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Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters (GFCI)

Discussion in 'Safety Issues' started by SeaMac, Oct 31, 2012.

  1. SeaMac

    SeaMac Senior Member

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    I'm posting this thread due to a genuine concern of mine, one which could be extremely hazardous and potentially life threatening. Ground Fault Circuit Interrupters, commonly referred to by us Electricians as GFI's, Giffy's etc. Most know them as the receptacle with the two little buttons, one says test the other reset and the paperwork that comes with them says test monthly.

    Pursuant to the NFPA who writes the National Electrical Code (NEC) and OSHA any and all jobsites that use electricity must have GFCI protected circuits for temporary construction use. My current concern is the use of small portable generators used on Pipe Crews, these are primarily used to power drills, rotary hammers and impact wrenches. I'm sure they exist but as of yet I haven't seen a small (1kw - 2kw) portable generator with GFCI receptacles, so what to do? You have two options, you can purchase a standalone GFCI pigtail or an extension cord with a built-in GFCI.

    Failure to protect yourself from electrical shock is no laughing matter, it takes less than half an amp to stop a healthy heart and most corded drills have a much larger electrical load than half an amp. Should you be drilling DIP or C900 to tap a saddle for a water service you could be standing in water yourself, if that drill slips and lands in the water you might find the experience a shocking one. Yes, I know the generator has a circuit breaker of its own but the principal that makes a GFCI work has a much faster response time in opening the faulted circuit than a basic thermal/over current circuit breaker.

    Please don't try this at home but the theory behind a GFCI aims to do this. Say you're taking a bath and you've figured you could blow dry your hair at the same time -trust me it has happened, people can be idiots at times- if your blow dryer is connected to a basic thermal/overcurrent protected circuit and falls in the tub you WILL die. If that same blow dryer is connected to a GFCI protected circuit the bathroom lights will most assuredly go dark but you will survive another day.

    Don't play with electricity it doesn't care who you are, who you know, how smart you are or how much money you have all it knows is, you are the quickest path to ground. Please, don't be the quickest path to ground, it hurts!

    While I'm on the subject of electrical safety I'll add the following;

    Extension cords, drop cords whatever you call 'em, they have to have a ground to work properly -refer to, don't BE the path to ground- I can't begin to tell you how many cords I come across that have no ground prong. By law in Florida as the Electrical Contractor of record on a jobsite I am obligated and mandated to inform you that it must be properly fixed and or offer to fix it for you. If you fail to do so I am legally allowed cut your cord to pieces and discard it, I don't do so to be an A-hole, but you are probably connected to a temporary electrical service under my permit and I am liable. Nothing personal other than I would rather you be pissed at me but also be able to go home, kiss your Wife hello and play with your kids.

    One more thing about extension cords, flat cords are strictly forbidden on any jobsite. They are generally constructed without insulation on the individual conductors whereas a round (approved) cord is. You lay that flat cord down on something that could puncture the jacket then step on it and you are in for a surprise, the best thing being it only blew a hole in the sole of your boots.

    When it comes to electricity, always think smart and be safe. If an employer refuses to provide GFCI protection and proper extension cords, make note of it and take pictures if applicable then call OSHA and report them. OSHA takes such matters VERY seriously, one of the few matters I know of where they will show up unannounced.

    Be Safe!
     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2012
  2. JBGASH

    JBGASH Senior Member

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    Nice wake up call and reminder on the saftey of electricity SeaMac. I will look over all my dropcords to insure they are properly grounded and in good safe condition. Thanks!
     
  3. SeaMac

    SeaMac Senior Member

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    Hi JB,

    Glad to hear you'll be checking on your cords, a bit of advice if I may. Actually test your GFCI's and if your cord caps are missing the ground prong or in general disrepair be sure to purchase quality replacement cord caps OSHA does require "approved" replacement cord caps but for whatever reason does not provide an approved list. For those that don't know, it is very simple to replace a cord cap if you follow the color coding on the screws inside, Green for ground, White for Neutral and Brass or Gold for hot. I offer this information only because I have seen some strange wiring terminations in cord caps done by others.

     
  4. 06Pete

    06Pete Well-Known Member

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    All GFI'S I have encountered are a joke! They blow if lightning is in the area or just trip for any reason. Last summer I lost a full freezer to one and I have lost more than 1 day waiting for the electrition to get one to work for a sewer ejector test. The new arc faults are even worse a hair dryer or heater blows them. I think these kind of safty things are a saftey net for idiots if you are stupid enough to dry your hair in the tub do we realy need you. As far as drills go the cordless drills have come so far in the recent years they are a much better alternitive in my opinion. I am sure they have saved a life or two but who is to that they have not killed to as one has to keep resetting climbing in and out of holes taking a chance on falling or slipping and wasting time. I guess I have been lucky and have never had a electrical accedent as I use good cords and don't lay tools in water make sure to use grounded or double insulated tools as well.
     
  5. SeaMac

    SeaMac Senior Member

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    If your GFI's are nuisance tripping you have a deeper electrical problem, very indicative of a floating or miswired neutral, or a bad grounding conductor or electrode. Yes the new arc-faults are a major pain and so were GFI's when they first came out. The arc-faults originally were only intended for bedrooms not the entire household. The NEC intent was to protect from an arc which ignites lint and dust where homeowners slam furniture against cords plugged into receptacles and don't fancy house cleaning. They are a pain but they DO work if wired correctly. They do require that the Electrician pay very close attention to the neutral wiring as only a few arc-fault circuit breakers will support a common neutral. I hate to say this but I've been an Electrician for over 36 years and a Contractor for over 17 years and through it all I have found that most people who think they understand electrical wiring really only know enough to be dangerous. The NEC is written by the NFPA who also write the code for Fire Fighters, ask a Fire Fighter or Fire Marshal about GFCI's, AFCI's and most important smoke alarms/detectors, they think highly and fondly of all and these are the men and women who see the aftermath of the alternative.
     
  6. 06Pete

    06Pete Well-Known Member

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    I am in the fire dept. and still see no use for them. Maybe all I have used were installed wrong but all were installed by different contractors with different experence. The final straw was the freezer I hate them all and have removed them all from my house. Actully I have had more problems with newer ones being bad out of the box not working at all. I am not a electrition and will never claim to be and limit my electrical work to laying wire and letting a electrition hook it up.
     
  7. SeaMac

    SeaMac Senior Member

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    Pete,

    First, I have the utmost respect for Fire Fighters and have worked with and employed plenty -they seem to be Sparky's a lot in their off-time. Second, I sympathise with you regarding out of the box problems, my only suggestion if you're purchasing them from a Big Box store is STOP! Find an electrical supply house and purchase GFI's from them then PLEASE reinstall them. I recommend Pass Seymour or Leviton I have installed thousands of both but.....purchased at a supply house and have not had many call backs. Where GFI's are concerned they are only NEC required for exterior receptacles or anywhere near a water source. A freezer or any appliance which is supplied by a single -not duplex- receptacle is exempt from the GFI rule per NEC. I still believe you may have a neutral issue, GFI's sense faults via the neutral not the ground. Sorry to hear of your GFI troubles. If I were nearer I'd troubleshoot for you but the travel charge would be a deal breaker...

     
    Last edited: Nov 1, 2012
  8. lectro88

    lectro88 Well-Known Member

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    06 Pete
    Don't think we're ganging up on you, But..
    seamac is on the money. only additions i offer is, to my knowledge (27yrs)in the com/ind electrical. in commercial kitchen, ALL 120 cord connected appliance Shall be gfci protected. and in a residence only deicing receptacles mounted at certain elevations are allowed exempt.

    I know it sounds crazy but a freezer and contents can be replaced, a grandchild, child, wife, friend can not.
    SO many have been killed over the years, this is why its become mandatory. and sometimes a PITA.

    A gfci for a lack of better words measures amount of electrical current flow out and looks for same amount returned on neutral/grounded not grounding conductor. any imbalance and it trips, it can be a SLIGHTLY faulted compressor or heatstrip around door, improperly wired circuit, many things. But its doing its job. if it see's something wrong it trips.

    I respectively ask you to reconsider your dislike of this much needed life safety device.
     
  9. OzDozer

    OzDozer Senior Member

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    You guys need to go to 240V single phase, like the Brits and Aussies use! You only get half the amperage through your heart when you get a short-circuit! :)
    I've managed to collect 240V once, when I was fixing a switch on a cut-off saw! Left the power on accidentally, didn't I, when I was sticking a finger in the bare wires!
    Sure made me sit up and yelp, and take notice! I've never done it again! But the important thing we have here now is RCD's (circuit breakers) fitted on every line (switchboard), as a compulsory measure.
    Haven't seen any figures yet as to the amount of lives saved by the RCD's, but I'll wager the figures will be impressive in a few years. The RCD's kick out in a few milliseconds, they're amazing to watch.
     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2012
  10. SeaMac

    SeaMac Senior Member

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    Here, here lectro88, well put, on the money too and a fine how do you do Brother Sparky as well.

    I am distinctly aware some do NOT like GFCI's but they have a documented history of saving lives. Here's a brief story, my very good friend Lee's Daughter came home from college last summer in her Daddy bought brand new Mustang. She knew well to keep it clean and maintained and so barefooted, she set about washing her Pony on the grass under a tree. With wet grass all around she dragged out Dad's industrial sized Shop Vac and commenced to vac'n until she was dropped to her knees screaming in pain. She had just become the victim of a Daddy removed GFCI exterior receptacle. He told me they were causing all kinds of problems and wouldn't last over a month. I took a gander at what he had been purchasing at our local Big Box and had been sold by their "so-called" experts. They in fact were not WR or Weather Resistant rated GFCI receptacles which as far as I'm aware only supply houses stock. To make a long story short if you hire competent technicians who use legally mandated UL listed and quality products you rarely suffer any troubles or electrical inconveniences... Keep it grounded, keep it safe and stay alive! I'm 10-7 and out!

     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2012
  11. SeaMac

    SeaMac Senior Member

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    No, not gonna happen, here in the States we arguably -this doesn't mean we NEED to argue the point, puhlease- have the safest electrical system and we like it that way. It is absolutely different than foreign systems for sure but it is intrinsically safe if applied properly. However, that does imply installing and using legally mandated safety devices and measures that ARE mandated by those who actually do have YOUR best interest at heart.

    If you really want your hair straightened out Oz, get hung up in the middle of neutral conductor of a fully-loaded 277vac fluorescent lighting circuit. Doing so provides a WHOLE new meaning to getting lit. I did it ONCE, it killed me twice so claimed the Metro-Dade County Paramedics who responded to defibrillate me and the OSHA investigator....

     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2012
  12. lectro88

    lectro88 Well-Known Member

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    And another I found this week, not a gfci problem.
    customer called about gas logs insert, they had a "Tech" come out and install a blower motor that came with a grounded 3 wire cord. Now the insert had a factory installed 2 wire receptacle. What did the tech do...? pulled the ground prong out of the UL listed assembly cord and proceded to plug it in now we have a ungrounded electrical motor mixed with a gas appliance. NICE.! ended up being squirreles got in wall and chewed through romex neutral. explained to homeowner and a legal matter is at hand.
     
  13. SeaMac

    SeaMac Senior Member

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    Yeah,

    What is it with rodents and the jacket on NM cable? I've had it bbq'd, deep fried, blackened etc but was never able to acquire a taste for it. Just one of those things that makes me go....hmmm. And of course there's that bony carcass left when they chew just enough to make contact with the hot and noodle. Hey Honey can you smell that, it's like something died inside the walls, and why won't the tv turn on?

     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2012