IEEE Opens Its European Technology Center in Vienna, Austria

IEEE continues to expand its global presence with the opening of the European Technology Center in Vienna. The ribbon-cutting ceremony and official opening were just recently held on September 22. The center will provide support and services to the European technical community, focusing specifically on the needs of academia, government, and industry. In addition, the center will contribute to IEEE’s programs globally. The new office is located in the Austrian Standards Institute building.

“Establishing the European Technology Center marks an important step in furthering IEEE’s global, strategic activities within Europe and beyond,” says Karen Bartleson, 2017 IEEE president and CEO. “We see a strong foundation Continue reading

Electrical Safety Training – More then just “Checking the Box”

Jim Phillips, P.E.

One word.  Deadly!  If someone performs energized electrical work without being properly trained, the results can be catastrophic – and deadly!  I have seen this play out regularly during accident investigations and legal cases.  The victim was either not properly trained, or perhaps ignored a few steps from the electrical safety training program.

Many companies are very pro-active and make sure their employees are not only trained, but that they receive refresher training at least every three years based on NFPA 70E requirements.  Many even use shorter intervals for refresher training or updates.  Either way, refresher training is important for staying up to date with current standards and it can be a reminder to those that pick up bad habits along the way.

Electrical Safety Training – More than “Checking the Box”

However, a looming problem is that for some companies, training is either way down the list for various reasons or was not very thorough.  I have seen many companies that simply want to “check the box” i.e. state they had training without much regard to what the content was and check it off their to do list.  after all, what could possibly go wrong?

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IEC TC 78 Live Working Standards

By Jim Phillips, P.E.
International Chairman IEC TC 78

Jim at the IEC Central Office in Geneva

As the International Chairman of IEC TC 78, a frequent question that I receive is “What is IEC TC 78?”

IEC is the acronym for the International Electrotechnical Commission based in Geneva, Switzerland.  TC 78 standards for Technical Committee 78 which is the Live Working Committee.  This committee is responsible for over 40 different International Live Working standards and documents and is represented by 42 countries via National Committees which includes 136 individuals known as Experts. Before I go any further, let’s back up a few steps first. Continue reading

The 2017 NEC and Arc Flash

By Jim Phillips

The 2017 National Electrical Code (NEC) contains several changes regarding arc flash:

  • 110.16(B) Arc-Flash Hazard Warning of Service Equipment
  • 240.87 Arc Energy Reduction (Circuit Breakers)
  • 240.67 Arc Energy 
Reduction (Fuses)

The severity of an arc flash is largely dependent on two key variables which include the available short-circuit current and the duration of the arc flash. The short-circuit current is determined by performing a short circuit study involving extensive calculations. The duration is normally defined by determining how long it takes an upstream overcurrent device, such as a circuit Continue reading

Arc Flash Labels and ANSI Z535

If you ask five different people what an arc flash label should look like, you will likely receive five different answers.  Although there are no hard and fast rules regarding the label format, there are some minimal requirements found in NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, and NFPA 70, National Electrical Code (NEC).

American National Standards Institute’s Z535 Series, known as “Series of Standards for Safety Signs and Tags.” is referenced as additional guidance by NFPA 70E for the labels.  However, it is interesting that according to a survey conducted at ArcFlashForum.com, a large percentage Continue reading

Utility Short Circuit Data – Different Formats

National Electrical Code 110.9 Interrupting Ratings states that:

Equipment intended to interrupt current at fault levels shall have an interrupting rating at nominal circuit voltage at least equal to the current that is available at the line terminals of the equipment.

To comply with this requirement,  a short circuit studies is typically performed to determine the available fault current  for comparison to the protective devices interrupting rating.   The results of a short circuit study are also a critical component  for other studies such as an arc flash study. Requesting the available short-circuit data from the electric utility company should be one of the first tasks in performing the study. This information is very important because it defines the magnitude of current that could flow from the utility and is used as a starting point for arc flash calculations.

In addition to requesting this data for normal operating conditions, for an arc flash study the request should also include minimum short-circuit current conditions, if available. The minimum condition could be for a utility transformer or transmission line out of service or similar scenario. The minimum value can then be used to determine if the lower current could result in a protective device operating more slowly, which may increase the total incident energy during an arc flash.

Having been in charge of the Short Circuit Studies group for a very large electric utility company in a past life, the accuracy of the Continue reading

2018 NFPA 70E Update – What’s New? What’s Changed?

Published: June 2017

By Jim Phillips 
Based on Jim’s article originally published in the
May 2017 Issue of Electrical Contractor Magazine.

It is hard to imagine that three years have passed since I wrote the 2015 NFPA 70E update article for Electrical Contractor Magazine ECMag.com. My latest article about the changes for the 2018 Edition was just published in last month’s May issue and is also printed here.

Once again there are many significant changes such as a major reorganization of Article 120, the introduction of many new definitions, an even greater emphasis on the Risk Assessment, moving the hierarchy of risk control methods to mandatory language and the deletion of the informational note containing the 40 cal/cm2 reference. So get a jump on bringing your electrical safety and arc flash training programs in line with the soon to be released 2018 Edition of NFPA 70E.

Around 2,500 years ago, the Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with the saying, “The only thing that is constant is change.” Who knew this ancient proverb would apply to NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace? The 2018 edition is right around the corner, and once again, change is a constant theme. From both minor and major revisions to new additions and major reorganizations, this 11th edition contains many changes.

This article does not contain every change, and some language is paraphrased due to space limitations. Since the final document has not yet been formally approved, additional changes are possible before publication. Therefore, refer to the final approved version once it is published.

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Keeping Skills Current with FREE Training

Published: May 2017

By Jim Phillips

Part 2 of 2 Part Series

There is an endless list of reasons for keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date in the electrical industry. These days many electrical industry-licensing boards require a contractor to attend a minimum number of hours of training each year, often referred to as continuing education. However, the best reason is simply to stay current with the latest technology in the electrical industry.

Free Training

One of the biggest attractions to any program is the word “FREE.” It will draw attention to anything, and there are a lot of FREE resources out there. The following are some examples of FREE electrical industry training options and resources.

Webinars: Free webinars, and the invitations to them, are everywhere. Although some webinars may be a bit commercial, a growing number are jam-packed with the latest information about industry trends, products, methods and ideas.

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Keeping Skills Current on a Limited Budget

2-Part Series

Published: May 2017
By Jim Phillips

Part #1 of a 2 Part Series:

What if you had been stranded on a deserted island for the past five years? By the time you were rescued, you would have missed the explosion of real-time social media, including Facebook, YouTube and Twitter, mobile marketing trends, as well as advancements in smart grids and wind and solar energy—it would be more than you could imagine. You may think, “I was only lost for a few years, how could industry and technology change so rapidly?”

What if you were stranded for just one year? You would have missed the latest Internet-of-Things (IoT) smart home technology, Augmented Reality (AR) and Virtual Reality (VR) technology movies, toys and games. You even would have missed the latest edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) and the 2015 soon to be 2018 edition of NFPA 70E.

Get the idea? Just as the world continues to turn, with or without us, technology continues to change at a very fast pace. If you pause for too long, it will pass you by, and catching up could become quite a challenge. If you’re leaning against the ropes, you might as well learn them, so you can rebound faster and better.

There is an endless list of reasons for keeping your skills and knowledge up-to-date in the electrical industry. One reason is that many licensing boards require a contractor to attend a minimum number of hours of training each year, often referred to as continuing education. A participant receives credit known as professional development hours (PDHs) or continuing education units (CEUs). However, one of the best reasons is simply to stay current with the latest technology in the electrical industry.

What do competitive companies recognize that others do not?

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What Could Go Wrong?

Creating An Electrically Safe Work Condition

Published: April 2017

By: Jim Phillips

 

“Kill the Circuit.” This phrase is a colorful way of saying, “De-energize the Circuit.” Easy enough — just open a switch or other protective device and the circuit is “dead.” It should then be safe to work on right?

WRONG! Simply opening a switch does not guarantee the circuit is de-energized. Really? What could go wrong?

There are many who still consider this simple “kill the circuit” approach to be standard electrical safety practice. This is a very dangerous method, for example, instead of the circuit being dead, the worker could end up dead!

According to NFPA 70E, there are many additional steps necessary to ensure the circuit is truly safe to work on. This multi-step process is known as creating an “electrically safe work condition,” which requires the following steps:

  1. Determine all possible sources of electrical supply – check up-to-date drawings, diagrams, etc.
  2. Interrupt the load and open the disconnecting devices.
  3. Visually verify that all blades of the disconnecting means are open if possible – drawout devices must be withdrawn to the fully disconnected position.
  4. Apply lockout/tagout devices in accordance with established policy.
  5. Use an adequately rated test instrument to verify absence of voltage.
  6. Apply properly rated ground connecting devices if there is a possibility of induced voltage.

(These steps are paraphrased from NFPA 70E 120.1 Process of Achieving an Electrically Safe Work Condition, which should always be used to define the complete procedure).

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