AUTHOR: Corey Hannahs

Electrical labeling signs

All signs point to required labeling as a major ally in the pursuit of safety of those performing electrical work

“…do this, don’t do that – can’t you read the sign?”  The year was 1971 and I certainly find some irony in the fact that the original band to perform this well-known ditty was dubbed as the Five Man Electrical Band. If you listen to the lyrics of the song, it doesn’t necessarily portray signs in the best light (see what I did there?).  The songwriter depicts signs as being controlling and limiting to individuals who may look or act different than what may be considered the norm. For someone who is looking for unlimited freedom to do whatever they choose, signs can certainly be seen as restrictive and unnecessary.  But when it comes to ensuring the safety of individuals working around electricity, signs can be a critical factor in determining life, or death. NFPA 70©, National Electrical Code© (NEC©), and NFPA 70E© Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace© are two of the three components that are crucial to the electrical Cycle of Safety, with NFPA 70B,© Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance© being the third.  While the purpose of the NEC is to safeguard persons and property from hazards that may arise from the use of electricity, NFPA 70E provides enforceable responsibilities for both employers and employees to protect employees against electrical hazards to which employees might be exposed.  So, while the focus of the NEC is on safe installations, NFPA 70E exists to help ensure that the installation is done safely by the individual(s) performing the work. With that said, it becomes easier to see how the NEC and NFPA 70E must be applied together in harmony to ensure the safety of both people and property within any given scenario dealing with electricity. Signs, or “labeling” as they are often referenced, can be seen regularly within the NEC as well as NFPA 70E.  NEC section 110.16(B) deals specifically with labeling of service equipment rated at 1200 amps or more, maintaining that the label itself must meet the requirements of NEC section 110.21(B), which deals with label design, affixation, and durability. As well as containing the following information: Nominal system voltage Available fault current at the service overcurrent protective devices The clearing time of service overcurrent protective devices based on the available fault current at the service equipment The date the label was applied The exception within NEC section 110.16(B) states that “service equipment labeling shall not be required if an arc flash label is applied in accordance with acceptable industry practice.”  Such accepted industry practice arc flash labeling practices reside within NFPA 70E.  As a means of tying the NEC installation requirements back into NFPA 70E, Informational Note No. 3 within NEC section 110.16(B) goes on to note that NFPA 70E as covering labeling information stating that “Acceptable industry practices for equipment labeling are described in the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E. This standard provides specific criteria for developing arc-flash labels for equipment that provides nominal system voltage, incident energy levels, arc-flash boundaries, minimum required levels of personal protective equipment, and so forth.”  So, you may be asking yourself, where does the information (we are talking about here as being listed on the labeling) come into play as far as safety?  Much of this information can be utilized for risk assessment as well as personal protection equipment (PPE) selection, should we get to that level as we work our way through the Hierarchy of Risk Control Methods as listed within NFPA 70E section 110.5(H)(3).  Understanding the known risk(s) and having the information needed to make a well-educated decision, including choosing proper PPE when deemed necessary. This required labeling, as applied by intertwining both the NEC and NFPA 70E, can now be viewed as a major ally in helping ensure the safety of those performing electrical work. Knowledge is power. Empower your ability to remain safe by learning more. You can find additional resources and information about this topic by visiting the NFPA’s electrical solutions webpage. NFPA also offers 2021 NFPA 70E online training, which features interactive content, including scenarios, videos, and animated images to help you understand core concepts and strategies related to workplace electrical safety. Visit the training webpage to learn more.

Looking Back at 2020 and the Value of Evaluating Electrical Systems and Equipment Maintenance Needs Now for the New Year

I know that I am certainly preaching to the choir in telling you that this year has been filled with extraordinary challenges most of which have been driven by a life-altering global pandemic. At a time that has brought us social distancing, masks, remote work, virtual school, and government mandated stay-at-home orders, just to name a few, most would probably agree that the year’s end cannot come soon enough.  Like every year, however, some things are a certainty and 2020 is no different. From a business perspective, the end of the year is a time for both evaluation and planning. How do our numbers look?  Did we meet projections? What are our goals moving forward and how do we plan to achieve them? Annual budgets are drawing to a close and it’s likely that budgets for the next fiscal year have already been put together and are starting to be implemented. There’s a good chance the end of the year will provide an opportunity to slow down production if not a full on shut down. All that said, there isn’t a better time than right now to evaluate your electrical systems and equipment. The normal wear and tear that is put on regularly maintained equipment is damaging enough let alone equipment that is exposed to excess duty cycles, poor environmental conditions, and less than adequate, if any, Electrical Preventative Maintenance (EPM) Program.   Chapter 4 of NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, discusses why an effective EPM program pays dividends. In the opening line of section 4.1.1 it states, “Electrical equipment deterioration is normal, and equipment failure is inevitable.” According to Merriam-Webster, “inevitable” means incapable of being avoided or evaded. The failure of your equipment is going happen, it’s just a matter of when. Wouldn’t it be convenient to have it fail at the end of the first quarter when you’re ramping up production for a first-time client that just provided you the largest single sale in the history of your company? Yeah…I didn’t think so.  Good news is that performing maintenance starting now, and continuing regularly through an established EPM program, can help delay equipment failure. As I mentioned before, the end of the year could naturally be bringing about a slow to or full halt of production. This downtime can be taken advantage of to help minimize, or eliminate future scheduled shutdowns during potential peak production cycles. Yes, it’s going to cost money. If you have qualified people on staff to perform the maintenance in-house, it is likely that you will have to pay a premium for them to work during the holidays. If you outsource your maintenance to a contracted company, they too will likely require additional money to work through the holidays.  Bottom line – maintenance costs money. Fun fact – lack of maintenance costs more money. With any luck, your company has hit projections and has a surplus in the budget that you must spend before years end.  NFPA 70B provides a great resource in Figure 4.2.6 (see below) to explain how more frequent maintenance inspections can have a positive reflection on lesser overall costs.  According to Figure 4.2.6, as the interval of time between EPM inspections increases, the cost of the EPM diminishes and the cost of breakdown repairs and replacement of failed equipment increases. The lowest total annual expense is realized by maintaining an inspection frequency that keeps the sum of repair/replacement and EPM costs at a minimum.  What goes unspoken for this equation is twofold. First, what is the cost of lost revenue based on downtime due to equipment repair and replacement as well as lost potential business.  Is the aforementioned client with your largest sale in the history of your company paying their bill when their product isn’t being produced on time?  Are they telling peers within the industry that you failed them and, in turn, deterring potential future sales? Second, not conveyed via Figure 4.2.6, and having the potential to be most devastating, is the safety of employees. Lack of proper maintenance to equipment can play a pivotal role in the safety of those employees that operate and maintain equipment.  While NFPA 70B is an amazing resource for maintaining electrical equipment, there is no available resource to repair your greatest asset – your employees.  As the year draws to an end, many will begin to reflect on resolutions and goals for the upcoming year. There are many advantages to performing year-end equipment maintenance that will help to put you in a better position to run your business effectively and potentially offset some otherwise potential unforeseen challenges. After all the unwelcome challenges 2020 has given us, it only makes sense to start 2021 off by controlling the things that we can control.  Electrical Preventative Maintenance (EPM) when done frequently and properly, certainly puts us in a position to be more in control.  Carpe Diem, my friends! Wishing you all a far less-challenging, healthy and blessed new year, that will fill us with gratitude.  Find out more about NFPA 70B by downloading our free fact sheet.

The Art of Game Planning for Electrical Safety Success

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.     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: The employee is within the limited approach boundary, and; 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.

Three Key Changes in the 2020 National Electrical Code That Help Make Kitchens Safer for Families

  If your kitchen is anything like ours, you'll agree it's become more of a gathering place for family than our own living rooms. While it may be hard to equate actual statistics to time spent in a kitchen, there is little doubt that more and more hours are being spent here, especially now as the world grapples with the COVID-19 pandemic and people continue to avoid restaurants for the immediate future and opt instead to do more cooking and entertaining at home. But just as we would never cut an onion with a blindfold on, we must also keep our eyes wide open to potential electrical dangers in the kitchen.  In the nearly 125 years of its existence, the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) has worked to help safeguard both people and property from hazards arising due to the use of electricity.  Every three years, the NEC is revised based on input that is often derived from knowledge, experiences, and technology advancements that can help improve upon safety.  A great example of the NEC making a change that had a significant impact on safety is when ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) receptacle requirements were first introduced in 1973 which were then required for outdoor receptacles. Since that time, when it comes to GFCIs, other key areas of the home and other locations and requirements have also been included like bathrooms (1975), garages (1978), and kitchens (1987) to help improve upon safety. Why the continuous evaluation and improvement of safety? The ever-changing world makes safety a continuous adventure, not a destination. When it comes to safety, we cannot rest on our laurels of what we have done; we must constantly evaluate and improve to help protect people and property. The 2020 NEC revision cycle has done just that when it comes to residential kitchen safety. As I mentioned, GFCI protection has been a key part of the NEC helping to ensure safety that has been improved upon over several NEC cycles dating back to the 1970s. The latest revision was no exception to advances in GFCI protection: NEC section 210.8(A) has been expanded in the 2020 edition to not only include 125-volt receptacles but to now include receptacles up to 250-volt. That means that receptacles that operate at 250-volt, such as those for an electric range would now need GFCI protection but only if it is installed within six feet of the edge of the sink. Kitchen design and layout, specifically appliance placement as related to sink locations, can certainly have an impact as to whether GFCI protection is required in these applications. Another revision to GFCI protection in the 2020 NEC is to section 422.5(A) dealing with appliances that require GFCI protection. This section was revised to include dishwashers. Yes, dishwashers! It's hard to believe that an appliance that works so closely with electricity and water has not required GFCI protection prior, but the good news is, now it does. Kitchen island receptacle requirements also saw a major overhaul during the 2020 NEC revision cycle. In prior versions of the NEC, section 210.52(C)(2) required that at least one receptacle be installed within a kitchen island that had a countertop with a long dimension of 24 inches or greater and a short dimension of 12 inches or greater. Within the same section of the 2020 NEC, it has been revised to require at least one receptacle within the first nine square feet or fraction thereof, of an island countertop and an additional receptacle for every 18 square feet more or fraction thereof. An additional requirement states that at least one receptacle shall be located within two feet of the outer end of a peninsula countertop. The example picture below shows how a 9 ½ foot by 3-foot island countertop will now require three total receptacles to meet the new requirements. This may seem like a large dimension for an island, but it is fairly common today to see an island this size, or larger, that is the main focus of the kitchen and utilized for many tasks. Having an adequate number of receptacles for not only cooking needs, but for plugging in phone chargers, laptops, etc., will provide more ability to power devices and appliances without the need to utilize extension cords or power splitters. While your local municipality may not yet be using the 2020 NEC, these revisions will have an impact on the way residential kitchens are wired when it does become adopted. Understanding these changes now will give you an opportunity to minimize the impact going forward, allowing you to know what will be required and being able to plan ahead.   For more information and related resources, please visit NFPA's “changes to the 2020 NEC” webpage.
Cycle of Safety

Electrical “Cycle of Safety” Keeps People and Property Protected in an Electrified World

We are often asked this question: if you could have dinner with anyone, who would it be? Personally, I think a present-day dinner conversation with Thomas Edison, Nikola Tesla, and other pioneers of electricity would prove to be extremely interesting.  Inventors are charged with having extremely creative minds, thinking outside of the norm, and determining the what “could be.”   With all the collective creativity in their minds, could they even remotely imagine the ability we have today when it comes to electricity? We are, without question, an electrified world.  According to the Enerdata Global Energy Statistical Yearbook 2020, power consumption between 2010 and 2019 has increased by 78%, with an average consumption increase of 3% per year. While the increase in 2019 was down from the norm at only 0.7%, there is little doubt that the 2020 data will be back to at least the 3% yearly average, likely more, due to the additional power being used due to the coronavirus pandemic. So, what does this all mean from an electricity standpoint? It means that, now more than ever, it is imperative that we continue to ensure safe electrical systems.   While sipping my coffee and browsing an electrical forum on social media this morning, I came across a post from an electrician who had just put new tabs in his 2020 edition of the NEC and captioned it, “Tabbing my new book to keep the citizens of my town safe was so exciting, exhilarating, and satisfying.  NOTHING has come close. I dare you to ask me anything!” The ownership and excitement in that post brought a huge smile to my face. “Keeping the citizens of my town safe”…it's just that simple! Whether you are an engineer designing the electrical system, an electrician installing and/or maintaining the electrical system, or an inspector verifying a safely installed electrical system, we are all charged with the same duty – ensuring the safety of both people and property.  While thinking of this responsibility from a singular perspective may seem daunting, the truth is, it takes a group effort. I've already mentioned the engineer, electrician, and inspectors' roles in the safety of the electrical system. If one person in the process doesn't do their job properly, people and property could be put at risk.  Each person doing his/her job properly is paramount to ensuring safety. The good news is no one is in it alone.                   NFPA is steadfast in providing codes and standards such as NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®) and NFPA 70B®, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance® that assist in providing safe electrical systems for people and property.  But it doesn't stop there. NFPA also takes it a step further by providing NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®, which defines safe work practices to help ensure the safety of the individuals who are performing the installation and maintenance of the system. Much like the individuals in the process are reliant on one another for ensuring the utmost safety, these three NFPA documents are dependent on one another as well to ensure an electrical “Cycle of Safety.”  While each piece of the cycle covers a specific area, they must be used in unison in order to provide the safest electrical system possible, being installed in the safest manner. As I mentioned, NFPA 70B® deals with electrical equipment maintenance, NFPA 70® (NEC®) stipulates the installation rules that are necessary for a proper installation, and NFPA 70E® provides the safe work practices necessary to ensure that the installation and maintenance is done safely by the individuals performing the work.  When the three are used simultaneously, and correctly, they provide for a complete electrical safety cycle.  When one or more pieces are missing, it leaves the door open for catastrophic accidents – even death.  One of my favorite authors, Jon Gordon, preaches that intentional positivity creates a more positive life.  We can choose whether we let our responsibility in the” Cycle of Safety” be an intimidating task or, like the electrician that made the social media post, let it ignite the excitement within us for the opportunity we've been given to have a positive impact in the safety of others. For me, I'll choose the latter. Remember, ensuring electrical safety takes a fully focused, collective effort from all of us.  As our NFPA tagline goes, “It's a Big World. Let's Protect It Together.”

What Lies Beneath the Water: Electric Shock Drowning Takes More Lives

It is common knowledge that electric shock itself has the potential to cause death. When it comes to electric shock drowning (ESD), electrical shock in the way we might normally think of it, such as stopping your heart from beating, is not necessarily what causes death. In many cases, current levels within the water that would typically be considered rather low, still have the ability to cause paralysis, which limits a person's ability to swim and in turn, causes them to drown.  Such was the case recently when a mother and father lost not only one child, but two, in a recent boating incident in Lake Pleasant in Arizona. The article states that a thorough investigation took place at the scene with a group of experts and, with all facts gathered, it was determined that the two brothers lost their lives due to ESD.  You can almost picture the scenario: man jumps into the marina water to cool off and begins to feel the effects of unforeseen current in the water; another man sees the first man is struggling to swim and jumps in to save him and is now susceptible to the unseen current; woman sees both men struggling to swim and jumps in to save them and is now impacted by that same unseen current… The cycle goes on and on until a person witnessing the cycle decides to end it, not by entering the water, but by using another means such as throwing a lifeline to those they see struggling, and shutting off any accessible sources of power such as at a power pedestal. The duration of the cycle will more than likely be a direct result of how many lives are lost or, at minimum, negatively impacted. So how do we shorten the cycle? Or better yet, how do we prevent the cycle from starting altogether? Here are some tips that can help individuals avoid harm to themselves, or put others at risk, as a result of ESD:  Avoid swimming in marinas, boatyards, or areas where boats are docked in or travel through Look for, and obey, posted signage Have electrical work within boats and marinas performed only by licensed, qualified electricians Use shore power cords intended for the purpose and built to UL standards Have the electrical system on your boat tested annually by a qualified party to ensure it is working properly NEVER modify the electrical system on your boat or shore power to make something that work that isn't. The code required safety mechanisms that are in place are intended to tell you if something is wrong both with your boat and also with shore power. Find a licensed, qualified professional to help you determine the cause of the problem. NFPA is dedicated to helping eliminate death and injury due to ESD. Watch NFPA's latest “Learn Something New" video about the dangers of ESD above, put together by NFPA Journal Staff Writer, Angelo Verzoni.  Find additional free information and resources to share by visiting NFPA's electrical safety around water webpage. 

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