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14 Posts authored by: dvigstol Employee


Is the electrical industry 'qualified' for safety in the same way we require workers to be qualified? NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace provides a definition for a "qualified person" and requires that only qualified workers perform work involving electrical hazards. However, the fact remains that in many aspects, the electrical industry as a whole is not supportive of a safety culture.

In my recent NFPA Live, I presented examples that demonstrated how, as an industry, we have yet to adopt safety on the same level as energy efficiency and functionality. During the live event I answered this question from a member. I hope you find some value in it.

NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!


Keeping employees safe from electrical hazards is a number one priority in a facility; it is also the law. Developing and implementing an electrical safety program (ESP) is a key step to creating a workplace that doesn’t put employees in harm's way. However, building a program from scratch or rebuilding a flawed program can be quite daunting. To help you, NFPA developed a new workshop that provides you the opportunity to practice many of the steps needed in developing an ESP. The first offering of this application-style workshop is being held in August on the island of Maui in Hawaii and promises to provide attendees with the needed experience to develop effective electrical safety programs in their own facilities.


In my recent NFPA Live session I focused on one of the exercises from this new workshop, which is designed to help you determine if a task is justified to be performed while energized. I received this follow-up question from a member. I hear this question a lot so I’m sharing my answer here with you.


Check out the video to hear the question and response, then get more info and register for this groundbreaking electrical safety training in paradise. I hope you find my response valuable and hope to see you in Hawaii. Mahalo!


Derek Vigstol is an electrical technical lead at NFPA. NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!

Of all the new and exciting things going on at NFPA recently, one of the things that has me most excited is the new types of training being developed and the new places training is being held. With a background in the training world prior to coming on board here at NFPA, I tend to get nearly as excited about new electrical safety training as my daughter does on that final day of the school year in mid-June. This year I have had the pleasure of being a part of the team that developed the first offering of a new workshop format for NFPA electrical safety training.
This particular workshop is just a taste of the direction in which future NFPA electrical trainings could be headed. The workshop is Developing an Electrical Safety Program Based on NFPA 70E and has been a joint effort in development between NFPA and Mr. SeaRay Beltran (picture at right). With facility managers, building owners, safety directors, and anyone else responsible for electrical safety in the workplace in mind, we developed a one-day workshop that walks participants through many of the activities necessary in the development of an electrical safety program. This workshop is a departure from traditional electrical safety training because very little time is spent on the content of NFPA 70E® and almost all of the time is focused on practicing the process of developing and electrical safety program. As much as I like to hear the sound of my own voice, standing in front of a class and rattling off requirements from 70E seem a bit counter-productive.
Throughout my career I have been through class after class where the instructor stood in front of the class and poured out a wealth of knowledge hoping that a good amount would stick. However, statistics show that only about 5% of information delivered in the straight lecture format is retained, whereas, practice by doing has around a 75% retention rate. That is why I am so excited about this class! Participants start out by having the stage set of how a breakdown in safety has landed them as the new facilities director for a fictitious university and now they are tasked with developing a new electrical safety program that will not repeat the previous program’s mistakes. They’ll start by examining the old plan to identify what went wrong and then determine who needs to be a part of the team to develop the new plan. From there, participants walk through the process of determining what safety controls must be a part of the program and what procedures must be developed as part of the process. We’ll walk through a risk assessment, how to determine whether or not energized work is justified, and it will all culminate in the capstone project that has participants work on their own to develop the program for the on-campus hospital.
The combination of doing the work with guidance from NFPA experts will give the participants the tools they need to go back to their place of business and develop a solid program of their own. Another highlight of this one-day workshop is the fact that we have the opportunity to offer the first one in SeaRay’s home state of Hawaii, on the island of Maui! This brings NFPA electrical training to the Hawaiian Islands and gives local folks the opportunity to take our training in their own backyard, however, this doesn’t mean that it’s only open to Hawaiians. By all means feel free to join us no matter where you are at.
To piggy back on the opportunity to bring the workshop to Hawaii, NFPA has also decided to offer our standard 2-day NFPA 70E® Classroom training with certificate of educational achievement in the two days prior to the workshop. So for those who need to get up to speed with all of the requirements of the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E before going through the workshop, the option is there for a full 70E seminar ending with how to develop an electrical safety program. Then, after the dust clears, you’re still in Hawaii! It’s a win-win, NFPA 70E and Maui. How does electrical safety training get any better?

I'm often perplexed at what is the most effective method of improving the safety of electrical installations around the world. Should we focus on providing the installation community with better tools, assistance and guidance on installing electrical equipment or should we focus on supporting the inspection community and rely on the AHJ community to ensure that installations are safe upon completion? To me it's a little bit of a chicken and egg paradox. On one hand, better and more thorough enforcement of Code requirements will lead to more installations that meet or exceed the requirements of NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC). But on the flip side, if we focus on helping the installation community, it leads to compliant installations long before the AHJ ever steps foot on a job site.

Each approach presents its own unique set of pros and cons. For instance, creating a culture where inspection is less needed due to better installations opens the door down the road for installers to cut corners where they know inspectors won't look. It also allows government officials to use a "lack of citations" as fuel for discussions around manpower. If a jurisdiction is seriously looking at cutting staff salaries to meet budget constraints, they might look upon this as an opportunity to cover larger territories with less inspectors; after all, the electricians in the area must really know what they are doing when inspectors rarely cite NEC® violations. I think for now the answer lies somewhere in the middle between the two extremes: provide tools, training, and solutions that set installers up to be able to install electrical system while reducing the friction that exists when referencing the NEC. At the same time, provide the inspection community with guidance and training on how to perform electrical inspections and needed guidance on professional qualifications for electrical inspectors.

NFPA has been busy over the last year developing two new documents to provide this needed guidance. NFPA 1078: Standard for Electrical Inspector Professional Qualifications and NFPA 78: Guide on Electrical Inspections were created in response to a call for help from the inspection community. Recently, NFPA’s Jeff Sargent discussed the development of these documents during an NFPA Live Member’s Only event. Here is the portion of the video where he breaks it down.



Simultaneously, NFPA has been busy putting together a plan for how to reduce friction between the NEC and its users. As we all know, the book itself can be difficult to read and understand. Providing training and products that offer a better explanation of code requirements and how to apply provisions of the NEC has been a core focus of NFPA lately. Tools and solutions that both save time and present needed information to the installation community at the time that they need it will work two-fold in improving electrical safety. By making both the installer’s job easier and more efficient, they are able to serve more clients while fostering a better understanding of NEC requirements. When more jobs are being completed by qualified personnel and being completed in compliance with the NEC, the safety of our installations increases significantly.


It is an exciting time here at NFPA as we focus on transitioning a 120-year-old standards development organization to a modern-day information and knowledge provider committed to improving the safety ecosystem and eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.

May is National Electrical Safety Month and as part of NFPA's mission to help save the world from electrical hazards, we have joined forces with the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi). This year's theme is "Understanding the Code that Keeps Us Safe."  That means sharing information with the world that helps build an understanding of how the National Electrical Code (NEC) became what it is today. Connecting the dots between the problem and the solution can often be difficult when we aren't in the room during the code debate. However, recent requirements around protecting people from electrical hazards in, on, or near bodies of water or pools have been the topic of many recent open discussions and the I have broken out the major points below. 
Everybody knows that electricity and water are a bad combination. Many movies have shown how the hero can thwart the evil plans of a world-wide crime syndicate by electrocuting the main bad guy as they stand in a puddle of water, probably sometime after they activated every sprinkler head in the building with a lighter. Or maybe you can relate to getting a cell phone wet, only to find the circuits short out and sensitive electronics burn up inside the phone rendering it useless. I'm sure we can all come up with a million other examples of how water and electricity don't mix. It is a universally-known fact and one that we learned from a very young age. Or did we?
The state of electricity today - in and around water
How many of us have a pool in our backyard? Or a light at the end of our dock? Or an electrically-powered boat lift? Or maybe you have a boat with a layout that more resembles the comfort of an RV with a 104" flat-screen TV in your stateroom. Many boats today have gone way beyond your grandfather's 14- foot aluminum fishing boat. I could go on about all of the places we ask for electricity without ever thinking about the hazards. But instead, I will start by asking one very important question. What dangers do we face when we put electricity near water? The two major hazards in my mind are, Shock/Electrocution and Electric Shock Drowning (ESD). Let's first talk about what these two things mean.
Electrocution and Electric Shock Drowning (ESD)
Electrocution is death by electric shock. This usually means that an electricity travels through the body on a path with sufficient current, typically somewhere between 0.1A and 0.5A, across the heart causing it to stop pumping blood. This can happen when an individual comes in contact with an energized thing (i.e. metal ladder, electrical equipment, water) and completes the circuit allowing that current to return to the source. This is the same hazard that exists on dry land as well; if you complete the path, Chances are it is going to be severe.
Electric Shock Drowning on the other hand is an entirely different animal. As the name suggests, there is a shock component of this silent killer, but no need to complete a path. What happens in this situation is that an energized component makes contact with the water because the path back to the source is often through the earth and water. This creates voltage gradients within the water and as an individual swims through this area, smaller currents interfere with the body's nervous system and cause temporary paralysis, leading to the individual being unable to stay afloat and eventually drowning. It is sometimes difficult to determine if ESD was to blame since the actual cause of death is drowning and many cases have probably gone undocumented.
If it sounds scary, it is. But there is good news. Many intelligent people are coming together to figure out ways to try and protect swimmers in the water, while at the same time support the needs of boat owners (who feel compelled to cut corners and remove safeguards designed to eliminate deaths in the water). 
Ground-Fault Protection
One measure that has proven to be successful in protecting against shock is ground-fault circuit interrupters, or GFCIs. We find these in kitchens, bathrooms, and other areas outside. The basic concept of these devices is that they monitor what goes out and what comes back and when there is a difference (meaning, the current goes somewhere else). Since that "somewhere else" could be a human body, it opens the circuit. One of the issues with GFCIs is that the trip value is set very low, between 4-6mA. This is great for protection against the type of shock that causes electrocution. But when we apply this level of protection to boats, it becomes a problem. Due to the extreme conditions that boats are subjected to, nearly every boat on the water (that utilizes shore power) today has leakage current in this range. As current leaks into the water, it lessens the further from the source it gets. So through all of the research we have found that swimmers won't be subjected to the full amount of current as they would if they were making contact with an energized component. 
I used to get calls from irate boat owners who were at their wits end about how to get power to their boats. That dang GFCI just keeps tripping, they'd say! And I know that many of them waited until after the inspection and found a solution outside of what the NEC allows (if you know what I mean), which, in my opinion, is on par with letting your children make toast while taking a bath. However, while nobody would allow a child to take a bath while using a toaster, many people still bragged on social media about how they waited for the inspector to sign off and then pulled out the ground-fault protection. This just blows my mind!   
Marina safety
Based on these issues, the result of the discussions when it comes to changes in the NEC is one of a happy medium designed to protect swimmers from ESD, and centers around this: 30mA. At this level it is not likely that enough current could pass through a person to cause the temporary paralysis that leads to ESD. However, the conversation didn't end there. For the 2017 NEC it was decided that from an installation stand point it would be best to limit any and all leakage current to 30mA. This included feeders and service level overcurrent devices. The problem is that leakage current on the service is additive, so it doesn't take long to hit that 30mA mark. For instance, a marina with 11 boats that each leak 3mA would cause this protection to jump into action even though 3mA is below the trip value set to protect us in the kitchen and bathroom. To find out how some of the conversation played out, check out my recent In Compliance column in NFPA Journal magazine. 
Through all of the well-intended efforts to protect us around new installations, you're probably asking, "But what about my marina that was built in 1984?" And here is where we run into issues. There are many existing marinas and docking facilities where none of these precautions have been taken, so how do we handle those? Well, this is where we need your help. This is where we need to educate people across the country about why it is so dangerous to jump in the water in these areas. Check out NFPA's video below on water safety aimed at informing the public of the dangers surrounding marinas, docks, and boatyards. 
So I hope this helps shed some light around these silent killers lurking in the water and I encourage all of us to do our part to foster discussions in our communities about safety in the water. The Electric Shock Drowning Association along with the Electrical Safety Foundation International both have some great resources in battling this deadly issue. You can also find information on NFPA's "electrical safety around water" webpage. Through awareness of this disturbing trend, we aim to educate people on why we need certain safeguards in and around marina and dock installations. Everything points to fixing the problem, not removing the solution, so I leave you with this final question, "Are you ready to stop swimming with toasters in the water?"

During my recent NFPA Live event I discussed some highlights from the 2020 NEC First Draft Meeting in January. Immediately following this event, I received this question from an NFPA member. I’m now sharing my answer with you and I hope you find it valuable.
You can also find additional information about the 2020 NEC first draft meeting in my latest In Compliance column in NFPA Journal.
Derek Vigstol is an Electrical Technical Lead at NFPA. NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!


Shutting off the electric supply to a building in the event of a fire or other emergency has been a problem that has plagued firefighters for many years. As they attempt to put out a fire and rescue occupants, electrical systems pose significant line-of-duty hazards. In many instances, when a house is fully involved and the fire does not present a rescue situation, fire departments will rely on the electric utility to arrive and shut off the power supply to the building, a delay that often results in a total loss. Firefighters have argued that they could work safer and be more effective if they could simply turn off a building’s electric supply themselves.

To address this issue, electrical experts put the subject on the table at the recent first draft meeting of the 2020 NFPA 70: National Electrical Code, along with other topics that point to evolving technology and building practices that can help improve safety.

Learn more about this issue in my recent In Compliance column in the March/April 2018 issue of NFPA Journal where I discuss some of these key topics as well as a handful of proposed revisions such as Article 230 of the NEC, in greater detail. 

If you've played the NEC Challenge App, then you have answered the questions, competed against electrical code fanatics from around the country and improved your NEC knowledge. But do you have what it takes to come up with the actual questions for the Challenge? If so, NFPA has a way for you to join in its creation. If you can send an email; you can be participate! NEC Challenge


How? It's easy. Just submit your questions to Questions should be submitted in  a word document attached to the email, and they must meet the following criteria for consideration:

  • Multiple choice with four (4) options
  • Word document must contain the question, choices, and the correct answer
  • Only one correct answer choice (no "pick all that apply")
  • Answer should include a brief explanation (2-3 sentences)
  • General knowledge categories are best
  • Questions that involve calculations are not a good idea


Keep in mind that selected questions will be entered in the NEC Challenge App game and contestants only have a limited time to answer. Also, this is not the place to submit questions for NFPA technical experts; these questions are best handled by calling 1-800-344-3555 and submitting your question through NFPA's technical question service. Please note that the technical question service is available to NFPA members and AHJs. 


So what are you waiting for? Get your questions in today and be part of the NEC Challenge!

A few years back, if you had described an emerging technology that enabled lighting to sense varying conditions within a building and seamlessly integrate with the building automation system to return everything to the optimal use of energy and the optimal conditions for occupants, I would have said, “You’re crazy!”
But today, we know this technology isn’t merely emerging—it’s in full force, and it’s evolving daily in the form of Power over Ethernet, or PoE. As those of us in the electrical industry have come to learn, PoE technology is leaving the confines of the communication world and expanding into the electrical industry as electrical equipment has become much more energy efficient. 
In my latest “In Compliance” column, I talk about how the latest edition of the NEC (2017) addresses two key fire hazards associated with PoE equipment:
  • The threat of the electrical equipment starting a fire
  • The threat the electrical equipment poses during a fire
And it doesn’t stop here. There’s much more we need to learn about PoE as it relates to electrical equipment installations. Answering questions about electrical shock hazards, fire ignition issues, flame spread characteristics, what the addition to a building’s fuel load might look like, and what products of combustion might be added, will help us effectively protect the world from potential hazards, and be done in a way that allows this technology to grow.
Read the latest In Compliance column for insights into this growing technology and the related NEC requirements. 

In my recent NFPA Live Chad Duffy — NFPA's Senior Fire Protection Specialist — and I discussed fire pump power supply requirements and the intersection of NFPA 20, Standard for the Installation of Stationary Pumps for Fire Protection
and the NFPA 70, National Electrical Code®.


During the live event we received this follow-up questions from a member. I'm now sharing it with you. I hope you find some value in it.

NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!


NFPA 70E® Standard for Electrical Safety In The Workplace® continues to evolve and shape the way employers and employees approach electrical safety. Recent revisions place added emphasis on performing an arc-flash risk assessment as a critical part of every task being performed. Available in the newly released 2018 edition of 70E, Table 130.5(C) examines the Likelihood of Occurrence of an Arc-Flash can be used as a better tool in keeping workers safe.


Last week I covered this topic during my NFPA Live, an exclusive for NFPA Members. During the live event I got this follow-up question. I'm now sharing it with you. I hope you find some value in it.
NFPA Live is an interactive video series in which members of NFPA staff address some of the most frequent topics they receive through the Member's Only Technical Question service. If you are currently an NFPA Member you can view the entire video by following this link. If you're not currently a member, join today!

As an electrical industry professional, following the NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC) protects communities - people and property - from electrical hazards, and helps build a safer world. NFPA offers a convenient way to access the 2017 NEC when you’re out in the field.

The 2017 NEC includes hundreds of updates along with five brand new articles. The latest edition of the code paves the way for safer electrical installations. The 2017 NEC app, available for both Apple and Android devices, not only gives you the flexibility and ease you want on the job, it has a number of new features that you, our partners in electrical safety, have asked for.

The features include:

  • A robust search capability that allows you to search keywords or NEC article, and highlights your results
  • The ability to browse through the Table of Contents and easily access a chapter and subchapters
  • Scrolling capabilities that let you move easily from one section to another
  • Internal links between sections
  • The ability to zoom in for easy viewing of tables and figures



And that’s not all. You also asked us to identify changes from the 2014 NEC.  The 2017 NEC app also shows you:

  • Code changes indicated with gray shading
  • New sections, tables and figures highlighted with a “bold, italic “N” in a gray box to the left of new material
  • An “N” next to the title of an entirely new article
  • Where text has been deleted (indicated by a bullet (•) between the paragraphs that remain)



But don’t take our word for it. An NEC app user recently told us, “The iOS version is the handiest form to access the National Electrical Code when a print copy is not at-hand … what with its very robust search features. It's the version I use the most.”

Get the 2017 NEC app today by linking to the iOS version for Apple products or Google Play for Android, and experience for yourself all of the positive results on your next job assignment.

Electrical professionals, you’re invited to put your NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC) knowledge to the test with NFPA’s new NEC Challenge app!


The NEC Challenge App is compatible with any Apple or Android product and is available on Google Play, as well. The best thing about it? The app is free! Want to take it up a notch? For only $4.99, you can access additional questions and play against your colleagues for the ultimate challenge.

What’s more, this interactive game gives you the chance to study the NEC and it’s a great way to prove your superior code knowledge and compete against your peers in a really fun way. The Challenge allows you to earn points, reach new levels and move up the NEC Challenge leaderboard all from the keypad of your phone.

Based on the 2014 NEC, you’ll find in the app:


  •       An assortment of questions that includes multiple choice and “true/false” formats selected from all categories of the code
  •      The ability to participate as a single player
  •       An opportunity to compete in head-to-head challenges
  •       An update on your status on the Leaderboard



So what are you waiting for? Download the NEC Challenge app today, put your best foot forward and demonstrate your ultimate NEC knowledge!


Need more information about the NEC? You can find it all at

NEC Online from NFPA

Get your free 2-day trial of NEC Online for instant access to updates in NFPA’s National Electrical Code!


As a professional in the electrical industry, you don’t have to look much further than code requirements to know how dynamic this industry is. In fact, the three most recent editions of NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC) has seen more than 10 new articles and hundreds of changes that reflect emerging technologies and advancements in electrical and fire safety.


That’s why as the 2017 NEC edition rolls out this fall, NFPA has developed a new resource, NEC Online, to provide electrical professionals a focused view of what's changed over nearly a decade of important NEC advancements. Why is this important? For one, looking back at previous editions allows you to see the evolution of the code. But even more importantly, as you know, not all states or jurisdictions have adopted the newest code edition.


For instance, if you are a contractor working in multiple states, you’ll need to have access to previous codes; the one that particular state has adopted. NEC Online gives you that flexibility and the assurance that you have what you need to get the project done right, and to code.


So whether you work in the office or onsite, on residential, commercial, industrial design installations or inspection projects, NEC Online can help make your job easier. Take a look at some of the other benefits:


  • Navigate and search instantly the 2017, 2014, and 2011 editions of NFPA 70: NEC
  • Identify code changes from edition to edition. You'll know what's new, deleted, or revised!
  • Understand key code revisions by using the change summaries provided by NFPA experts
  • View from any device, including smartphones and online tablets, or download PDFs for offline viewing
  • Share important NEC content with colleagues via email
  • Print or bookmark NEC sections for quick reference down the road


Sign up for your free NEC Online 2-day trial now by visiting NFPA’s website.

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