AUTHOR: Corey Hannahs

A kitchen

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.”
NFPA Logo

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. 
electrical safety

One Electrician's Life Lesson: The Case for Electrical Safety Training for Electricians and Non-Electricians

The sirens were deafening, even to my 13-year-old ears. My good friend, Heath, and I were playing an intense game of summer basketball in my driveway. The fact that I was losing and, as always, determined to win, should have been reason enough for my focus to be on the game. But it was impossible not to hear the sirens of the emergency vehicles rushing down our road and to begin wondering – “What's going on? What happened? Where are they going?” Throwing down the basketball in my yard, I took off sprinting in the direction of Heath's house. The paramedics had already begun to tend to Heath's brother, Josh, who was lying motionless in the driveway. Their mother was outside, crying hysterically. Josh worked as a painter for a local contractor. Work was slow that summer so Josh had offered to repaint the exterior of his parents' house. Scanning the area to try and make sense of it all, I noticed a couple of paint cans and an aluminum extension ladder on the driveway near Josh. Transitioning my eyes upward, it all began making sense. At this point, life experience was not my specialty but even my teenage brain could put the pieces together: Josh plus conductive aluminum ladder plus overhead power lines is equal to why Josh is lying in the driveway. Josh had received an electrical shock. That day provided a life-lesson that I have carried with me every day of my nearly 30 years in the electrical industry, and I always will – electricity does not discriminate. As we continue to raise awareness of electrical safety during National Electrical Safety Month, it's important to note that electrical safety training is not just for electricians. Proper and adequate training is essential to the prevention of electrical related injuries to all personnel who are at risk. Is the plumber that is plugging his extension cord into a defective GFCI at risk? What about the carpenter using a saw with a broken male cord end? How about the painter using an aluminum ladder near overhead electrical lines? Non-electrical workers are exposed to many potential electrical hazards. OSHA Standard Number 1910.332(a) requires electrical training for employees who face risk of electrical shock. 1910.332(a) Note states that training is required for all occupations listed in Table S-4, and the second sentence goes on to state that employees not listed in Table S-4, but are reasonably expected to face the same risk due to electric shock or other electrical hazards, must also be trained. On a job site or within a facility, a case could certainly be made that many workers not listed within Table S-4 are just as susceptible to the same risks that electrical workers could potentially face. According to data provided by Electrical Safety Foundation International (ESFi), between 2003 and 2018, 54 percent of fatal electrical injuries occurred in the construction industry. That means that 46 percent of all electrical fatalities were outside of the construction industry or trades. This statistic alone speaks to the need for mitigating risk of exposure to electrical hazards through further training. NFPA 70E®, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace® is a great resource for defining enforceable responsibilities for both employers and employees to protect against electrical hazards that employees might be exposed to. Developing and implementing an Electrical Safety Program (ESP) aligned with the responsibilities and training defined within 70E is a vital component in reducing the risk associated with electrical hazards. Employers and employees following the ESP, and holding one another accountable for doing so, is the other crucial piece in the electrical safety equation.    Josh was a white male, brown hair, blue eyes, football fan, avid golfer, practical joker, painter, brother, son, father-to-be…so much more, and still - electricity didn't care. The previous sentence was written in the past tense because Josh passed away from his injuries. All that he was, and all that he would be, died with him that day. A life cut way too short that brought his family so much heartache and pain. I know that Josh's family isn't the only family that has suffered. It's extremely unfortunate that there are tens of thousands of others out there who know the story of Josh all too well and have been impacted by loss of their own. They may have been male or female, white or black, young or old, electrical workers or non-electrical workers. The differences among the victims are endless but one similarity rests with all of them – electricity didn't discriminate. Loss of life is immeasurable, which in turn makes prevention priceless. Only through proper and adequate electrical training can we prevent the victims list from growing and, in some small way, honor those that have been lost.  For additional information about electrical safety for a non-electrical audience, read the "NEC/In Compliance" column by Derek Vigstol in the September/October 2019 issue of NFPA Journal.    For more about NFPA 70E, 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. 
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