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36 Posts authored by: dvigstol Employee

It is that time of year once again, summer! That means for many of us we will find any excuse to make our way to the waterfront. Whether we own a boat, have a friend that owns a boat, or like me, we stand on the other side of the fence and dream of having a boat, there is no question that getting out on the water has a certain appeal to many of us.

 

But with all the countless hours of joy that being on the water can bring, there is an inherent danger that many of us might not be aware of. Or if we are aware, we might not fully understand or appreciate the amount of work that has gone into keeping us all safe from electrical hazards that may be lurking in the water around our boats. Especially when it comes to marina installations. Electric shock drowning, or ESD, has been an unfortunate headline that has reoccurred time and time again in recent summer history. While this is not only something that happens around marinas and docks, these types of installations tend to get the most attention when it comes to ESD because of the amount of electrical infrastructure that gets installed near the water. 

 

The reason the National Electrical Code (NEC) even exists is to protect people and property from the hazards that electricity presents when we use it to power our world. However, the system needs to work, too. This is a kind of push and pull relationship that exists when we start using electricity near bodies of water. Obviously, the safest situation a marina could have is to just not have electricity near the water. However, today’s boats and the way we use them continues to evolve, and a marina with no power might mean a marina with no boats either. So, Code Making Panel 7 of the NEC has the duty of listening to all sides of this conversation to figure out how best to serve the power needs of marina customers while also protecting these same customers and marina staff from what this demand for power could mean if they end up in the water. One member of CMP 7, Cliff Norton, took the time to sit down with NFPA and discuss the work that went into revising the NEC to best serve the marina industry while keeping people safe.Check out his short interview below:

 


 

As long as people continue to flock to the water for recreation and work, we will continue to need the efforts of people like Cliff and the rest of CMP 7 to keep working to find that critical balance of functionality and safety. After all, safety is the number one reason the NEC exists and it must continue to be the first thing we think about when installing electrical systems. No amount of convenience or creature comfort is worth bypassing safety towards ourselves or others. Remember, marinas existed long before we harnessed the power of the electron, they can exist without it.  

 

Learn more about the new requirements for marinas in the 2020 NEC by visiting NFPA's marina webpage. Additional information and resources about marina safety and electric shock drowning, including tip sheets, videos, and more can be found on the "electrical safety around water" webpage.

With the start of hurricane season in June, building owners and managers of industrial and commercial facilities are facing the daunting process of disaster recovery. When electrical systems are damaged in a natural or man-made disaster, electricians need to make a critical decision about whether the electrical equipment that was damaged can be salvaged or not. NFPA has created a checklist for electricians to help highlight and simplify key aspects of this decision-making process.

 

The checklist builds off of recommendations in Chapter 32 of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance* (2019 edition), and includes:70B checklist

 

  • A list of disaster scenarios, which can inflict damage of varying degrees to facilities
  • Steps for assessing equipment
  • A priority assessment table
  • Steps to help identify factors for replacement or repair

 

Still, even with the help of the checklist, the choice between repair and replace will not always be an easy one. Following these simple suggestions can be the difference, however, between an impossible task and an informed decision.

 

Before your community experiences a disaster, download this free “Natural Disaster Electrical Equipment Checklist” and review the contents. Having this information at your fingertips will be extremely valuable should your community call on you for your electrical experience and assistance in the aftermath of a storm or other weather-related event.  

 

Additional disaster-related resources for specialists tasked with protecting people and property from fire, electrical, and other emergencies, can be found on NFPA's disaster webpage, including bulletins, related code information, articles, and more.

 

*The complete current edition of NFPA 70B and related resources are available for free access or to purchase at www.nfpa.org/70B.

 

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

OSHA requires employers to provide their employees with a working environment that is free from known and recognized hazards. That is the law and there is no getting around it. For the electrical world, in order to do this, an employer must develop an electrical safety program. This program becomes the blueprint for the procedures that employees must follow, and the safety measures that employers must put in place to protect employees from the hazards that electricity presents.

 

But what goes into developing an electrical safety program? As we close out National Electrical Safety Month this week, we’re addressing this question that has troubled employers since they first learned they need to have a safety program. Developing an electrical safety program that ensures nothing bad will ever happen is the top priority from most employers, however, it's difficult to know how every written procedure will work before putting it into practice and seeing how well it performs. So, where do we start?

 

NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, spells out what an electrical safety program must contain in section 110.1 in the 2018 edition. (And just a side note - the 2021 edition that will be released later this year will see this section shift to 110.5. This is essentially just a re-organization move as other requirements are moved to Article 110 from 130.) There is also information found in Annex E that is intended to help employers understand what goes into an electrical safety program. But regardless of where in the book this information resides, these are just the building blocks; how the program looks, feels, and gets developed is 100 percent up to the employer.

 

70EThe first thing I like to stress when I am in front of a class, like the Developing an Electrical Safety Program Workshop that we developed for the NFPA training department, is that the program must identify the principles on which it is based. Examples of electrical safety program principles can be found in Annex E. My personal favorite is to de-energize whenever and wherever possible. So many put such an emphasis in their programs around procedures and policies for working energized that they forget the most important thing:  the safest way to work on electrical equipment is in an electrically safe work condition. An electrical safety program that makes an electrically safe work condition the number one priority is a requirement if an employer is following NFPA 70E. Other examples of electrical safety principles to develop a program around might be that all work will have some sort of pre-planning activity prior to commencing, or another principle could be to expect the unexpected. If it can go wrong, it probably will at some point.

 

Once we have our guiding principles upon which our program will be based, we need to have a way to measure the success of what we have built. This is where the program controls come into play:

 

  • What type of training will you provide your employees?
  • How will you ensure that employees are indeed qualified persons for a given task or on a certain piece of equipment?
  • How will an employee make sure that every necessary question has been asked and answered before they start the task?

 

These are just a few examples of the controls that must be worked into an employer’s program so that the program has the best chance of providing that workplace free from hazards to employees that OSHA requires.

 

Last but certainly not least, after we have identified what our program is based on and how to ensure the success of our program, then we can get into to the details, or the actual procedures that employees will follow. The procedures will spell out the specific steps to ensuring employee safety. These will include items like the steps for establishing an electrically safe work condition, assessing the risk to the employee performing certain tasks, and the process for filling out an energized electrical work permit. There must also be a procedure laid out in the program that spells out how it will be determined what additional measures must be taken to protect employees when they must be exposed to a hazard. Keep in mind that even if a program is based on zero energized work being performed, even the process of establishing an electrically safe work condition can expose an employee to both shock and arc flash hazards. These hazards exist until the voltage has been verified that it has been removed and steps have been taken to ensure it can’t be turned back on without the worker’s knowledge. Whatever measures are taken, they must be determined in accordance with the hierarchy of risk control methods which emphasizes what priority must be given to each method of mitigating risks to employees. This hierarchy lists hazard elimination as the most effective method and personal protective equipment, or PPE, as the least effective method in protecting employees. Therefore, it should also make sense that an electrical safety program must make an established and verified electrically safe work condition a founding principle for which the program is based on.

 

This is a lot to take in and can be a massive undertaking depending on the size and type of employer. For example, a “Big 3” auto maker’s electrical safety program most likely took many months and many people to develop, whereas a coffee shop in the local strip mall might not require the same level of detail and procedures due to the nature of the work and the type of equipment involved. One employer might benefit from establishing an electrical safety committee that will handle the development, implementation, and auditing of the program. Others might have a committee of one. Each program is as unique as the employer who develops it. And since the electrical safety program is the document that protects an employer’s most critical asset, an investment in time and money to establish, implement, and improve a program that is uniquely specific to an employer is worth every minute and every penny.

 

So, if you or your employer does not have a program in place, it is time to stop everything and build one. Not only will it help save the lives of employees, but it is also the law.  

 

Interested to learn more? My colleague, Corey Hannahs, wrote recently about electrical safety programs and the knowledge, application, and responsibility that must be shared by both employees and employers.

 

Find additional information about the standard by visiting the NFPA 70E webpage.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

Why is electrical safety in the workplace important? It’s a great question to think about and discuss during National Electrical Safety Month. It is also kind of a loaded question. On the one hand you have the fact that providing electrical safety in the workplace is mandated by OSHA, and therefore, it is the law. On the other hand, there are many more reasons why it is important to talk about, learn about, and fully understand electrical safe work practices. While there may be different reasons for buying into this as an employer or an employee, the bottom line is, electrical safety must be one of our top priorities when stepping foot on the job.  

 

So, let's look at what might motivate employers to implement electrical safe work practices within their company. As I said, OSHA mandates that an employer provide a workplace that is free from known and recognized hazards. This means an employer must develop and implement an electrical safety program that spells out the procedures to be followed to ensure that employees aren’t exposed to electrical hazards, and if they must be, there are steps that can be taken to mitigate the risk. The next important point for employers to remember is, it is far more cost effective to retain a good employee than to train a new one. Employees are a company’s most important asset, especially if revenue is derived due to their labor. Losing an employee is like losing any other tangible asset. Then there is the most important reason of all: human life. Whether an employer is big or small, people know each other and no one wants to jeopardize his/her ability to go home the same way they came to work: in one piece.  

 

So what about the employee? While it is true that the employer must provide the detailed procedures to follow and the tools and equipment needed to stay safe, none of it does any good if the employee doesn’t follow the rules and use the tools. What might be an employee’s motivation to follow safety protocols? Well, if an employee is caught not following the rules, they could incur fines for both themselves and their employer, leading to a personal financial impact and potential loss of employment. However, some employees might have what can only be described as an “invincibility” complex. I know I personally have been guilty of this in the past. We think that we won’t get hurt and that other people were injured because they made a mistake. Unfortunately, that macho attitude is what gets people in trouble. Having studied and attended many educational sessions on the science behind behavior change, it seems to be that the traditional “shock and awe” approach only further exacerbates the issue. However, would we take those same risks and cut those same corners if we fully understood what the most important people in our lives would go through if we didn’t come home today?

 

Last year at NFPA’s Conference & Expo I had a great opportunity to talk to my friend, Brandon Schroeder, about this very topic. Brandon has been an electrician for 19 years. In 2011, he survived an arc flash explosion that without a doubt could have killed him. To hear him speak about what his wife and children went through after the accident, and that they nearly had to continue on in life without him, makes even the most seasoned veteran think very carefully about his/her next move. Here is his story and his warning to everyone who thought they were invincible: 

 


 

It is easy to mandate that employers provide the tools and procedures related to electrical safety. It’s the “low hanging fruit” in the safety world and it has brought the numbers of injuries and deaths down substantially. This is a fact that we should all be celebrating this month as we observe National Electrical Safety Month.

 

The trickier task, however, is continuing to help employees believe in this stuff. As Brandon points out, he cut corners because he didn’t think safety mattered. As professionals in the electrical world, we should all pursue the goal of getting everyone to take safety seriously. It’s a big world, let’s protect it together! 

 

Get additional information on NFPA’s electrical solutions webpage.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

If we do some digging into the revision archives of the National Electrical Code (NEC), we can pretty much trace every requirement to one thing: saving lives! That is why the NEC exists; its purpose, the practical safeguarding of persons and property from the hazards arising from the use of electricity. If there is a way that we can install the electrical system so that it is safe for the individuals who interact with it, we will. That has been the guiding light of code making panels for as long as the archived revision information for the NEC has been around.

 

But what about when there is an emergency? Does the NEC contain requirements to keep the system safe during extenuating circumstances? Well, until recently there were not many requirements that would do this. After all, the purpose is the practical safeguarding, not safeguarding with every possible unforeseen event. However, does that mean there is nothing we can do at the installation stage that would help save a life in an emergency or unforeseen situation?

 

Starting around the 2011 edition we saw the "safety by design" concept enter the NEC. That is when the requirement for arc energy reduction on large circuit breakers was implemented. Even though the NEC isn’t about planning for disaster, IF we can install the equipment a certain way that will limit or mitigate the harm done to a person, people were starting to say, “well, maybe we should.” Then fast forward a bit and the question came up: “How can we install the system so that we can protect those who are responding to an emergency at that building?” In particular, people were looking at solar photovoltaic systems remaining energized even after the utility had cut the power during the response to a building on fire. In 2020, we now see the requirement to install a disconnect so that an emergency responder can disconnect power to the home instead of waiting for the utility to cut power.

 

Recently, I wrote an article for IAEI Magazine that explored this very revision to require a disconnecting means on the outside of one- and two-family dwellings, as well as the ins and outs of how this requirement came to be in the newest version of the NEC. In addition, I did an interview with Matt Paiss and Kwame Cooper last year at NFPA’s Conference & Expo. Mr. Paiss is the International Association of Fire Fighters representative on CMP-4, and Mr. Cooper is a member of the NFPA Board of Directors and retired fire fighter. IAFF and Mr. Paiss were instrumental in getting a requirement to help emergency response personnel stay safe. If you haven’t seen it before, check out our video interview here:

 


 

As the video interview points out, NFPA and the NEC exist to help eliminate the loss of life and property from electrical hazards, but ultimately, it really takes a group effort to make great things happen.

 

For more information about the NEC, visit NFPA’s electrical solutions webpage.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

This year has started off with some pretty crazy headlines. Everywhere you turn, COVID-19 has taken over the news. But even with all the information we hear about staying safe from this deadly disease, we also should not forget about the importance of being safe around electricity. That’s right, it’s May 2020 and that means it’s time once again for National Electrical Safety Month (NESM). An entire month where the focus is put on keeping people safe from the hazards that come from having a world powered by electrons flowing through conductors. This campaign, spearheaded by Electrical Safety Foundation International or ESFi, seeks to raise awareness and educate key stakeholders about what can be done to minimize the impact of electrically-related fires, property loss, injuries, and loss of life.electrical safety month

 

This year’s theme for NESM, “Smart Home,” focuses on the lifesaving devices that can be found throughout the home that help to keep us all safe and secure while being smart around electricity. Devices like ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs), arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), tamper-resistant receptacles (TRRs), and surge protective devices are just a few of the measures that are required by the National Electrical Code(NEC) in homes that have a direct and immediate impact on saving lives. GFCIs have been around for years as a way to prevent electrocution in our homes. AFCIs have evolved over the past few cycles as a way to protect our homes from the fire hazard that might be silently brewing behind the walls. More recently, we have seen the addition of tamper-resistant receptacles that prevent non-intended items from being inserted into a receptacle. This has been a major innovation, especially for parents, as children have been known to play with things that can fit in those slots in the wall.

 

The need for all these important devices within our homes has evolved right along with our continued evolution of how we put electricity to work for us. When we first started adding electricity to our homes, the primary function was for lighting. Homes had a couple of branch circuits that served the entire building’s lighting needs. But you know how the story goes, they figured out how to heat a home, then came the washing machine, and then the microwave, and so on. Electricity makes our lives easier, plain and simple.

 

We can see this in the evolution of installation requirements. Surge protection, for one, is a new requirement for homes in the 2020 NEC. This comes about due to the fact that so much of the technology we use depends on sensitive electronic circuits that not only need protection from overcurrent, but also need protection from voltages that get too high. Surges can damage much of the equipment we use today in our homes and often it might be damaged in a way that could create a fire or shock hazard.

 

The next frontier in keeping our loved ones safe from electricity is coming in the way the equipment interacts with the power itself. Equipment that is smart enough to recognize when something isn’t right and before a problem can arise, it simply turns itself off. One such technology is what has been lumped under the category of Power over Ethernet, or PoE. Basically, PoE is equipment that utilizes communications cables to also power the device. By doing this, the equipment that needs the electricity is also smart enough to communicate with other devices on the network, including the power supply. Imagine an electrical system in your home that is physically unable to deliver a shock or start a fire. That would be the ultimate in electrical safety in our homes!

 

Last year at NFPA’s Conference & Expo I had the opportunity to sit down and chat with a few of the industry leaders on the front lines of making this dream a reality. Not only will the equipment do amazing things to make our lives even more enriched, but our world will become a heck of a lot safer in the process.

 


 

While our focus for the month is on being smart with electricity in our homes, the future is evolving right before our very eyes; how safe our homes are from electrical hazards is being changed in a big way because of this evolution. It is critical that we continue to focus on the basics like GFCI, AFCI, TRRs, and surge protection, but it is also critical to keep our eyes on the horizon as we move forward. Using the very advancements in technology we crave to simultaneously make the system inherently safer is how we get to a world where homes burning down from electrical fires and people dying from electrocutions are a distant memory. After all, ever since we started powering homes, the race was on to make our lives less complicated. Not having to worry about electrical hazards in our daily lives will make us all sleep a little better at night knowing our loved ones are safe and sound.

 

For more information, please visit NFPA’ electrical safety webpage.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our website.

The past couple of months have seen a major shift in the way many of us are working. A global pandemic has shifted our idea of what “normal” means for our daily lives.

 

For some, it means layoffs until we get through this thing. For others it means life goes on just as it did before, only now we're at risk of contracting a disease that for some could be fatal. Healthcare workers, emergency personnel, grocery store clerks, they all fall into the “essential work” category and must face this threat every day. There is also another group deemed essential – the men and women who service and build the infrastructure we all need in these unprecedented times.

 

For example, what if the power supplying a major hospital treating COVID-19 patients were to go out and there were no linemen to bring the system back online? Without these essential workers, the infrastructure that those on the front lines of the COVID-19 fight depend on, would be in big trouble. In order to maintain critical systems and equipment, it often means these employees are being exposed to both COVID hazards and electrical hazards. As you can imagine, there have been many questions about this, such as:

 

  • Can we wear N95 masks under arc flash PPE?
  • Can we share PPE?
  • Can PPE be disinfected? If so, what is the proper method for disinfecting PPE so it won’t have an effect on arc rating or flame resistance?

 

In these turbulent times we still want to make sure we’re protecting employees and providing a workplace that is free from known and recognized hazards.Recently, I had the opportunity to connect with a good friend of mine who just happens to know a lot about arc flash PPE and the science behind it. Hugh Hoagland is the Senior consultant at ArcWear and E-Hazard and has been in the business of testing the limits of arc and flame resistance personal protective equipment for a long time. As it turns out, Hugh has done some testing on what happens to an N95 mask under an arc-flash face shield and the effects of certain disinfecting cleaners on the FR and AR ratings of these garments.

 

Check out our conversation in the video below:

 


 

These are truly unprecedented times we are living in, and while no one has every answer, we do need to stay vigilant and put forth our best good-faith efforts to protect those who are keeping the world running. Even during all of this uncertainty, it’s good to know there are tests being conducted and data being translated to help put our minds at ease as we suit up to help others in the name of safety.  

 

Stay safe, stay healthy, and keep doing what we all do best.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

 

NFPA has also provided a wide range of resources that support fully operational fire and life safety systems, while balancing the realities of the current pandemic. Our goal is to support you and your work during this difficult time. How can we continue to help? Take our short survey and tell us what you think.

electrical online learning

As of December 2019, our world has forever changed. A global pandemic has much of world in lockdown hoping to stem the spread of COVID-19 by practicing “social distancing.” Some of us have seen a reduction in our workload at the moment, while still others, who, in essential service roles, are putting themselves on the front lines every day working in hospitals, grocery stores, and other key service areas that depend on the work we do to help keep their facilities functioning. Wherever we may find ourselves during this time, there is something that weighs heavy on all of our minds: how do we keep ourselves and others safe while still improving upon our skills to help us do our very best work.  

That’s where training comes into play.

 

Skilled professionals, whether they are on the front lines or at home, need continuing education, especially as many states are shifting to the new edition of the NEC. The need for quality training, the renewal of licenses and professional credentials - all of these things are vital to our jobs now and after this health crisis has lifted. But during these unprecedented times, social distancing is forcing us to find alternative options to meet our training needs. Training centers are shut down, trainers are cancelling classes, and many of us are confined to our living rooms. So, just like many public schools across the nation have done, it’s time for us to explore online options.

 

Today’s online and distance learning landscape has taken on a new look and feel including the capability to incorporate hands-on learning techniques applied within a virtual environment. The implications of this type of learning for electrical safety training are very exciting. Now is a perfect time to refresh our skills with many of the online training options available like NFPA’s Safe Electrical Work Practices online training series. This series utilizes a series of tasks in a virtual environment to provide simulated hands-on training for tasks like establishing an electrically safe work condition and performing voltage measurements. And on an important note: learners are not exposed to a hazard during the process.

 

And, while self-paced, online learning is one option that can help keep skills honed and up-to-date while we get through this era of social distancing, we recognize that there are many learners who also need interaction with an instructor to help better understand a concept. As an instructor myself, I have always valued that one-on-one interaction in my classes with those who are active, engaged, and asking questions. So, what can we do to help in this situation? Distance learning is perfect for the current times we all are experiencing, and it might just turn out to be a better way of delivering the needed safety training to more people, more efficiently, and more safely. In fact, NFPA is currently exploring ways to deliver what has traditionally been an in-person seminar, through an interactive web-based presentation where attendees will be able to interact in real time with the instructor throughout the course. Having the ability to learn from afar while maintaining the quality of training that comes from being in the classroom with the subject matter expert, is, well, just fantastic, and I look forward to sharing more about this unique opportunity with you in the future.

 

If history has taught us anything, it is that people can and will get through anything that comes their way. We will get through this, and we will be better off when we do. Those of us in the training world understand the need to adapt our delivery to meet the needs of our audiences, and the world’s current state of affairs has surely brought that front and center. Trying new methods and exploring different ways to provide the needed training and information has become a new way of life in electrical safety.

 

Electrical hazards don’t shelter-in-place, so while we are all doing our part to stop the spread of COVID-19, we must still do whatever is needed to protect the world from what comes along with using electricity in our daily lives. But NFPA can’t do this alone. Contact us to find out how we can help you meet your training needs while respecting social distancing guidelines. It’s a big world, let’s protect it together.

 

As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

As of March 1, 2020, Massachusetts was the only state working off of the newest edition of NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC). However, there are 16 states that have started the process of shifting to the 2020 NEC and joining Massachusetts in enforcing the latest requirements for safe electrical installations. This means that over the next few months, those who will be responsible for installing electrical systems will need to learn and understand the changes between their previous edition and the 2020 NEC. Depending on the type of work that they do, this might be a lot or they might do work in an area that was minimally affected by the most recent revisions.nfpa 70

 

What areas of electrical installations were most affected by the 2020 revisions? Let’s take a look at a few of the corners of the electrical industry that were the most impacted and the changes installers really need to be aware of and understand. We can start in residential-type occupancies as many of the more significant changes took place in areas that either only apply to dwelling units or have an impact on dwelling units in another way. The following list is a few of the big changes directly related to dwelling units that installers will need to know:

 

  1. The expansion of GFCI—In dwelling units, GFCI protection for personnel has been expanded to include any receptacle rated up to 250 volts in the areas listed in 210.8(A). The list of areas requiring GFCI protection has also been revised to include all areas of a basement, not just the unfinished spaces or areas not intended for use as habitable rooms. Lastly, outdoor outlets up to 50 amperes will need GFCI protection as well on systems that are 150 volts to ground or less, which is most residential systems. This applies to both receptacle outlets and hardwired outlets, with the exceptions of snow melting equipment and outdoor lighting.
  2. The emergency disconnect—One- and two-family dwelling units are now required to have a disconnect mounted in a readily accessible, outdoor location so that emergency responders are able to safely disconnect power to the building. This can be the service disconnect but there are other options as well that can be found in 230.85.
  3. Surge protection—All services supplying dwelling units are now required to include a surge protective device. New section 230.67 outlines where the SPD must be installed and what type it has to be. This also coincides with Articles 280 and 285 being combined into the new Article 242 for overvoltage protection.

 

This list of course, does not cover all changes that affect residential installations, but is hitting on some of the big ones. But what about everywhere else? There were a lot of major changes that will affect the installation of electrical equipment in non-residential settings. Here are just a few of the major revisions and again, this isn’t all of them, nor is this in any particular order:

 

  1. Lighting load values—Table 220.12 has been revised to now only apply to non-dwelling type occupancies and the list of occupancies has also been revised to align better with the occupancy types in ASHRAE energy codes. The values based on VA/unit of area have also been revised to align better with lighting density values determined through case studies performed in the various occupancies.
  2. Six disconnect rule for services—Section 230.71 has been revised to require that each service have only a single disconnecting means unless the two to six disconnecting means are in their own separate space, such as a single disconnect enclosure or separate section of switchgear. This is to prevent the situation where the bus in service equipment cannot be de-energized without involving the utility, a condition that led many workers to not place service equipment in an electrically safe work condition even though there was no justification do perform energized work. Also, this is not specific to non-dwellings, but is a situation more commonly found outside of one- and two- family dwelling locations.
  3. Reconditioned equipment—The idea that equipment can be new, used, rebuilt, refurbished, or reconditioned came about in the 2017 edition of the NEC. However, many revisions were made to the 2020 edition with respect to the reconditioning of equipment. Section 110.21 was revised to clarify what must be included on the marking for reconditioned equipment and throughout the code, sections were added to specify what specific equipment is allowed to be reconditioned and which equipment is not permitted to be reconditioned.

 

These are just a few of the highlights from the many revisions that occurred during the 2020 NEC revision cycle. Understanding what changed, why it changed, and how this will affect electrical installations going forward will help all of us make the transition to the latest edition of the NEC.

 

The NEC has evolved quickly from edition to edition, prompting some areas to perhaps skip an edition as they move forward in electrical safety. When this happens, it is imperative to be able to communicate how the code went from Point A to Point B. This is all the more reason to encourage our local jurisdictions to stay up to date with the NEC revision process and to not lag too far behind. As our industry evolves, so does the document that guides our day-to-day. Staying up-to-date with the current edition of the NEC helps us install systems in alignment with latest set of requirements aimed at keeping us all safe from the hazards that our use of electricity presents.

 

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As all of us continue to navigate the evolving situation with COVID-19, NFPA remains committed to supporting you with the resources you need to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical, and other hazards. For information on NFPA’s response to the coronavirus, please visit our webpage.

In October 2019, a construction worker at a residential project in New Jersey was electrocuted and killed when scaffolding 70etouched a high-tension power line. That same month, a worker at a construction site in Maryland died when the articulating boom he was operating reportedly touched a power line. In December last year, an Amtrak worker in New York died when he placed a ladder against a substation transformer that he thought was off, but was in fact still energized.

In light of these fatalities, it’s critical to examine how much and what kind of electrical safety training employers are required to provide their employees, and what that training should accomplish.

 

In his latest NFPA Journal column, Derek Vigstol dives into the subject of electrical safety training. It starts, he says, not just with our set of personal protection equipment (PPE) but with a genuine understanding of the definition of a “qualified person.”

Read “In Compliance” in the March/April 2020 issue of NFPA Journal.

 

It’s no secret that technology today is evolving at the speed of the electrons that power it. Gadgets, gismos, and doohickeys are continuously being updated to make our lives more convenient, more efficient, and keep us connected. And as consumers, we are always waiting for the next big breakthrough that becomes the “thing” we can’t live without.

 

So, what does this mean for the built environment? As more and more technology works its way into our lives, we grow increasingly enamored with the devices that help streamline our day-to-day. But this presents challenges about how we protect the world from electrical hazards. We are finding new and creative ways to power equipment, connect to the world we live in, and interact with our surroundings. From the Internet of Things (IoT) to Power over Ethernet (PoE), new terms are flooding the vocabulary of building designers and engineers every day.

 

Take PoE for instance. We are using it to power lighting in office buildings and computer labs in colleges, and build automation systems in hotels around the world. As this new use of an old technology expands and becomes the norm, we are met with new and challenging concerns. Questions like, “How will all these additional communications cables add to the fire load of the building?” and “Will large bundles of cable present a fire hazard?”

 

Recently, I spoke to a group of leading experts on PoE technology and picked their collective brains about what the future looks like for electrical installation safety and our response to the ever-changing technological landscape. Check out my video interview above, and let us know in the comments below what you're seeing where you work.

 

 

 

 

          

 

The 2020 edition of NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC) hit the shelves back in September of 2019 and with its release came a sweeping change to the requirements for ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel in residential type occupancies or dwelling units. Communicating the ins and outs of what this means for dwelling unit electrical systems going forward is a big part of the value that NFPA can bring to the electrical industry. To do this, we were able to enlist the help of our friends at the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI) to help spread the word. I had the opportunity to contribute to the January/February edition of the IAEI magazine with an article featuring the highlights and reasoning of the many changes that took place during the 2020 revision process.

 

Some of the highlights included the expansion of GFCI protection in dwelling units, clarification of how measurements are taken, and relocation of specific requirements as needed. These changes are going to increase the safety aspect of homes built under the 2020 NEC. By implementing the technology that we have available today, we can create a safe space in our homes where the risk of electrocution is significantly lower than even just a few years ago.

 

The NEC is an ever-evolving document that will never stop striving to meet its purpose and that is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from the hazards arising from the use of electricity.

It's not often that the National Electrical Code (NEC) gets a requirement aimed at protecting an individual exposed to electrical hazards under the most extreme worst-case scenario. After all, the purpose of the NEC is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from the hazards arising from the use of electricity; practical safeguarding meaning that the NEC isn’t really intended to protect in the event of something like a natural disaster or other unforeseen emergency situation. Then came the 2020 edition of the NEC and the new section 230.85. It requires an emergency disconnect to be installed in a readily accessible location on the outside of one- and two-family homes.

 

This new requirement is really the product of multiple electrical industry experts coming together to solve a problem. And, it's one of the best examples I’ve seen in recent years of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem in action. I had the great opportunity to sit down recently with Matt Paiss, the International Association of Fire Fighters principal representative on Code Making Panel 4 and the driver behind this specific change. We were joined by NFPA Board of Directors’ member, Kwame Cooper, a retired assistant fire chief of the Los Angeles Fire Department. Watch our interview below. As you listen, you'll see how this change came to be, how this revision process truly demonstrates the essence of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, and brings the true meaning of collaboration, to light.

 

 

In case you weren't aware, this change was actually recognized during the 2017 revision process - there was a problem with the current standard of practice when it came to emergency responders who were responding to emergencies at dwelling units. Mainly, the issue revolved around how best to kill power to the building to begin dealing appropriately to the emergency, such as a house fire.The options were:

 

  • Pull the meter
  • Wait for the utility company to come disconnect the power
  • Leave the power on and try to be careful

 

All of these options have their own drawbacks for emergency personnel. For most emergency responders, the thought of pulling the meter on their own was out of the question as most responders lack the qualification to safely perform this task. Plus, even after the meter is out, there are still exposed live parts on the line side of the meter that still present a shock hazard. So, in many parts of the country this option was not an option. This left emergency personnel, such as firefighters, with just two options. Either they could take their chances and start the process with the wiring system still energized, or wait for the utility company to show up. However, electrical utilities do not have the same response time requirements and often can take hours to be on site to disconnect power. If a home is on fire, every second counts and by the time the power company arrives, the home could be a total loss. This left many emergency personnel with the only realistic option of doing their job while still being exposed to electrical hazards.

 

The approach that was originally proposed as a part of the 2017 revision cycle was to require the service disconnecting means to be installed outside of the home or some other way to remotely operate the service disconnect from the outside of the home. This was met with very strong opposition and skepticism as many felt that requiring the service equipment to be outside would not be viable in certain parts of the country, and, a remote operating device might not be operable when needed, for instance, if the control wiring were to be damaged in the fire. This led to the various sides of the discussion being brought back to the table in between cycles to figure out a way to address the concerns. It was also important to find a way that emergency responders could safely disconnect the power from the home and do their job without fear of being shocked.

 

I’m really pleased to say that the final outcome of all of these discussions has left installers and home builders with solid options of how the process can be done. It's also our hope that it’ll bring peace of mind to the emergency response community.

 

As this requirement evolves over the next few cycles, it will be interesting to track the data and see the positive impact on the safety of first responders that this revision brings to the table. After all, we depend on this community every day to keep us safe from a whole list of hazards; it’s time we return the favor and do our part to protect them.

electrical

 

It’s no secret that NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC) is aimed at saving lives. There are requirements throughout the document that are specifically included to prevent shock and electrical fires. However, once in a while we need requirements to install the electrical system in a way that supports life saving efforts of a different kind. Sometimes, it is the electrical system itself that will end up saving a life and other times it might be key components of the electrical system that support certain life safety functions of a building.

 

One type of occupancy that illustrates this point is a hospital. Healthcare facilities are a great example of the NFPA Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, a framework that identifies the components that must work together to minimize risk and help prevent loss, injuries, and death from fire, electrical and other hazards. These facilities are also prime examples of where the convergence of multiple building codes and standards can make it hard to digest and keep straight, especially when it comes to the essential electrical system (EES). The EES is a critical piece to the operation of healthcare facilities and instrumental in providing life safety in these occupancies. However, we need to take a look at all of the moving pieces to better understand how this supports the mission to save lives.

 

First, let’s take a look at why we even have a need for the EES in the first place. In order to do this, we need to understand what makes up an EES. For our purposes here, we will focus on a Type 1 EES. But first we should define what an EES is. NFPA 99: Healthcare Facilities Code actually defines an EES as:

 

“A system comprised of alternate sources of power and all connected distribution systems and ancillary equipment, designed to ensure continuity of electrical power to designated areas and functions of a health care facility during disruption of normal power sources, and also to minimize disruption within the internal wiring system.”

 

Specifically, a Type 1 EES is made up of three separate branches that provide power to different functions within the facility:

  • The first branch is the life safety branch and it is intended to deliver power to the systems that are needed for the purpose of life-safety, such as exit signs and egress lighting.
  • The second branch is the critical branch. This branch contains circuits and equipment that are in certain areas and critical to the function of patient care within the facility. Critical circuits can supply items like task lighting, certain receptacles, and fixed equipment in Category 1 (critical) spaces.
  • The third branch is the equipment branch. This branch powers systems that are integral to the building operation. Systems such as climate control HVAC and certain elevators can be found on this branch.

 

Just exactly how this system needs to perform is not exactly a function of the NEC. Remember, the purpose of the NEC is the practical safeguarding of people and property from electrical hazards. Keeping a hospital up and running in an emergency is certainly an important task, however, it belongs to another document, like NFPA 99.  The role of the National Electrical Code is more about how to install the EES, both to meet the performance requirements of NFPA 99 and to be safe in alignment with the purpose of the NEC.

 

As I mentioned, in order to understand the full picture of just how the EES factors into the life saving mission of the Fire & Life Safety Ecosystem, we need to examine all of the pieces in this equation. To do this justice we will be taking a deeper look at the specifics of this system as they relate to the mission of making the world a safer place in a series of blogs over the coming weeks. Our next blog will examine the three different branches of a Type 1 EES the Life Safety Branch, the Critical Branch, and the Equipment Branch. We will cover what types of loads are allowed on each, how each branch is required to perform, and how exactly we install these systems to accomplish this. We’ll also explore the nuances of the relationships between the NEC, NFPA 99, and NFPA 101, Life Safety Code . Make sure to stay tuned as we break down one of the more complicated and confusing areas in electrical installations.

 

To learn more about this topic and related information found in the 2020 National Electrical Code, be sure to check out NFPA’s new digital access to the NEC, which provides needed information in the code with features like keyword search and the ability to pull up other referenced sections without leaving the page you were on! Best of all, you can bundle it with a copy of the book and save big. Check it out today, and let us know what you think.

Another June has come and gone, and now we’re on the backside of 2019! For those of us at NFPA who are involved the NFPA Conference and Expo and the annual technical session, July signifies our recovery from the biggest event of the year in fire, electrical, and life safety. This year has been no different. San Antonio saw the largest gathering of NFPA stakeholders at this event since I came on board at NFPA. This is very encouraging as NFPA strives to spread the word about the NFPA Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem. Each and everyone of the attendees at the Big Show are an integral part of this ecosystem.

 

One stakeholder group that has always been active in the NFPA ecosystem, is the electrical inspector community. Afterall, they represent an entire cog in the ecosystem around code compliance for electrical safety. In 2018, NFPA opened a dedicated member section for public sector electrical inspectors in order to assist in furthering and bettering the position of the electrical inspection community within the NFPA Ecosystem. This year the member section had its annual business meeting and executive board meeting on Sunday before the conference kicked off.

 

One of the topics that was at the center of the discussion and is evident that many of the members are very passionate about, is how can the NFPA Electrical Inspector Member Section play a role in helping the inspection community through providing resources and educational material. This is especially critical at this time when many municipalities are seeing budget cuts and funding reductions that lead to many non-electrical type building officials performing more and more inspections of electrical installations. Multi-hat inspectors are here and are sticking around. The member section recognizes this fact and wants to provide resources and help so that the Code Compliance cog of the Fire and Life Safety Ecosystem remains strong in the electrical world.

 

I had the opportunity to sit down with some of the members of the Electrical Inspector Section at Conference and Expo and discuss what some of the challenges are that the electrical inspection community is facing. What we talked about was a resounding need to keep up. Keeping up with changing technology, keeping up with a changing inspection landscape, and keeping up with what other organizations are doing around the industry. We spoke about the challenges facing the inspection community for about an hour in a sort of impromptu roundtable discussion that we did our best to capture on film. Check out some of the highlights from this conversation in this short video below that we put together to capture some of the more important points.

 

 

So how can the electrical inspector member section serve as a resource to the electrical inspection community? One of the methods that they have already started working on is by creating a whitepaper around conducting residential electrical inspections. This whitepaper spells out how the inspection process fits into the Ecosystem and then goes on further to list items and tasks that should be performed during the inspection process of a dwelling unit. They also go a step further and list the various references from building codes such as the NEC® and IRC® as well as other applicable reference standards.

 

Download the whitepaper and start using it today. If you’re an electrical inspector, let us know what you’re seeing out in the field. We’d love to hear from you. Also, the NFPA Electrical Inspector Member Section is seeking members to help further their mission. Membership in the Electrical Inspector Section is open to any NFPA member who is directly employed by or contracted to a public agency that promulgates and/or enforces codes and standards and performs one or more of the following activities:

 

  • field electrical inspections
  • electrical plans review
  • administers/supervises personnel performing field electrical inspections and/or plans review

If you fit the qualifications and this is something you feel you would be interested in please apply today!

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