For this month’s safety column, I interviewed John Garbarino, director of marketing for Leviton’s commercial and industrial business division. Based in Melville, N.Y., Leviton manufactures wiring devices and lighting energy management systems, provides network and data center connectivity solutions, and develops security and automation applications.
Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) and consensus standards present some challenges associated with equipment such as ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) available to or installed by electrical contractors (ECs). How has Leviton addressed the question about their use compared to an Assured Equipment Conductor Grounding Program (AECGP) and the new National Electrical Code (NEC) requirement to have both an arc-fault circuit interrupter (AFCI) and GFCI protection in certain locations?
The application environments and rationale for utilizing GFCI devices is well documented. These devices immediately disrupt current flow completely if they detect an imbalance between current supplied versus current returned back through the neutral conductor. However, in some instances, cutting power to the connected equipment may cause more harm than the potential shock hazard.
For example, cutting the power to life-support equipment will most certainly result in catastrophic injury or death. In these cases, an AECGP may be more appropriate. It requires periodic testing of all equipment-grounding conductors of cord sets and of those connected to receptacles to ensure no faults will occur. While this may not provide the same level of protection as a GFCI device, it is a means of verifying the integrity of the safety ground path in hopes that it will provide the path for stray current rather than a person that may be in contact with the equipment.
With regard to the new NEC requirement, Leviton now offers a combination AFCI/GFCI receptacle.
What equipment-design innovations came about from changes in regulations and standards (e.g., OSHA, National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) 70E, NEC, etc.)?
The focus for OSHA and NFPA 70E has largely been on education. Over the past couple of cycles, the big changes are in the development and/or enhancement of employee safety training programs and implementation of robust risk analysis for determining the proper application of equipment. This is true in other codes and standards as well, such as NFPA 99.
Your Facility Safety publication, which can be found at leviton.com, identifies a number of hazards and solutions with regard to regulations and standards. What are the most common issues Leviton sees?
The most common issues seem to be related to lockout/tagout requirements and the improper use of standard in-wall device boxes as components in temporary power pendants or stringers. The lockout/tagout violations are more related to improper processes and procedures, while the temporary power pendant and stringer problems are related to a lack of understanding of the codes.
What has contractor and end-user response been to that publication as a whole and to the specific solutions Leviton provides?
Many facilities use this as a checklist to verify that they are in compliance with the various codes and standards.
What advancements have you seen in product development that regulations and standards don’t currently address?
Technology is running ahead of regulation in the alternative-energy sector. The rapid expansion of solar power—both for individual buildings as well as utility-scale power plants—is changing the market in several ways. From a policy standpoint, there is a need to manage private enterprises now engaged in power generation activities, something that was primarily a public utility responsibility. From an electrical product and safety viewpoint, there is a renewed interest in DC [direct current] power and battery storage that will require some oversight.
What challenges do you see in keeping ECs abreast of the new products as related to assisting with both their own and end-user awareness of new product availability, which will address common or unique needs and proper use?
The pace of technological change makes it extremely difficult to keep up with. That, coupled with the convergence of data and power, is forcing contractors to broaden their knowledge base and skill sets. Contractors will need to be proficient in Internet of Things concepts and technologies to meet future demands.
What about challenges in ensuring safe installation and maintenance of new products?
Large-scale DC microgrids and power generation require a new level of understanding of electrical safety.
Any other recommendations to keep ECs current with product development and regulations/consensus standards?
Staying closely involved with trade organizations ... [is] the best way to stay abreast of change, as they serve as information clearinghouses that make it easier to collect data from the many sources that exist.