AUTHOR: Corey Hannahs

Air conditioner

Three Key Steps to Help Reduce Home Electrical Hazards as We Beat the Summer Heat

As more people continue to work from home, all-day computer use, coupled with an increased demand for air conditioning during this summer’s record high temperatures and humidity, can put a strain on home electrical systems. An article in this week’s New York Times, “Heat Wave: Why Home Offices Add to Con Ed’s Stress,” emphasizes this point and highlights the growing concern of the load on New York’s electrical system as the country heads into one of the hottest months of the year. Keep yourself and loved ones safe and reduce the risk of home electrical fires when using air conditioners at home and other equipment needing electricity: Plug air conditioner (A/C) power supply cords directly into wall outlets, without utilizing extension cords, and ensure the circuit is adequately sized for the load of the air conditioner. If the circuit is dedicated to the air conditioner, the ampacity of the air conditioner (found on the nameplate) can be 80 percent of the circuit rating. For example, if the circuit is rated at 20 amps, the air conditioner should draw no more than 16 amps. If there are other loads on the circuit with the air conditioner, the ampacity of the air conditioner (found on the nameplate) can be 50 percent of the circuit rating. So, if there are other loads on a 20-amp circuit, the air conditioner should draw no more than 10 amps. Ensuring your air conditioner is not overloading the circuit it is supplied by will help safeguard your electrical system and your residence. For more information about electrical safety during the summer months and beyond, visit the NFPA home electrical safety webpage.
Electrical workers

Fact Sheet Highlights Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance

For those of us who utilize NFPA 70®, National Electrical Code® (NEC®) and NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, on a regular basis, we know the importance that the NEC plays when it comes to the installation of safe electrical systems and the safe work practices that 70E provides, allowing us to perform those installations and maintenance, safely. But there's a third document that's key to this equation: NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance, which covers equipment maintenance. 70B offers guidelines for maintaining equipment after the initial installation is done and regular usage begins to impose wear and tear on the equipment. While each document covers a specific area, by using them together, it helps provide the safest electrical system possible while maintaining a safe working environment for those performing the necessary tasks. For example, NFPA 70B deals with electrical equipment maintenance, the NEC stipulates the installation rules necessary for a proper installation, and NFPA 70E addresses safe work practices needed to help ensure that the installation and maintenance are done safely. When the three are used in concert, and correctly, they provide for a complete electrical safety cycle. When one or more pieces are missing, it may leave the door open to catastrophic accidents—even death. To help workers navigate this “cycle of safety,” NFPA has developed a new NFPA 70B fact sheet that explains its purpose and highlights its relationship to related codes and standards. It also points out key chapters and the value of an effective electrical preventative maintenance program (EPM).     Learn more about NFPA 70B by downloading the free fact sheet. (PDF) For additional information, visit NFPA's document information webpage.
Harbor from Fort Mackinac

4 Tips to Help Prevent Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) Over Memorial Day Weekend and Throughout the Summer Months

Memorial Day provides us all with a time to reflect on the fallen heroes that have sacrificed their own lives, so we can have the many freedoms they provided us. Here in Michigan, and likely in many other states, Memorial Day is seen as the “Gateway to Summer.” Somewhat of a “rite of passage” into warm weather, BBQs, and vacations, while spending time with those we care most about. Our family makes it a point to visit Mackinac (pronounced ma-kuh-naa) Island at least once every summer. Mackinac Island is home to Fort Mackinac, established during the American Revolution by the British in 1780 and overtaken by American forces in 1796. The picture shown above depicts the view from elevated Fort Mackinac, looking down onto the Mackinac Island harbor. Every summer when our ferry docks at the island, I look up at Fort Mackinac and think about how grateful I am to have this moment with my family. How grateful I am to all Americans who gave their own lives to help make our individual moments possible. For our trip to the island a couple summers ago, we decided to venture outside our normal day trip and make it an overnight trip. After a long day of sightseeing, after dinner, mom and dad were ready to kick their feet up and relax but the kids, still full of energy that we wish we had, had other ideas. After some intense negotiating, we agreed that the parents would be able to wind down on the porch just outside our room, while watching the kids spend time in the oversized, built-in 25-person hot tub that was just steps away from our room. That same hot tub was just several steps away from the harbor waters. As my wife and I were just getting settled into relaxation mode, I heard it – SPLASH!!! Looking up, I saw three of our four children standing inches from the harbor water, appearing ready to jump in themselves, and the head of our eldest child bobbing in the water. Deciding the tub waters were too hot for them, the kids decided to jump into the harbor waters to cool off. They were having an absolute blast! So, why did I feel like I had just been punched in the gut? “GET OUT!!!”, I yelled, loud enough that I was sure I had awoken the dead from the island. My fatherly instincts had kicked in. Our kids are all great swimmers, so that wasn’t my concern. The issue was Electric Shock Drowning, also known as ESD, that I have learned about since becoming an employee at NFPA.   It is hard for me to fathom that, as a master electrician with over 30 years’ experience working in a state that has the longest freshwater shoreline in the world, I had never even heard of ESD, before joining NFPA just a few months prior. To be honest, it irked me that I spent so long working in the electrical industry and still did not have the information to help protect my family from this “silent killer”; to protect my family from the same heartache that Lucas Ritz’s family has felt for years, as a result of losing him to ESD. Initially, I learned that ESD is somewhat different from how we typically view electrical hazards, like shock and arc flash. Yes, it is shock related as the title suggests, but it isn’t the direct electric shock that kills. ESD is typically a low-level AC current, induced into the water by defective marina, or boat, electrical systems that passes through the body causing muscular paralysis which renders the victim unable to swim, thereby causing drowning. In many cases, victims don’t even feel the electrical current when they enter the water to swim. Freshwater is particularly susceptible to ESD incidents because the human body is much more conductive than the water itself, permitting more current to flow through the body in freshwater versus saltwater. Once I learned a little about ESD, I longed to know more so I could help continue to spread the message that had somehow evaded me for so long. In doing so, maybe I could help someone else avoid the heartache of losing a loved one to ESD. As I looked for more information, I found that the Electric Shock Drowning Prevention Association website was a great resource to help me understand more about what ESD is and how it can be prevented. To date, some of the most helpful tips I have found around preventing ESD are: Don’t swim in marina waters. While there are lots of things that can happen in marina waters that could cause an ESD incident, there is one thing that will prevent an ESD in every potential instance – not swimming in marina waters. If you don’t enter the water, the risk of an ESD incident drops to zero. Don’t jump in to help others. When you see someone who appears to be drowning, it is human nature to immediately help. As hard as it is – don’t! While witnessing a potential ESD taking place, jumping in may just add an additional victim. There have been many cases of ESD where it has left multiple victims for this exact reason, including one instance in Arizona two years ago that killed two brothers. If you see what you believe to be an ESD taking place: call 911, turn off power, throw a life ring, and move the person to safety using a nonconductive pole or object. Swim away from the tingle. If someone is in the water and begins to feel a tingle, they should immediately swim away from where they feel the tingle until it is no longer felt. Instruct them to avoid any metal items, such as ladders that they might otherwise try to use to get out of the water. Spread the word about ESD. Being an electrician for over 30 years and spending a lot of our family time on the water, I should have known about ESD well before my employment at NFPA. Knowing the tragedy that ESD can cause, it leaves me wondering how many others are unaware. To eliminate ESD altogether, it is crucial that every one of us spread the word about ESD and encourage those around us not to take a chance by swimming in marina waters. When you mix a hot summer day with nearby cool water, it is only natural for people to want to jump in. That’s all our kids were doing on that Memorial Day weekend a couple years ago. We all learned something that day. As they watched the video that I showed them telling the story of Lucas Ritz, the kids learned about ESD and why dad yelled at them to get out of the water  – because I loved and cared about them. Personally, I learned just how important it is raise awareness of the hazards associated with ESD. Ultimately, a day that could have ended in tragedy, resulted in an understanding of the dangers around ESD and that swimming in marinas just isn’t safe. Considering all that is at stake, we could sure use more help raising awareness of ESD. Won’t you join us? For more information on Electric Shock Drowning (ESD) and related resources like videos and tip sheets to share, please visit the NFPA “Electrical Safety Around Water” webpage.
boat marina

Navigating Electrical Safety Through Marina Waters

I don’t know about where you reside, but the race is on here in Michigan! The frenzied months of April and May are spent uncovering and cleaning boats, in anticipation of considerable time spent on the water over Memorial Day weekend. But as the boat gets loaded with safety items like fire extinguishers, life jackets, and buoys, it is just as important to consider an additional safety consideration – electrical safety. It's no secret that water and electricity don’t play nice together. Often, boats are docked in marinas that have both readily available. So, it is extremely important to make sure that shore power and onboard vessel electrical systems are working properly, and not introducing electrical safety hazards into marina waters. One safety concern that needs to be taken into consideration, that integrates both water and electricity, is electric shock drowning (ESD). ESD is the result of the passage of a typically low-level AC current through the body with sufficient force to cause skeletal muscular paralysis, rendering the victim unable to help themselves, while immersed in freshwater, eventually resulting in drowning of the victim. Considering I am a 3rd generation master electrician, and father, from the state of Michigan, which has the most freshwater coastline of any U.S. state, it is frustrating to me that I had never heard of ESD prior to joining NFPA two years ago. With a high level of ESD cases happening because of leakage current within marinas, it’s a great starting point for discussing what electrical professionals can do to help increase electrical safety. First, a little history. The National Electrical Code® (NEC®), Article 555 Marinas, Boatyards, Floating Buildings, and Commercial and Noncommercial Docking Facilities has seen significant changes around marina ground-fault protection requirements, over the past several cycles. Section 555.3 of the 2011 NEC implemented a requirement for the main overcurrent protective device that feeds the marina to have ground-protection set to open at 100 milliamps (mA) or above. The substantiation behind accepted Proposal 19-189 included information of more than 50 deaths and over 30 injuries due to leakage current in or around marinas. This requirement stayed at 100 mA for both the 2011 and 2014 versions of the NEC. In November 2014, the Fire Protection Research Foundation (FPRF) released a report that assessed hazardous voltage and current within marinas, boatyards, and floating buildings. During the development of the 2017 NEC, Code Making Panel 19 (CMP-19) issued a First Revision (FR) to 555.3, changing the ground fault protection threshold from 100mA to 30 mA. The 30mA requirement was for both feeder and branch circuit conductors, as well as receptacles feeding shore power. The committee statement issued to substantiate the change stated: The 30 mA ground fault limit is consistent with that recommended in the Fire Protection Research Foundation report “Assessment of Hazardous Voltage/Current in Marinas, Boatyards and Floating Buildings.” During the 2020 NEC development process, section 555.3 covering ground-fault protection in marinas was relocated to 555.35 and broken down to cover both ground-fault protection of equipment (GFPE) and ground-fault circuit-interrupter (GFCI) protection. After several Public Inputs (PIs) were submitted that provided information around the viability of marinas being able to operate with an overall 30 mA threshold, CMP-19 created a FR to modify the existing requirement. The modified the ratings to 100 mA for feeder and branch circuit conductors, and 30 mA for receptacles providing shore power. The 30mA NEC requirement for shore power GFPE also aligned with the American Boat and Yacht Council (ABYC) Standard E-11 AC and DC Electrical Systems on Boats requirement of a 30 mA rated leakage current monitoring device being installed in all newly manufactured boats onboard electrical systems. Leakage current is often attributed to boats themselves. In a NFPA video around the 2020 NEC marina electrical safety changes, Cliff Norton with Bellingham Marine Utilities, and CMP-7 member, estimates that 90 percent of marina GFPE issues can be attributed to the vessels, or boats, that are docked there. As you can imagine, marinas see boats of all shapes, sizes, and ages entering their waters. Some may be docked long term and some may be short term guests, but all are capable of introducing leakage current into the waters. That said, boats should be regularly tested for leakage current with the proper leakage current measurement device. For any marina having more than three receptacles providing shore power to boats, that is inspected based on the 2020 NEC, it is actually a requirement [555.35(B)]to have a leakage current measurement device on site and be utilized to determine leakage current from each boat that will utilize shore power. So, as electrical professionals, what can be done to help ensure that marinas are as safe as possible for those about to embark on their summer of fun on the water? Here are a few things that can certainly help: Ensure that the marinas you service have proper GFPE protection, and it has been tested. As mentioned, there are different GFPE protection requirements based on what version of the NEC is being enforced by the jurisdiction in which the marina is located. It is important that GFPE protection within marinas meets, or exceeds, what is required. Ensure that the marinas have a leakage current monitoring device on hand and are regularly testing boats utilizing shore power. Every new boat that enters a marina can introduce potential hazards. Even those regularly docked at the marina every season can introduce hazards, especially when the boat onboard electrical systems are being serviced by unqualified persons. Learn more about ESD and spread the word to others. With nearly 30 years of an experience as an electrician in a state where everyone spends their summer on the water, I had no clue what ESD even was until I started at NFPA. For those who still don’t understand the importance, share this heart wrenching story with them. Nobody should be swimming in marina waters - at any time. In the blink of an eye, any fun-filled summer day could become a tragedy. For more information on marina electrical safety, please visit our NFPA marinas, lakes, and ponds web page.
Electrician doing work

National Electrical Safety Month Reminds Us All to be Safer when Working with Electricity Around Emerging Technologies

Hindsight is always 20/20. Looking back over my 30 years as an electrician, there are certainly some things I should have done differently when it came to making choices around electrical safety. I like to use the phrase, “I could have been a statistic; I should have been a statistic,” when relaying some of those stories to others. Maybe it was because the customer didn’t want their power turned off, or maybe it was because I was trying to get something done in a hurry, that led me to making a choice not to be safe. Whatever the reason, there was plenty of opportunity for things to go wrong with the potential of leaving me seriously injured, or worse. While electrical professionals should consider electrical safety every day, National Electrical Safety Month serves as a great reminder that we need to do so.  In May of every year, the Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi) sponsors National Electrical Safety Month as a way of educating key audiences by providing information to help reduce the number of electrically related injuries, fatalities, fire, and property loss. For 2022, the theme is “Energy Resilience,” focusing specifically on emerging technologies such as electric vehicles, photovoltaics, and energy storage systems. Though this topic may not jump out as being specifically related to electrical professionals, there are electrical safety issues that can be impacted by, and specifically expose, those who are responsible for the safe installation of these systems. The installation and maintenance of these electrical systems that are performed by electricians, have a direct impact on the safety of end-users. An improper installation, or inadequate maintenance, elevates the electrical injury exposure for all those who come in contact with the electrical system and its components. For example, an electric vehicle charger that is installed without the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) required ground-fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) protection for the receptacle that powers it, exposes end-users to potential shock hazards.   Emerging technologies that are tied to energy resilience can also elevate the level of exposure of electrical safety risk to those who install or perform maintenance on these systems. One example is  solar panels, which are used in photovoltaic installations to create solar arrays. As electricians, we are used to finding a disconnect and shutting it off to perform work that isn’t live. How do you do that in the case of a solar panel that, in the daytime, is constantly generating power? There is no disconnect to turn off the sun. In this case, the additional exposure to electrical hazards requires that individuals know the hazard and how to mitigate the risk, before working on solar arrays.   A second example of a technology tied to energy resilience that can increase risk of electrical safety hazards are energy storage systems (ESS). Those who are installing or maintaining ESS should be extremely cautious when doing so. Not only are there electrical hazards that may be present, such as electrical shock and arc flash, but depending on the type of ESS, there may also be hazards associated with fires, explosions, chemicals, and stranded or stored energy. A recent NFPA fact sheet on ESS safety explains additional electrical hazards that can arise from overcharging battery storage type system. Proper education and training is an absolute necessity to work on ESS safely.   When it comes to electrical safety, as with most scenarios, you have two choices: you have a choice to be safe, or not to be safe. Education and training are key to making good choices. While National Electrical Safety Month is a great event that highlights the need for education and training, electrical safety must be the focus year-round to identify hazards and reduce the associated risk when working with electricity. As I previously stated: “I could have been a statistic; I should have been a statistic.” Hindsight tells me that I should have made better choices. When you look back, what will your hindsight tell you? The choice is yours.   The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has many resources to help individuals be safer when working around electricity. For more information, please visit our “Electrical Safety Solutions” webpage. 
Electrical labeling signs

Signs point to required labeling as a major ally in achieving electrical safety for workers

“…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.
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