Article
In another article, we looked at ground fault circuit interrupters for 
the home and hearth. But, that's not the only place GFCIs are used and 
required.<br><br>In the work environment, their use is governed by OSHA, NEC® and other codes and standards.

GFCI Protection – An Industrial/Commercial Requirement

Steve Maurer, IME
In another article, we looked at ground fault circuit interrupters for the home and hearth. But, that's not the only place GFCIs are used and required.

In the work environment, their use is governed by OSHA, NEC® and other codes and standards.

According to one of OSHA's Construction eTools, a ground fault occurs:

"when there is a break in the low-resistance grounding path from a tool or electrical system. The electrical current may then take an alternative path to the ground through the user, resulting in serious injuries or death. The ground-fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, is a fast-acting circuit breaker designed to shut off electric power in the event of a ground-fault within as little as 1/40 of a second. It works by comparing the amount of current going to and returning from equipment along the circuit conductors. When the amount going differs from the amount returning by approximately 5 milliamperes, the GFCI interrupts the current."

Shutting off the power in as little as 1/40th of a second when a 5 milliampere difference is detected means that you are protected from this form of unintentional electrical incident.

There are still other ways to get shocked. But this one has you covered.

The use of GFCI protection isn't just for residential, commercial, or industrial use. One of the biggest industries that need this safeguard is construction. Because of the inherently dangerous environment of the construction site, GFCIs are a must have item.

But the construction site poses some unique challenges. Often, the area where the worker is laboring does not require GFCI protection once the job is finished. For example, working in an office area that's still exposed to the outdoor environment. GFCI may not be required once the office is finished.
But it still needs GFCI protection while construction is in progress.

If the electricians have already completed their work, there's a good chance that the outlets aren't GFCI receptacles. So it's necessary to provide portable GFCI equipment for the construction crew.

One method is similar to a grounding adapter. The unit plugs into an existing non-GFCI receptacle and the cord is plugged into it. This provides GFCI protection down the entire length of the cord and the power tool or device connected to it.

An existing power cord or extension cord can be retrofitted with a GFCI male plug as well. That means you're GFCI protected, no matter what receptacle you're plugged into.

Another option, often used in industrial cord drops, is an incline GFCI module that can be added onto an existing non-protected drop.

Alternately, a GFCI unit with flying leads can be used, one end attached to the power source, the other wired into a female connector or directly to the equipment it's supplying.

One thing to make sure of, though. The inline GFCI is directional. That means the unit or the flying leads must be hooked up in the right direction.

You can get inline GFCIs with either automatic or manual resets. It's advised that those units used to protect personnel using tools or devices be manually reset.

For multiple extension cord protection, you can get molded multi-connector units that get power from one source and allow up to three extension cords.

For larger projects, a power distribution box with multiple GFCI protected outlets gives even more flexibility to the workers.

Whatever scenario you find yourself in—a commercial building, industrial plant, or construction worksite—GFCIs are not just required, but an excellent idea for keeping team members safe from ground faults.
Photo courtesy of Molex®
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