flammable Class IC = Flash Point between 73°F (22.8°C) and 100°F (37.8°C)

Combustible Class II = Flash Point between 100°F (37.8°C) and 140°F (60°C)

Combustible Class IIIA = Flash Point between 140°F (60° C) and 200°F (93°C)

Combustible Class IIIB = Flash Point above 200°F (93°C)

 

Gathering information

 

When determining when and how to protect the storage of flammable and combustible liquids it is important to gather information to make the correct design decisions. First it is important to know which standards to follow. For the storage of flammable and combustible liquids we should start in NFPA 30. There are certain requirements in NFPA 30 that will instruct users to follow the requirements for various commodities in NFPA 13 when necessary.

 

To determine design criteria, you will first need to know the quantity of flammable or combustible liquids being stored. As well as how the liquid is being stored (whether it is rack storage, shelf storage palletized, or stacked.)

Next, you need to be aware of what containers the liquid is stored in. The type of containers for flammable and combustible liquids can be stored in varies greatly; some examples of acceptable container material include metal, plastic, or glass. The material the container is made of will also dictate the volume of the container that the liquid can be stored in. A complete list of acceptable containers is located in section 9.4.1 in NFPA 30.

 

How to protect it

 

Fire protection system design criteria for protecting the storage of containers of flammable and combustible liquids are provided in Chapter 16 of NFPA 30. The design criteria are contained in 12 tables that address different storage situations and configurations and include both sprinkler and foam-water sprinkler systems. Three decision trees assist the user in identifying the appropriate table to be used. In these tables you will find maximum storage height, maximum ceiling height, required aisle width, required sprinkler arrangement as well as if in-rack sprinklers are required.

It is important to understand that sprinkler systems are designed to protect against certain hazards and increasing those hazards can cause your fire protection system to be overwhelmed. This issue can be addressed by developing a change management plan that triggers safety and compliance reviews when certain changes occur.

Although NFPA 13 usually contains all of the requirements for the installation of sprinkler systems for the storage of flammable and combustible liquids NFPA 13 and NFPA 30 work in harmony to help ensure sprinkler systems are designed in a way that can help save people and property.

 

Check out the November/December 2020 issue of the NFPA Journal where the ‘In Compliance’ column talks specifically about how to properly store and protect alcohol base hand rub.

 

Have you recently worked on a project that included flammable or combustible liquids? Let us know in the comments below what you think the biggest or most common challenge is.

 

If you found this article helpful, subscribe to the NFPA Network Newsletter for monthly, personalized content related to the world of fire, electrical, and building & life safety

Soon after the launch of NFPA LiNK, the Association’s newest digital platform for building, electrical, and life safety professionals and practitioners, we introduced a new video blog series that offers a quick look inside the key functions and features of the tool. This week’s video addresses the “share” functionality.

 

When referencing code requirements, users may need to share specific code text with peers. For example, let’s say you are inspecting a job site and you find some violations. To assist with enforcement, you need to be able to reference specific code sections and share them with the responsible parties so they understand what was done incorrectly. NFPA LiNK allows you to share code sections via email to both subscribers and non-subscribers, along with your personal comments. By doing so, you will be able to maintain the integrity of the NFPA code and know you’re referencing material from the source. Learn more about this “share” feature in the video below:

 


Don’t miss out on all that NFPA LiNK provides. The blog series can be a helpful start. Check out the first two videos that explain the Dashboard and “publications” features. The second installment showcases “bookmarks” and the MyLiNK functionalities. The third blog in the series highlighted the NFPA DiRECT situational navigation and DiRECT Content features, and most recently last week’s video blog gives us a glimpse into the “search” feature.

 

Learn more about how NFPA LiNK can help you in your work. Try NFPA LiNK today by visiting the website. Find more information about the platform, a timeline of additional codes and standards that will be coming to NFPA LiNK, and a product introduction video at nfpa.org/LiNK

Unlike the state’s rough wildfire season, the end of California’s 2020 legislative session is clearly in sight. This year, lawmakers considered a number of bills on the state’s wildfire challenge. Among these were two measures aimed at strengthening California’s defensible space requirements and helping Cal Fire assess properties and educate homeowners. One passed; the other did not.  

 

Resurrected after a veto last year by the Governor, AB 3074 successfully passed to bring the concept of the home ignition zone to the state’s current 100-foot defensible space requirements. The measure directs the State Board of Forestry and Fire Protection to promulgate regulations to require “more intense” fuel reduction efforts within 30-feet of a structure and an “ember-resistant zone” within 5-feet of a structure. Wind-driven embers are major culprits in home destruction during wildfire events. Reducing the risk of ignition by removing fuel sources from around the home will lower the risk of home loss during wildfires.wildfire safety

 

While AB 3074 has been signed into law, there are still some bureaucratic hoops remaining. Most notably, the legislature needs to make sure all of it, the rulemaking, providing notice to property owners, and enforcement efforts, are funded in the annual budget process. However, strengthening these requirements for homes in at-risk areas is a big step in the right direction.

 

The bill that did not make it over the legislative finish line was  SB 1348. Among other things, this measure would have established a program to recruit qualified entities to assist Cal Fire in its assessment and education efforts around home hardening and defensible space. According to an article last year from the San Diego Union-Tribune, annually, Cal Fire only has the capacity to inspect about 10 to 20 percent of the parcels within its jurisdiction for conformance with the state’s defensible space rules. And, even where it finds violations, the agency prefers education over fines. Given that, training third parties to provide non-regulatory support through assessments and education has the potential to be an effective force-multiplier for the agency.

 

This bill should be a priority item for the 2021 legislative session. In addition, lawmakers might also consider developing training and certification programs to create the trusted workforce needed to help property owners in implementing home-hardening measures, as well as meeting defensible space requirements.

 

AB 3074—and hopefully soon the provisions of SB 1348—are modest steps toward addressing the state’s massive wildfire challenge. Small steps can add up though, especially if they become part of a comprehensive plan. While COVID-fueled budget crises muted state legislative efforts to fund desperately needed mitigation efforts this year, with over four million acres burned in a single season, the urgency is growing for California. In 2021, lawmakers will need to be bold in their actions.  

 

More information about the home ignition zone, defensible space, and related resources can be found on NFPA's wildfire webpage.

NFPA has released NFPA 1700 Guide for Structural Fire Fighting, the first NFPA document connecting fire dynamics research to response strategy, tactics, and best practices for firefighters controlling fires within a structure. 

 

In 2014, NFPA received a new standards project request from a retired Kansas City fire chief asking for the development of a guide that filled the gap between the fire science community and the fire service. The request, which was eventually endorsed by the International Association of Fire Chiefs (IAFC), National Institute for Safety and Health (NIOSH), UL Firefighter Safety Research Institute, the International Society of Fire Service Instructors (ISFSI) and others, sought to ensure that the methods utilized by the fire service for fire control were based on science and not past fire service traditions or practices.

 

The 13-chapter guide provides standard operating procedure (SOP) recommendations for responding to a structure fire based on recent large scale testing and line of duty death findings. Recognized research efforts complement fundamental occupancy, building construction, and building service references within NFPA 1700, while addressing the health and safety of firefighters by reinforcing the need for personal protective equipment (PPE) and methodologies for contamination control. The Technical Committee on Fundamentals of Fire Control Within a Structure Utilizing Fire Dynamics looked at basic fire science, fire dynamics, PPE, equipment, extinguishment, staffing needs, and ways to adopt these strategies into practice and train the fire service – all in the interest of public and first responder safety.

 

The 27-member Technical Committee is made up of representatives from the fire service and insurance industry, as well as subject matter textbook publishers, special experts, and stakeholders actively engaged in fire dynamics research; they hail from the United States, Canada, Germany and Belgium.

 

NFPA 921 Guide for Fire and Explosion Investigations served as a model for how to translate fire dynamics findings in practicable, applicable ways.

As I (allegedly) approach a half century on this earth, reflection on life lessons learned are in abundance. Looking back there is no question that the most impactful lessons I learned, that I still use every day, were on days that started in the blazing heat of summer and ended in the brisk chill of autumn spent between painted white lines on lush blades of green grass.  The football field is where I learned, along with young men who would eventually become my brothers, about courage, perseverance, accountability, sacrifice, and teamwork.  We learned how to play for something more than ourselves, we learned how to play for one another.  We were accountable to one another and came to understand that we were only as powerful as our weakest player, therefore, we had to push each other to be better.  When toe met leather on those Friday nights under the lights, as Kenny Chesney’s song, The Boys of Fall says, you mess with one man, you got us all.    electrical safety

 

In more recent years, I have had the privilege of being the one to wear the whistle and begin to instill life lessons in my own son and his teammates who he will no doubt one day consider as brothers. From this side of the white lines, I have started to understand more about the framework of success.  Coaches must create a game plan that, when executed by both players and coaches, achieves the desired outcome - victory!  Transferring this to our day jobs, what does a victory look like?  To me, working safely throughout the day, which in turn allows me to return home safely to my family each night, is like winning the Super Bowl!  This isn’t going to happen without a proper game plan in place that is executed precisely as intended by both coaches and players.  Business owners, acting as coaches, must put together a clear plan for safety and ensure that the players have the proper resources needed to execute the plan.  Communication of the plan, proper training, and safety equipment for the players, or employees, are critical to the plan being executed and success being attained.  Owners and employees are equally accountable in that a safety plan is not only established but also followed as designed.  Shortcuts by anyone could result in failure of the plan.  Which in this case, is not signified by a lesser score than our opponent on the scoreboard, but potentially by whether we live or die.  This is not a game we can take a chance on losing.

 

On the job, there are many electrical opponents such as shock, electrocution, arc flash, and arc blast that are all nipping at our heels trying to ensure we don’t reach the end zone at all, let alone achieve victory.  NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, is a critical resource when it comes to putting together a game plan for electrical safety success.  When established by owners and followed by employees, the safety policies, procedures, and process controls that are within NFPA 70E needed to help ensure safety for all involved.  Like any good plan, the processes and procedures within NFPA 70E are able to be evaluated and revised between editions through the standards development process.  Although the 2021 edition of NFPA 70E was just released in September, public input for modifications to the 2024 edition is already being submitted and will continue to be accepted through June 1st, 2021.

 

Between the 2018 and 2021 editions of NFPA 70E, there was a public input received that significantly impacted the general requirements for electrical safety-related work practices as listed within Article 110.   Chapter 1 within NFPA 70E, which contains Article 110, is really where the details of our safety game plan are laid out including specifying both the employer and employee responsibility in Article 105.  Section 110.5 is specific to the Electrical Safety Program which requires the employer to both implement and document an electrical safety program that directs activity appropriate to the risk associated with electrical hazards.   Through public input, section 110.5(K) was added which states “An electrical safety program shall include an electrically safe work condition policy that complies with 110.3.”  Within section 110.3, it states that conductors and circuit parts operating at 50 volts or more are required to be put into an electrical safe work condition if any of these conditions exist:

 

  1. The employee is within the limited approach boundary, and;
  2. The employee interacts with equipment where conductors or circuit parts are not exposed but an increased likelihood of injury from an exposure to an arc flash hazard exists.

 

By definition, an electrically safe work condition is a state in which an electrical conductor or circuit part has been disconnected from energized parts, locked/tagged in accordance with established standards, tested to verify the absence of voltage, and, if necessary, temporarily grounded for personnel protection.  The informational note that follows the definition goes a step further to state that an electrically safe work condition is not a procedure, it is a state wherein all hazardous electrical conductors or circuit parts to which a worker might be exposed are maintained in a de-energized state for the purpose of temporarily eliminating electrical hazards for the period of time for which the state is maintained.  While the thought of many is that Personal Protective Equipment (PPE), such as arc-flash suits, should be the means we utilized to keep ourselves safe, PPE should actually be the last resort.  Turning power off and establishing an electrically safe work condition where there is no potential for exposure should always be the primary goal.  The Hierarchy of Risk Controls is listed in section 110.5(H)(3) as:

 

  • Elimination
  • Substitution
  • Engineering Controls
  • Awareness
  • Administrative Controls
  • PPE

 

Informational Note 1 that follows goes on to state “Elimination, substitution, and engineering controls are the most effective methods to reduce risk as they are usually applied at the source of possible injury or damage to health and they are less likely to be affected by human error. Awareness, administrative controls, and PPE are the least effective methods to reduce risk as they are not applied at the source and they are more likely to be affected by human error.”

  

The reality of what this public input to the 2021 edition of the NFPA 70E did, is that it evaluated and changed our game plan for the better.  While employers are already required to implement and document an electrical safety program, the addition of 110.5(K) now requires that we have an electrical safe work condition policy within that program.  And if going home safely to our family every night is our ultimate measure of success, this change just put us at first and goal.  It’s now up to both employers and employees to fully execute the plan to put the ball into the end zone.

 

For more information, visit NFPA's electrical solutions webpage.

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