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Electrical Systems and Equipment Safety

Installing, inspecting and maintaining electrical systems and equipment correctly reduces risk and enhances safety.

Electrical short circuit causing a fire on an overloaded power strip

July 6, 2021

Authored by: Christopher Jensen, senior regulatory engineer and Jeffrey A. Fecteau CBO, senior regulatory engineer, Distinguished Member of Technical Staff - William Henry Merrill Society

The 2021 International Fire Code (IFC) Section 603 contains specific requirements for addressing electrical hazards. Electrical systems and equipment not installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions, and the requirements of the IFC and the National Electrical Code® (NEC) pose a shock and fire hazard.

The 2021 International Fire Code (IFC) reorganized and expanded Section 604 of the 2018 edition was reorganized, expanded and relocated to Section 603. The 2021 IFC Section 603 covers electrical equipment, wiring and hazards. It describes requirements for inspecting, testing and maintaining electrical equipment and wiring. All electrical equipment, wiring, devices and appliances shall be tested, listed and labeled, and installed, used and maintained in accordance with the NEC and all instructions included as part of a product certification. Additionally, electrical systems and equipment installed in healthcare facilities are required to be maintained and tested in accordance with NFPA 99 Health Care Facilities Code. Within NFPA 99, Chapter 6 covers the requirements for electrical systems and Chapter 10 covers the requirements for electrical equipment. The 2021 edition of NFPA 99 contains a new Section 6.9 that addresses electrical preventative maintenance.

Modified, reconditioned and damaged electrical equipment

2021 IFC Section 603.2.1 identifies that electrical wiring, devices, equipment and appliances that are modified or damaged can constitute a fire or shock hazard. Damaged electrical equipment shall not be used until repaired or replaced in accordance with the manufacturer’s instructions and the applicable requirements in the NEC.

UL provides guidance for field-modified or rebuild equipment in the guide information for electrical equipment for use in ordinary locations, AALZ. The guide information can be viewed on UL Product iQ® at UL.com/PiQ; enter AALZ in the smart search field. The following information is found in the guide information for AALZ:

When a product bearing a UL Mark is modified or rebuilt – including being refurbished, remanufactured, reconditioned or renovated – after it leaves the factory, there is no way to be confident that a product continues to meet applicable requirements unless any modification or rebuild has been specifically investigated by UL. The only exceptions to this are when a product certified by UL has specific markings for field-installed equipment or the replacement of components, or when an individual product is evaluated through one of our specially created services for reconditioned or rebuilt equipment. Evidence that UL has specifically investigated a modification or rebuild can only be demonstrated by a UL Mark or label for one of the following:

  • Rebuilt product certifications – UL’s rebuilt product certifications cover a wide range of product types. The general guide information for each product category with a rebuilt certification program identifies the applicable requirements and the specific marking for products rebuilt under the program. Only rebuilt products that bear the UL Mark together with the word “Rebuilt,” “Refurbished,” “Remanufactured,” “Reconditioned” or “Renovated” have been investigated by UL to applicable certification requirements.
  • Retrofit certifications – UL’s retrofit certifications include an investigation of all required component parts, including instructions, for retrofitting specific types of UL Certified products in the field. Products investigated under this program bear a UL Mark together with the product identity including the word “Retrofit.”
  • Field evaluated products –UL’s Field Evaluation service uses applicable product requirements based on the specific application and use location to evaluate a specific piece of equipment. The specific equipment investigated under this program bears the UL Field Evaluated Product label.

The 2020 edition of the NEC had been revised to include specific requirements on reconditioned electrical equipment. For more information regarding reconditioned electrical equipment, please see the fall 2019 TCA-EC.

Working space and clearances

Working space around electrical equipment is critical for worker safety. When electrical systems and equipment are examined, adjusted, service or maintained while energized the NEC requires working space be provided in accordance with Section 110.26(A). The IFC Section 603.4 points to Section 110.26 of the NEC for electrical equipment rated 1,000 volts or less, and Section 110.33 of the NEC for electrical equipment rated over 1,000 volts. The minimum required working space is no less than 30 inches (762 mm) in width, 36 inches (914 mm) in depth and 78 inches (1981 mm) in height in front of electrical service equipment. When the electrical service equipment is wider than 30 inches (762 mm), the minimum working space shall be not less than the width of the equipment. Material storage is not permitted within the designated working space.

Relocatable power taps and current taps

The 2021 IFC Section 603.5 has revised the terminology used to correlate with the terms used in the applicable product standards. The term “multiplug adapters” has been replaced with the term “current tap.” IFC Section 603.5 requires the construction and use of current taps and relocatable taps to be in accordance with the NEC and the IFC. Relocatable power taps are required to be listed in accordance with UL 1363, the Standard for Safety for Relocatable Power Taps. UL Certifies (Lists) relocatable power taps under the product category for Relocatable Power Taps, XBYS. The UL guide information and Certifications (Listings) can be viewed on UL Product iQ® at UL.com/PiQ; enter XBYS in the smart search field. Relocatable power taps are intended for indoor use to supply power to cord-and-plug-connected electrical utilization equipment. Relocatable power taps are provided with an attached power-supply cord and attachment plug. The electrical enclosure may include one or more receptacle outlets. Relocatable power taps may also be supplied with up to six lengths of flexible cord not exceeding 1-1/2 feet in length from the main body of the product. Each length may be terminated in a separate single cord connector (receptacle outlet).

Power strip

Relocatable power taps

Relocatable power taps may be provided with USB charging outlets and LED lighting when three or more receptacle outlets are provided.

Close up of a UL label on the bottom of a power stripRelocatable power taps may also include fuses or other supplementary overcurrent protection, switches, suppression components and/or indicator lights in any combination, or connections for cable, communications, telephone and/or antenna. Relocatable power taps are intended to be used as follows:

  • Relocatable power taps are intended to be directly connected to a permanently installed branch-circuit receptacle outlet.
  • Relocatable power taps are not intended to be series connected (daisy chained) to other relocatable power taps or to extension cords.
  • Relocatable power taps are not intended for use at construction sites and similar locations.
  • Relocatable power taps are not intended to be permanently secured to building structures, tables, work benches or similar structures, nor are they intended to be used as a substitute for fixed wiring.
  • The cords of relocatable power taps are not intended to be routed through walls, windows, ceilings, floors, or similar openings of buildings.

Current Taps

Orange 3 outlet wall adaptor wall trapA current tap is a male and female contact device that, when connected to an outlet receptacle or cord set, provides multiple outlets or outlet configurations. An outlet configuration may consist of a slot configuration or provision for the connection of flexible cord.

 

UL Label on an orange 3 outlet adaptor wall trapCurrent taps are required to be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 498A, the Standard for Safety for Current Taps and Adaptors. UL Certifies (Lists) current taps under the product category for Current Taps and Adaptors, EMDV. The UL guide information and Certifications (Listings) can be viewed on UL Product iQ at UL.com/PiQ; enter EMDV in the smart search field.

The 2021 IFC Section 603.5.2 requires relocatable power taps and current taps to be directly connected to a permanently installed receptacle. When approved for use in a Group A occupancy or in a meeting room in a Group B occupancy, exception #1 to 603.5.2 allows up to five relocatable power taps to be permitted to be connected together or connected to an extension cord for temporary use to supply power to electronic equipment.

Extension cords

Extension cords are not considered a substitute for permanent wiring and shall be listed and labeled in accordance with UL 817, the Standard for Safety for Cord Sets and Power-Supply Cords. Extension cords are not permitted to be affixed to structures, extended through walls, ceilings or floors or under doors or floor coverings, nor are they permitted to be subject to environmental damage or physical impact. Extension are only permitted for use with portable appliances. Extension cords marked for indoor use are not permitted to be used outdoors.

Extension cords are required to be plugged directly into an approved receptacle, relocatable power tap or current tap and, except for approved multiplug extension cords, are required to serve only one portable appliance.

The ampacity of the extension cords is not permitted to be not less than the rated capacity of the portable appliance supplied by the cord. UL 817 requires that extension cord sets be marked where plainly visible with the electrical rating in volts, amperes and watts. This marking can be printed on a doughnut, flat or bracelet type label or a tag of tough paper, cloth or equivalent.

Extension cords are required to be maintained in good condition without splices, deterioration, or damage.

UL Certifies (Lists) extension cords under the product category for Cord Sets and Power-Supply Cords, ELBZ. The UL guide information and Certifications (Listings) can be viewed on UL Product iQ at UL.com/PiQ; enter ELBZ in the smart search field. Cord sets and power-supply cords are commonly furnished in hanked or coiled form. If used in this condition, excessive heating may occur. Therefore, when placed into service, all wrappings should be removed, and the flexible cord should be extended for its entire length.

Temporary wiring

The use of temporary wiring for electrical power and lighting installations shall not exceed a period of 90 days. Temporary wiring methods are required to comply with the applicable provisions of the NEC. Temporary wiring for electrical power and lighting installations complying with the applicable provisions of the NEC is permitted during periods of construction, remodeling and repair or demolition of buildings, structures, equipment or similar activities. NEC Article 590 cover the requirements for temporary electric power and lighting installations.

Portable electric space heaters

Except when prohibited by other sections of the IFC, portable electric space heaters are permitted to be used in all occupancies. Only listed and labeled portable electric space heaters are allowed to be used. Portable electric space heaters are required to be plugged directly into an approved receptacle. They are not permitted to be plugged into extension cords. Portable electric space heaters are not permitted to be operated within 3 feet (914 mm) of any combustible materials. Additionally, portable electric space heaters are only permitted in locations for which they are listed.

Healthcare facilities

In Group I-2 facilities, ambulatory care facilities and outpatient clinics, the electrical systems and equipment are required to be maintained and tested in accordance with NFPA 99. In Group I-2 occupancies and ambulatory care facilities, relocatable power taps are required to be listed in accordance with UL 1363 except under the following conditions:

  • In Group I-2, Condition 2 occupancies, relocatable power taps that provide power to patient care-related electrical equipment within the patient care vicinity, as defined by NFPA 99, are required to be listed in accordance with either UL 1363A, Outline of Investigation for Special Purpose Relocatable Power Taps, or UL 60601-1, the Standard for Safety For Medical Electrical Equipment, Part 1: General Requirements for Safety.
  • In Group I-2, Condition 1 facilities, in care recipient rooms where line-operated patient care-related electrical equipment is used, relocatable power taps within the patient care vicinity, as defined by NFPA 99, are required to be listed in accordance with either UL 1363A or UL 60601-1.
  • In ambulatory care facilities, relocatable power taps providing power to patient care-related electrical equipment within the patient care vicinity, as defined by NFPA 99, are required to be listed in accordance with either UL 1363A or UL 60601-1.

Where used in Group I-2 and ambulatory care facilities, portable electric space heaters are limited to those having a heating element that cannot exceed a temperature of 212°F (100°C). These heaters are only permitted to be used in nonsleeping staff and employee areas.

Available resources

UL provides code authorities with a multitude of technical resources and information on our code authorities webpage located at www.code-authorities.ul.com. For further information or assistance, please contact UL’s Codes & Regulatory Services at [email protected].

The Code Authority Newsletter 2021 | Issue 2

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