I just returned from chairing the Report on Proposals (ROP) meeting for the NFPA 70B Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance Committee, where we reviewed, debated, commented and voted on more than 150 proposed revisions to the 2002 edition for the next edition.

By the time this article is published, the ROP will be published for public comments. The 70B committee is sponsored by the same organization that brings you the National Electric Code (NEC) and 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace. Whereas the NEC is much more well known than 70B, all of these documents go through a similar process that improves the quality and value of the documents. But it requires that you, the public, the users, the intended audience, take an active role in the process.

The nonprofit NFPA (National Fire Protection Agency) has hundreds of volunteer committees that have the responsibility for reviewing and revising documents whose primary purpose is to reduce the loss of life and property. The committees are made up of a mandated cross section of manufacturers, users, government agencies, labor, regulatory agencies and special experts to provide a balanced, no-special-interest review process. The public and the committee can submit proposals to the last-published edition during the request for proposal stage. The committee reviews each proposal and determines whether it should be accepted as is, modified or rejected, along with substantiation for its decision at the ROP meeting. These results and the voting of the committee are published in the ROP document, also available to the public.

The document thus enters the Report on Comments (ROC) stage, where the public can comment on the committee's actions. The committee will convene an ROC meeting to review those comments and provide further action if necessary. The ROC is also published and available to the public. The final vote on adoption of the accepted revisions occurs at the annual NFPA meeting, where the entire membership (or at least those present) will vote. Those proposals that pass are then incorporated in the next version of the document, which will be published in the 2006 revision of the Recommended Practice on Electrical Equipment Maintenance. And then the cycle starts over again … but only if “those in the know” get involved.

Not every committee has openings, and not everyone can afford to donate time and cover the expenses of participating as a committee member. But that doesn't limit your involvement. You can submit proposals and/or provide comments on any of the documents and help improve the safety and work practices for all electrical contractors (and the public). Whereas the NEC gets hundreds and hundreds of public comments and can be the subject of considerable debate at the annual meeting, the 70B usually only received a couple of dozen public proposals, though members of the committee often generate a hundred or more proposals.

As a sneak peek into the next revision of 70B, there is an increased emphasis and awareness of personal safety, from the personal protective equipment to making the workplace electrically safe for both those assigned to the tasks and those not assigned but exposed to the hazard. Good preventative maintenance programs start when new or repaired equipment is commissioned, which involves establishing baseline data that will help determine problems before they become serious. This leads into reliability-centered maintenance and condition-based maintenance programs, where what gets service and attention is based on what is likely to be a problem, not just a time schedule. And keeping track of what was serviced and how requires a good documentation system, so two dozen new forms are proposed to be added to the document.

And we finally get to power quality, the usual topic of this monthly column. The 70B document has an entire chapter on power quality. Chapter 27 describes the basic phenomena of power quality, symptoms and effects, causes, techniques for testing and monitoring, and possible solutions. While there are lots of other references that address power quality, one of the characteristics of this document that make it especially useful to the electrical contractor is that is written specially to address those that maintain electrical equipment, rather than an engineering text with lots of difficult-to-use formulas. Since wiring and grounding problems are often cited as the most dominate source of power quality problems, the next chapter is on grounding.

There are other standards-producing organizations, such as the Institute of Electrical and Electronic Engineers (IEEE), which you can also get involved with, though other groups tend to be dominated more by engineers and academics. Whatever group and at whatever level you want to participate, the key is to get involved. Without you, the documents are destined to become stalled and outdated, or even worse, not in the best interest of you and the public at large. EC

BINGHAM, a contributing editor for power quality, can be reached at 732.287.3680.