NEMA Publishes Comprehensive Catalog of Electrical Standards


The catalog is a useful guide to the industry generally and the work NEMA does developing and supporting standards.

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA), Rosslyn, VA, has released the 2018 edition of its Electrical Standards & Products Guide, a comprehensive listing of NEMA electrical standards and technical documents. The guide covers 56 product categories such as lighting, motors and generators, wire and cable, medical imaging, and enclosures, as well as a directory of NEMA members and their products.

“NEMA standards provide our industry with the most up to date technical information for engineers, installers, and customers,” said Greg Steinman, chairman of the NEMA Codes and Standards Committee and manager of Codes and Standards at Thomas & Betts. “These standards provide the technical performance levels expected for the equipment we manufacture, and the information in this guide allows our customers to make electrical equipment purchasing decisions that meet or exceed expectations.”

This is a useful guide to the industry and the extensive standards work NEMA does to make electrical equipment safer and easier to use.

You can download a copy here: 2018 Electrical Standards & Products Guide

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Electrical Sleuthing Evolves

Forensic engineers deal with timeless challenges, but new ones may also be entering the mix.

Stuff happens. That’s about all that can be (politely) said when systems or equipment fail, people err, or fate intervenes to produce costly mishaps. The fact that accidents of all kinds occur is seemingly the only constant in human affairs. Even in a world where advancing technology, redundant systems, improved training, and a best practices mind-set should produce dividends in the form of fewer “incidents,” a bet on the future looking like the past may be a surer one. Another thing almost certain to stay the same: Loss incidents won’t end with a resigned shrug of the shoulders. Instead, they’ll almost surely continue to signal a beginning, a search for answers to what happened, how it happened, and, of course, who’s to blame.

Pic 1 Electrical Detective Work
Timothy Korinek, P.E. looks for signs of electrical failure in a fire protection pumping system following a building fire.

The quest for the truth in the wake of calamities large and small keeps many interested parties both busy and in business — few more so than forensic engineers who are tasked to help answer those questions. Practitioners who leverage their academic and real-world knowledge of a primary engineering discipline — electrical for one — and combine it with investigatory and analytical skills, have long assisted stakeholders, legal teams, and courts of law in the drive to understand and interpret these incidents. And the work isn’t limited to accidents; many professionals conduct fact-finding in intellectual property cases, contract disputes, and even quality control/troubleshooting in product development efforts. Their painstaking evidence-gathering and generally sworn commitment to unbiased truth-finding is a cornerstone of dispute resolution, permitting a set of stipulated, if not always unassailable, facts to be the basis for fairly determining and allocating culpability, accountability, and damages.

With scant evidence that litigiousness is becoming any less assured than random failures, forensic engineers seemingly can look forward to a continued and steady need for their services. But meanwhile there are also signs that demands on the profession may be changing. From the nature of the electrical-based anomalies that cause damaging events to the emergence of automated controls systems, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things (IoT) to the growing sophistication of investigative technologies, the technical terrain forensic engineers must navigate is becoming increasingly complex. In the end, this niche group of electrical experts, who possesses highly specialized, cutting-edge knowledge, and skill sets, is expected to produce bulletproof findings in these cases.

Clues from sensors

High on the list of potential technological challenges that forensic engineers face is the growing ability to monitor, meter, control, and log the operation and performance of electrical equipment and systems. More widespread deployment of digital sensors and smart control systems in commercial and industrial applications could translate to timelier and more clear-cut answers for failures that cascade into accidents. That could prove an invaluable aid to forensic investigators. But could information technology advances also be the seed of the transformation of the traditional forensic electrical investigation?

That’s far-fetched, says Chris Korinek, owner of Synergy Technologies, LLC, a Cedarburg, Wis., forensic electrical, mechanical, and materials engineering and consulting firm. But there’s little doubt, he says, that sensor technology has helped forensic investigators.

“We see more and more appliances collecting data, smart meters monitoring usage, even video of incidents, and it’s all given us more opportunity to collect and use information,” he says.

Data gathered from sensors could well grow to become a major source of hard investigative clues, but it still must be interpreted correctly and properly weighed against other physical evidence, says J. Derald Morgan, principal at J. Derald Morgan & Associates, Inc., an electrical engineering and forensics consultancy in Branson West, Mo.

“It would minimize the need for a certain amount of analysis, and it’s possible you might have some cases where you wouldn’t need a typical forensic investigation,” he says.

Pic 2 Electrical Detective Work 3
This forensic investigation of a fire honed in on melted metal in EMT, a possible sign of arcing between conductors.

But, using an analogy, Morgan says data collected from sensor-equipped cars that collide could yield extensive information about factors like speed, position, and angle of impact. Yet it might reveal little about physical circumstances like the condition of the road surface or weather conditions, which might bear primary responsibility.

For now, says Chris Shiver, who does electrical, mechanical, and safety forensics work as Chris Shiver, PE, out of Roswell, Ga., digital sensor data is just another piece of evidence that “doesn’t short circuit the work you need to do.”

In fact, it may be no more consequential to investigations than data long derived from traditional industrial analog chart recorders.

“It doesn’t prove anything by itself; you still need to find failure mechanisms from all of the physical evidence,” he says.

But the growing prevalence of more sophisticated, data-centric equipment and systems almost surely means forensic investigators will need a strong working knowledge of their operation. That’s a potential challenge for a profession that may be top heavy with seasoned practitioners who, while highly experienced, skilled, and sharp, may be at risk of falling behind a steepening technology curve. Forensic investigations of the future may increasingly demand young professionals well-versed in cutting-edge control and automation technologies integrated into products and systems that may fail with costly consequences.

Pic 3 Electrical Detective Work 4
A forensic investigation of a foundry file turned up an electrical plug and receptacle examined for evidence of overheated connections.

“This all requires engineers to be a lot more knowledgeable about data, information systems, and electronics,” says Korinek.

For example, prospects for increased litigation stemming from failures of autonomous products and systems in the expanding IoT ecosystem opens the door to forensic experts armed with that specialized knowledge.

On the website of IMS Expert Services, which brings experts and litigators together, there’s this cautionary observation: “All of the things we use to enjoy, control, monitor, organize, and secure our lives via the IoT are coming to the forefront of litigation.”

Morgan, who has more than four decades of experience in electrical engineering forensics study, education, and practice, sees opportunity in the field for those who know their way around complex technologies that will reside at the center of next-generation products and electrical and mechanical systems.

“If I were a young guy and wanted to get good enough at something to become a forensics electrical engineer, I’d get good at artificial intelligence (AI) and computer-based control systems,” he says. “There will be a lot of software controlling things that may fail for strange reasons.”

A youth movement?

That seems like a recipe for growth in the forensic engineering field, one that might be expected to start drawing the attention of newly minted engineers looking for a challenging and possibly lucrative niche. But as established practitioners labor to point out, forensic engineering work has always been specialized and multifaceted, calling on strong communications, investigative, and even performance or “salesmanship” skills — valuable in depositions and trials — that aren’t taught as much as they are absorbed, learned, and honed over time.

Moreover, it’s work that increasingly demands the kind of expertise that qualifies one as a true expert; relevant knowledge must be provable, and investigative processes employed and conclusions reached as a result must be framed to stand up to intense scrutiny. That goes a long way in explaining why the roster of forensic engineers skews older, and why the field has traditionally been more of a transitional career avenue for established professionals rather than a destination for younger engineers.

The best forensics engineers are those who’ve learned the many nuances of the work. A primary one, says Arthur Zatarain, an automation and control systems forensic expert who runs the practice, Arthur Zatarain, P.E., Metairie, La., is blending fact-finding with expert analysis and opinion in a case.

“A forensic engineer can get caught with one foot as a fact witness and the other as an expert,” he says. “That situation is ripe for attack by opposing counsel.”

Forensics engineers who carefully discover and cite facts in reports, and have the ability to present themselves as experts who can opine on them, bring an important dimension to investigations, he says. In his reports, he develops separate sections — one for facts and the other for analysis and opinion on them based on his credentials and experience.

Pic 4 Electrical Detective Work 1
Chris Korinek, P.E., gathers evidence from destroyed electrical equipment at a fire scene investigation.

“That method keeps those two worlds — fact and opinion — clear and separate,” he says. “I often see mistakes along those lines in expert reports, which suggests to me the engineer, and perhaps his attorney client, are new to the game.”

Experience is of great value in the profession, but some have detected signs of a youth movement into the practice as demand for services expands, niche expertise is valued, and attrition accelerates.

“The field seemed to start expanding around the turn of the century,” Shiver says. “When I got into the business, there weren’t that many companies doing it — and no one wanted to be a forensic engineer starting out. Now younger engineers seem to be going to work for big companies that are starting to get more established in the business.”

While there are solid opportunities in forensic electrical work, that doesn’t translate to an easier path for those looking to break in. Barriers to entry and sustained success, especially for engineers looking to hang out their own shingle, are high because a track record in all facets of the work is so highly valued and becoming known and trusted can be a long, uphill climb.

Zatarain says “artistic” elements of the work that complement the technical aspects — investigating, analyzing, assembling reports, and testifying — can be difficult to master. Even seasoned engineers enticed by the fresh challenge of adapting their knowledge and skills to the field as sole proprietor consultants need to go in with eyes wide open.

“Going in completely on your own is probably not a good idea,” he says. “If you’ve never done a case before, you can get chewed up the first time, and the process will consume you.”
Fewer trials

However, one element of that process that has traditionally hung over the head of every forensic engineer may be changing somewhat — the need to be ready to testify in a courtroom setting. According to some forensic engineers in certain geographic locations, they’ve noticed a trend toward fewer cases going to trial. Instead, often for financial reasons and the pervasiveness of stalemates, more disputes seem to be settled out of court.

“There are fewer trials,” Morgan says. “They’re expensive, and judges are tending to force parties to mediate disputes.”

Settlements may be more commonplace partly because litigants have become so much more focused in recent years on engaging top-notch experts, as defined by courts, as investigators. Deadlocks often ensue, Zatarain says, because all sides present equally strong cases that can be costly and time-consuming to continue to challenge.

“Ultimately, you often end up with opinions, and that’s where it stops, with the sides negotiating a settlement,” he says.

Depositions remain commonplace and pivotal in the forensic investigation process, requiring forensics engineers to be as capable handling probing and sometimes hostile attorney questioning as they are at gathering and assessing evidence.

“Testimony by deposition is still very much a part of the job,” says Zatarain. “In my experience, a deposition is far more difficult than a trial. They can be vicious, and all facts aren’t always known to the engineer prior. Getting through the depo with the case still intact requires a seasoned forensic engineer.”

And demands on engineers to defend their qualifications, reports, and findings have grown ever since the 1993 “Daubert” Supreme Court case established a tougher standard for admitting expert testimony, says Korinek. It’s had the effect of increasing the diligence of forensic engineers to understand the issues, conduct thorough investigations, and prepare for challenges to conclusions.

“It can be humbling how many things you have to look at to be able to make a case,” he says. “A lot of the engineering work is focused on finding out what happened, but often the big issue in a case comes down to an attorney asking the question: ‘Who did something wrong?’” — who performed an action that caused a loss due to not meeting a standard of care?

Ultimately, the definitive answer to whether someone is negligent or legally liable often lies outside the scope of forensic engineers. That determination, in the legal sense, is for others to decide: judges, juries, and the litigators themselves. It remains the job of forensic investigators to prepare evidence, establish facts, and help chart a path to informed and equitable dispute resolutions. Armed with these facts, not to mention more advanced tools and an intense interest in electrical investigation and analysis, a new generation of electrical engineers will inevitably be poised to take the field into the future.

SIDEBAR: The Fascination with Electrical Forensics

There are few jobs like it in the world of electrical engineering. Combining deep academic and practical engineering knowledge, investigative know-how, and comfort with being on the hot seat, forensic electrical engineering is a true occupational hybrid. And that’s exactly what attracts many to the field and keeps some fully engaged in it well into their golden years. Variety, drama, occasional pressure, and, yes, good paydays for the very best, are among the enticements.

“I love it because it calls on both sides of your brain,” says Robert Peruzzi, PhD, owner of R. Peruzzi Consulting, Bethlehem, Pa. “I’d been a technical nerd for a number of years, and now it’s also about being able to communicate in writing and speaking — and being able to withstand hostile examination. You have to be able to build a structure to support your case.”

Arthur Zatarain, a practitioner in Metairie, La., says the variety is part of what keeps him in the business.

“Every case is unique, and there’s nothing routine,” he says. “The technical requirements, human factors, environmental conditions — they’re all different, and you can hardly ever say ‘I had a case just like this.’ And before you can do anything, you have to first figure out exactly what the case is.”

J. Derald Morgan, who’s 78 and runs J. Derald Morgan Associates, Inc., continues to be energized by the educational aspects of the work and the varied skills it calls on in depositions and trials. Some forensic engineers find that part of the work distasteful because it doesn’t come naturally.

“Engineers are actually good writers, but they’re not creative writers,” he says. “They may be able to diagram sentences, but if you do that on the witness stand and come across as hesitant, it can look like you’re making up a story.”

A good forensic engineer, he says, needs to be skilled at the nitty gritty of gathering evidence, but capable of shifting gears into defending the findings. “You need to realize that when you go to trial, it’s showtime.”

Chris Shiver, who runs his own consulting business out of Roswell, Ga., likes the work for the demands it places on scientific rigor and the need for objectivity and pure fact-finding.

“You need to maintain ethical principles even where you might be subject to being pulled in different directions,” he says. “You don’t go in with a lot of pre-conceived ideas, but let the circumstances lead to unbiased conclusions.”

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How Improper Maintenance Can Increase Arc Flash Severity

Without properly performing an E3MP, incident energy levels can drastically increase above calculated values, which may go unnoticed until a life-changing event occurs.

More and more companies today are taking the smart step toward performing an arc flash analysis on their electrical distribution system to determine arc flash hazard levels and accurately post the hazard level on associated equipment. However, once the study is completed, most firms never give it another thought — assuming the arc flash calculations will always accurately reflect the hazard in the field.

After the analysis is complete, there is no reason to second-guess the engineer who performed the calculations. But the reality is, over time, the calculated arc flash hazard values are in jeopardy of becoming erroneous if the equipment is not part of an effective electrical equipment maintenance program (E3MP).

Arc flash severity variables

Three primary variables are required for the calculations associated with an arc flash analysis: available fault current, distance from the fault, and duration of the fault. Distance from the fault is determined by IEEE Standard 1584, “Guide for Performing Arc Flash Hazard Calculations,” and the fault current is a property of the electrical distribution system being evaluated. Fault duration is the variable that can be inadvertently impacted by a company’s electrical maintenance strategy. Fault duration is the characteristic of the arc flash event, which is determined by the upstream overcurrent protective device’s (OCPD’s) ability to interrupt the fault. For the purpose of an analysis, the engineer assumes the OCPD will interrupt the fault in the manner and speed at which it was designed.

Arc Flash 0218 2

A lack of maintenance could lead to a dangerous situation, where an electrical worker is insufficiently protected from the arc flash energy levels produced during a fault.

Circuit breakers are one of the most common OCPDs and are considered as time-limiting equipment in the arc flash analysis. However, the time required for a circuit breaker to interrupt a fault can be dramatically impacted by the lack of proper maintenance. In order to better understand the relationship between circuit breaker maintenance and arc flash severity, you must first understand some basics related to circuit breaker design and operation.

What is a circuit breaker?

A circuit breaker is a switching device that can be operated manually or automatically for control and protection of an electrical power system. From a protection standpoint, circuit breakers are devices that automatically stop current from flowing if a certain abnormality in the system is detected — in simple terms, it interrupts the flow of current in the circuit.

There are two main types of circuit breakers: magnetic and thermal. Magnetic circuit breakers respond quickly to short-duration large overcurrent faults, while thermal circuit breakers respond best to long-duration small overcurrent faults. In addition, a thermal-magnetic circuit breaker combines the advantages of both types, breaking circuits in response to both large overcurrent and prolonged small overcurrent conditions. Magnetic circuit breakers are more relative to the arc flash discussion in that they are typically the breakers responsible for clearing short-duration large overcurrent faults that involve arc flash events.

Magnetic circuit breakers rely on induction through a coil of wire called a solenoid. When current flows through the solenoid, a magnetic field is created. This field exerts a force on a nearby magnet; the larger the current, the stronger the force. If the current is strong enough, the magnet is pushed out of the solenoid with enough force to trip the mechanism that breaks the circuit. This is useful if there is a sudden surge in current, because the force created by the solenoid increases proportionally with the amount of current, allowing a rapid response for fault interruption.

Why circuit breaker maintenance is crucial

Arc Flash 0218 3

A circuit breaker is a mechanical device, so inherently it has components that are required to move in order for a successful operation. When calculating incident energy levels, the engineer would use information from the manufacturer with regard to how quickly those mechanisms work together to complete the operation and interrupt the circuit. Each breaker is designed to interrupt fault current based on its time-current characteristics curve. These design characteristics are used in the arc flash analysis calculations to determine the fault clearing time.

Notice the impact increased fault clearing time has on incident energy levels.

If an E3MP is not utilized on a breaker, then the operating times provided by the manufacturer become irrelevant. Circuit breaker mechanisms will start to malfunction (contacts can start to stick and grease can begin to “gum up”). Even worse, the breaker might not work at all. A delay in response time might not seem like much, but it only takes milliseconds for the incident energy on a typical 480V motor starter to go from negligible to deadly.

Impact of increased fault clearing time

The Figure shows arc flash values for a typical 480V motor starter breaker in a system with 3kA of available fault current. The y-axis is the arc flash energy level in cal/cm2. Time is shown along the x-axis starting at 2 msec up to a maximum of 2 sec. Notice how quickly the incident energy level rises.

Let’s assume the breaker is designed to clear the fault in three cycles. The calculation for this example results in an incident energy level of 2.2 cal/cm2, which would require a minimum of Category 1 personal protective equipment (PPE). If the lack of proper maintenance causes the breaker to not clear the fault until 30 cycles (0.5 sec), the incident energy level reaches 22.2 cal/cm2. This would require a minimum of Category 3 PPE. The significance of this time delay is that the electrician wearing typical Category 2 “daily wear” PPE would be insufficiently protected from the arc flash energy levels produced during the fault, regardless of what the warning sticker on the equipment states as the required PPE.


Even if a company has the most accurate and detailed arc flash analysis performed on its system and provides employees with top-of-the-line PPE, there is still a safety-related responsibility for the establishment of an E3MP. If the company does not incorporate an E3MP on all OCPDs, then employees remain at risk of being injured due to the probability of arc flash events that exceed calculated values. Without an E3MP, the probability is higher that the operating speeds of the mechanical parts in your breakers are significantly slower than designed, and, as demonstrated in the example above, it takes only fractions of a second to defeat all of the efforts associated with an effective arc flash mitigation program.

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U.S. Electric Utility Customer Base Now Exceeds 150 Million

Installations of smart meters have more than doubled since 2010, per the Dec. 7, 2017 EIA report, while slower growth is the norm for demand response and energy efficiency

According to recently-released EIA data, almost half of all U.S. electricity customer accounts now have smart meters. By the end of 2016, U.S. electric utilities had installed about 71 million advanced metering infrastructure (AMI) smart meters, covering 47% of the 150 million electricity customers in the United States.

In contrast to two-way AMI, the second-largest category of meters is one-way Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMR), a category for which meter installations peaked in 2012 at 48 million units installed. The total AMR population of meters nationwide over last four years has wavered between 46 and 47 million total units.

Link electric use 1

Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI)



Smart meters have two-way communication capability between electric utilities and customers. One-way meter-to-utility communication, also known as automated meter reading (AMR), was more prevalent before 2013. Since then, two-way AMI smart meter installations have been more common based on data collected in EIA’s annual electric utility surveys.

Two-way AMI meters allow utilities and customers to interact to support smart consumption applications using real-time or near real-time electricity data. Smart meters can support demand response and distributed generation, improve reliability, and provide information that consumers can use to save money by managing their use of electricity.

AMI data provide utilities with detailed outage information in the event of a storm or other system disruption, helping utilities restore service to customers more quickly and reducing the overall length of electric system outages.

While the EIA data has shown a healthy growth rate for AMI, equaling about 10% a year, the EIA data on uptake of demand response programs continues to show low or no growth, with total enrolled customers hovering just over 9 million as shown below:


The EIA Annual Electric Outlook just released on Dec 7, 2017 is at this link:


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New Addition of BICSI’s Outside Plant Design Reference Manual Released


The publication includes new standards, codes, and best practices.

BICSI, the association advancing the information and communications technology (ICT) community, has published a new edition of the Outside Plant Design Reference Manual (OSPDRM).

Written by OSP subject matter experts, the manual focuses on outside plant properties, with the detailed information contained applicable to all projects large and small. In addition to covering traditional infrastructure subjects such as cabling and pathways, the OSPDRM also covers items not typically found within interior design work, such as right-of-way, permitting and service restoration.

The 6th Edition of OSPDRM includes updates and additional information on:

• Passive optical networks (PON)

• Aerial installation of all dielectric self-supporting cable (ADSS)

• Maintenance and restoration of OSP

• Radio frequency over glass (RFoG) specific to OSP fiber optic installations

• Additional excavation methods for direct-buried cable and pathways (i.e., vacuum, hydro-vac, and air nozzle)

• New storm loading requirements for aerial OSP design that includes the U.S. Warm Islands Zone per requirements in 2017 NESC

• Updated OM5 optical fiber cable type

• Project management information and geographic information systems (GIS)

• Air-assisted cable installation for OSP cable runs

• Changes resulting from the issuance of the 2017 edition of the NESC concerning clearances and grounding/bonding requirements

More information on the OSPDRM, 6th edition, can be found here.


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Job Safety Planning and the 2018 NFPA 70E

A properly designed and executed job safety plan gives workers a practical tool to help ensure they make it home safely every day.

Planning for safety isn’t new to the electrical trade. Guidelines to conduct a job hazard analysis (JHA) for each individual job were first published by OSHA in 1989, and have since been regularly revised. However, complying with the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E “Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace” requires the completion of an in-depth “job safety plan,” probably in more detail than what most employers and electrical workers may conduct today.

Job Safety Planning 1
Job safety planning requires inspection of this transfer switch prior to performing maintenance. In addition to recording information from the arc flash warning label, the worker inspects the condition of the equipment to ensure it is suitable for normal operation.

Some workplaces use generic forms, often referred to as a job safety analysis (JSA), for identifying hazards and determining methods to mitigate those hazards. Whether referred to as a JSA, JHA, or other company-specific term, the objective is the same: Provide a structured method for workers to recognize hazards and identify the choices they will make to protect themselves from those hazards.

New NFPA 70E requirements

The 2018 edition of NFPA 70E contains new requirements for the worker to analyze the critical steps of the electrical job, assess the electrical hazards associated with those steps, and then determine how they will protect themselves. Prior to this edition of the standard, there was no requirement for workers to perform such a detailed risk assessment. This new requirement for a job safety plan must also be reviewed as part of the required job briefing. Should a change in work scope occur during the course of the job, the job safety plan must be revised as needed, and an additional job briefing must occur to reflect any change. Remember, the purpose of the job safety plan is to have the qualified electrical worker review each step of the job they are to perform, determine how safe it is to perform that particular task, and what actions are needed to ensure they will be protected.

OSHA Part 1926 “Safety and Health Regulations for Construction” requires the person in charge of the job to conduct a job briefing. Rules for job briefings have appeared in NFPA 70E since 1995. However, there is no reasonable assurance that the properly conducted job briefing itself will identify all electrical hazards. To ensure hazards are properly addressed, the job safety plan requires:

  • The employee in charge, who must also be a “qualified person,” is responsible to complete the job safety plan and job briefing.
  • The job safety plan must be documented.
  • The plan must include both a “shock risk assessment” and an “arc flash risk assessment.”
  • The plan must identify work procedures involved, special precautions to be taken, and the energy source controls for the equipment undergoing work.

Both shock risk assessments and arc flash risk assessments require the electrical hazards be identified and the likelihood of the occurrence and potential severity of any potential injury be considered. Once this information regarding the hazards is identified, any specific protective measures needed are determined. As expected, the assessments must be documented.

Completing the job safety plan

NFPA 70E doesn’t specify an exact type of job safety plan form be used for documentation. It is expected that companies will review and modify (as applicable) their own JSA, JHA, or similar documents used to plan work. The key points of the document is that each critical step of the job is analyzed for electrical hazards, and logical decisions are made to protect workers based on items such as use of work procedures, PPE, or other special precautions. In some cases, it may be identified that a particular step may not be completed safely at all, and other means, such as lockout/tagout must be used.

Informative Annex F Risk Assessment and Risk Control has been expanded for the 2018 edition of NFPA 70E to help companies and workers with the process of risk assessment. While different methods of job safety planning are mentioned, the concept of using a “risk assessment matrix” is typical for many organizations. A basic example of such a matrix is provided in the Annex. For a risk assessment matrix that assigns a risk code to each critical step see the Sample Risk Code Matrix.


Workers who do not normally complete such detailed job safety plans may object to the complexity of the new requirements. It can be argued that determining the likelihood of an occurrence, or the potential severity of an injury, is subjective. Routine tasks are just that — routine, and should not require any special planning.

There is always a learning curve to any new process. Job safety plans can be streamlined for many jobs. Individual work steps should already be incorporated as part of a standard work or maintenance procedure. But when it comes to routine work, warning flags should go up. Human performance studies indicate such work can be more dangerous than tasks performed less often.

There’s a reason for proper job safety planning. Electrical accidents may not occur as often as other types of incidents, but they have much higher fatality rates. They typically happen in a fraction of a second, and the results can be disabling injuries/fatalities. Thinking about the job to be performed, what could go wrong, and how to best protect oneself before the job begins are effective methods of reducing risks to workers.

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Grid-edge technologies vulnerable to cyber threats

solar tech

  • Advanced Energy Economy Institute (AEE Institute) has issued a new report focused on cybersecurity challenges on a distributed grid, identifying key hurdles and best practices the group says state and federal policy makers will need to address to ensure a secure power system.
  • Among the recommendations is the development of a short list of "mandatory and standardized requirements" that could be implemented at little to no expense, and for cybersecurity to be embedded as part of standard security practices impacting manufacturers.
  • The utility industry has stepped up its focus on cybersecurity in recent years as threats have become more sophisticated and persistent. This month, two new widespread cybersecurity vulnerabilities have been identified, with solar inverters in particular at possible risk.

Securing the electric grid is a complicated challenge that becomes even more difficult as more resources are connected and the system becomes increasingly reliant on flows of data.

Lisa Frantzis, a senior vice president at Advanced Energy Economy, said the industry must prepare for "new vulnerabilities" as the grid evolves.

“As we transition to more advanced and intelligent technologies that improve our energy system and benefit customers, we must take into account and prepare for new vulnerabilities to the security of our nation’s energy infrastructure,” Frantzis said in a statement announcing the new report.

The paper focuses on several areas, including: cybersecurity threats to the economy and energy sector; best practices for a distributed, intelligent grid; cybersecurity policy and regulatory frameworks at the state and national level; and protective measures and protocols for grid operators.

According to the report, cybersecurity for grid-edge devices creates new challenges, in part due to their limited capabilities. Such devices are "high in number and limited in bandwidth, memory, and storage space," the report notes. "As a result, standard industry solutions for other technology areas such as malware protection, file integrity monitoring, firewalls, and whitelisting, have not been viable for edge devices."

Network infrastructure has also had similar limitations, AEE added. Kenneth Lotterhos, managing director of energy at Navigant Consulting, said in a statement that recent events show that the level of cyber threats is "increasing and targeting a broader range of assets, including advanced distributed energy technologies and smart grid applications."

Specialized applications for edge devices and critical network infrastructure have been developed in the past, the report notes, "but they have not been widely adopted." While some of that has been related to cost and complexity, AEE Institute also says that until recently there has been a perception that the threat was relatively low.

That perception has changed significantly in recent years, and cybersecurity is now a major focus of the industry.

A 2015 attack on Ukraine resulted in widespread power outages, serving as a wakeup call. Last summer, cybersecurity firm Dragos issued a report concluding the malware used in that attack could be modified by developers to target the United States.

The newest vulnerabilities identified, possibly impacting solar inverters, are known as Spectre and Meltdown, and leverage processing techniques known as speculative execution and caching, in order to access data that should be off limits.

One problem thus far, however, is that patches to address the vulnerability are significantly slowing down operating systems. The features Spectre and Meltdown attack were created to speed up computer processors, and plugging the leak has resulted in performance slowdowns of up to 30%.

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Learn What's Next in Electrical Safety

electrical safety

Experts Hugh Hoagland and Lanny Floyd will share their insights on the future of electrical safety contained in NFPA 70E, NESC, IEEE 1584, IEC, NEC, and the ASTM Arc Flash Test Methods in a free OH&S webinar on Jan. 24. They'll reveal the future of electrical PPE, Safety-by-Design, Human Performance Factors, Risk Control Measures, and Continuous Improvement Models in a one-hour webinar Jan. 24.

Two electrical safety experts, Hugh Hoagland and Lanny Floyd, will share their insights on the future of electrical safety that's already contained in NFPA 70E, NESC, IEEE 1584, IEC, NEC and the ASTM Arc Flash Test Methods in a free OH&S webinar on Jan. 24. They'll reveal the future of electrical PPE, Safety-by-Design, Human Performance Factors, Risk Control Measures, and Continuous Improvement Models in this one-hour webinar starting at 2 p.m Eastern time.

Visit this page to register for their webinar, titled "The Future of Electrical Safety." >

Hoagland is one of the most active trainers and researchers in electric arc protection. His NFPA 70E and OSHA 1910.269/NESC Training Programs are used by many Fortune 500 companies and governmental agencies including Alcoa, GM, Toyota, Bechtel, DOE, and hundreds of electric utilities. He has performed and developed testing (by original research and participation in ASTM, NFPA, ANSI, CSA, IEC and ISO standards groups) for the electric arc since 1994 and has performed more than 50,000 electric arc tests.

H. Landis "Lanny" Floyd, PE, CSP, CESCP, CMRP, CRL, Life Fellow IEEE, joined DuPont in 1969 and retired at the end of 2014 as Principal Consultant - Electrical Safety & Technology and Global Electrical Safety Competency Leader. The last 30 years of his DuPont career focused on electrical safety in construction, operation and maintenance of DuPont facilities worldwide. He had responsibility for improving management systems, competency renewal, work practices, and application of technologies critical to electrical safety performance in all DuPont operations. He has authored or co-authored more than 70 papers and articles and has given more than 150 presentations at conferences, seminars, and webcasts in his work to advance the practice of electrical safety, as well as providing technical leadership in development of codes and standards, including the National Electrical Code, the Canadian Electrical Code, NFPA 70E Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace, CSA Z462 Workplace Electrical Safety, and IEEE 902 Guide for Maintenance, Operation and Safety of Industrial and Commercial Power Systems. In 2013, he joined the faculty of the Advanced Safety engineering and Management program at the University of Alabama at Birmingham, where he developed and teaches a graduate engineering course in Electrical Systems Safety.

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Final Tax Legislation Will Benefit the Construction Industry

tax reform Nerthuz iStock Thinkstock 887564224 0

Final measure included a number of key improvements after the AGC waged an aggressive education and outreach effort targeting key members of congress

Stephen E. Sandherr, the CEO of the Associated General Contractors of America, recently released the following statement regarding final passage of federal tax reform:

"Today, Congress passed comprehensive tax reform legislation that will lower rates, spur economic growth and impact construction businesses for years to come. However, this process did not start as well as it ended for the construction industry.

"Initially, the tax reform bill provided little relief for many construction firms organized as pass-throughs, such as S-corps, limited liability corporations and partnerships; eliminated Private Activity Bonds, essential to the financing of transportation infrastructure, low-income housing and other public construction and public-private partnership projects; and repealed the Historic Tax Credit, critical to the private construction market for the rehabilitation and renovation of historic buildings.

"AGC continued to fight for a better outcome for the construction industry by undertaking a rigorous direct lobbying campaign. Our efforts included connecting construction company CFOs and CPAs with tax writers, and generating thousands of pro-construction messages from members to key legislators. Our efforts helped convince members of Congress to ultimately reduce the corporate rate by 14 points; lower individual and pass through rates; double the estate and gift tax exclusion to $11 million; ensure the tax-exempt status of Private Activity Bonds remained untouched; and prevent full repeal of the Historic Tax Credit.

"That stated, there is still much work to be done in our nation's capital in the New Year. Though Congress missed an opportunity to address the long-term solvency of the Highway Trust Fund via tax reform, we remain focused on ensuring that this administration keeps its promise to rebuild the nation's infrastructure. And, we are committed to efforts to modernize multiemployer pension plans for the future, among other priorities for the industry.


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5 things to watch in energy in 2018

There will be no shortage of stories to follow in the energy sector in the coming year

An important year in the energy sector lies ahead, with pipeline disputes, OPEC trying to keep a grip on oil prices and a lot of U.S. natural gas about to flood the market. While many stories will be unfolding in the coming months, here are five that are sure to be making headlines.

Fuel prices

producer prices
Consumers can expect to pay more to fill up in 2018. Rising gasoline prices will be one of the energy sector stories making headlines next year.

Consumers can expect to pay more to fill up in 2018, according to Dan McTeague, senior petroleum analyst at

McTeague anticipates gasoline prices will rise in the second half of the year as the U.S. economy strengthens and demand spikes. It's likely, he says, Canadians will see, on average, about a five-cent-per-litre increase in 2018 versus averages in 2017.

Higher gasoline prices push U.S. inflation rate up to 0.4% in November
National clean fuels strategy will affect all forms of fuels in Canada

"The whole issue of demand in the United States continues to drive prices up for Canadians, whether we like it or not," he says. "We are price takers, not price makers."

A strengthening U.S. dollar and provincial carbon taxes may also add to the pump price.


transcanada keystone decision 20171120
Pipelines will continue to be a lightning rod for protesters in 2018.

Don't expect an end to the pipeline drama as three major energy infrastructure projects remain in the spotlight in 2018: Trans Mountain, Keystone XL and Line 3.

Pipeline supporters, including Alberta's NDP government, believe the multibillion-dollar projects are needed to ease a transportation squeeze resulting from growing production and limited shipping options. It's one factor in why Canadian heavy oil sells at a discount to U.S. crude. New pipe would help.
TransCanada Keystone Decision 20171120

Pipelines will continue to be a lightning rod for protesters in 2018. (Nati Harnik/Canadian Press)

But opponents — whether they are jurisdictions, environmentalists or indigenous groups — remain determined to stop the pipelines. Their concerns are often both intensely local, like the direct impact on the landscape, and also part of the broader climate change issue.

Despite controversy, observers expect progress on Line 3 and Trans Mountain in the coming year. TransCanada expects to secure final federal U.S. permits for Keystone XL in early 2018.

Meanwhile, Canadian natural gas producers will be watching what happens next year when new pipelines start to move a lot more Appalachian gas out of Pennsylvania, West Virginia and Ohio and into the continental market.

Nebraska regulators reject Keystone XL route reconsideration
Pipeline bottlenecks push Canadian oil price to deepest discount in 4 years

"So it's just a question as to how quickly some of that gas will come on, and what it will do to gas prices," said Samir Kayande, director at industry research firm RS Energy Group in Calgary.

"It is just a tremendous success story from a productivity standpoint — and it's frankly a disaster from a gas market standpoint, because it's a lot of cheap gas that's hitting the market," he said.


austria opec
OPEC agreed to extend production cuts through 2018, but the cartel will evaluate market conditions at its June 2018 meeting.

OPEC and its non-OPEC allies, including Russia, surprised observers last year when they agreed to oil production cuts — and then stuck to them. With time running out on the pact, they agreed in the fall to maintain the cuts for all of 2018.

OPEC agreed to extend production cuts through 2018, but the cartel will evaluate market conditions at its June 2018 meeting. (Akos Stiller/Bloomberg)

The agreement is aimed at drawing down the surplus oil inventories that have dampened crude prices.

"We have seen very good compliance numbers from the OPEC members as well as Russia," said Dinara Millington, vice-president of research at the Canadian Energy Research Institute. "Whether that will hold or not remains to be seen."

OPEC agrees to extend oil production cut into next year
OPEC says winning battle to end oil glut

The cartel will reassess target production levels according to market conditions at their June 2018 meeting. In the meantime, OPEC and others will be watching to see if their efforts will be undermined by oil production increases from U.S. shale.

U.S. shale

usa shale permian
One of the big questions in 2018 is how much shale oil will the U.S. produce.

What will U.S. shale producers do in 2018? The answer is critical, and even the most informed prognosticators at OPEC and the International Energy Agency (IEA) can't agree on what will happen.

One of the big questions in 2018 is how much shale oil will the U.S. produce. (Ernest Scheyder/Reuters)

Prolific shale production has reshaped the energy landscape in recent years. It's also a vital component of U.S. President Donald Trump's "America First" energy plan, with the potential to turn the world's largest oil-consuming nation into a net exporter of oil by the middle of the next decade.

But the more pressing issue is whether there's a big wave of shale production coming next year.

West Texas oil boom threatens recovery in Canadian oilpatch​​
Don't write oil's 'obituary,' IEA says in long-term demand forecast

OPEC doesn't think it will be big enough to harm the cartel's efforts to erase the oil glut. The IEA, meanwhile, thinks U.S. crude production will be strong and keep the overhang in place.

"The big macro question in this industry right now, on the liquids side, is which one of those is the right one," said Ian Nieboer, also of RS Energy Group. "Both can't be [right]."

Renewable energy

solar panels
Experts expect more advances in solar panel development in 2018.

No discussion about energy in 2018 can ignore the role of renewables.
solar panels

Experts expect more advances in solar panel development in 2018. (Robert Jones/CBC)

"This is a sector that's growing faster than any of the other energy sectors out there," says Warren Mabee, Canada research chair in renewable energy development and implementation at Queen`s University in Kingston, Ont.

"It's going to continue moving forward."

Decisions made this year will ring into 2018, including fallout from B.C.'s decision to proceed with the Site C hydroelectric dam, and Alberta's aggressive plan to build 600 megawatts of new wind generation by 2019.

Canada must reduce emissions from oilsands to meet climate goals: OECD report
Record cheap electricity is transforming world energy markets as Canada struggles to keep up

But Mabee is also looking for 2018 to provide key advances in solar panel development as the industry inches closer to grid parity — the point at which it might be cheaper for people to generate electrons on their roof than to buy electrons from a utility.

"It might not happen next year, but we're moving closer and closer," he said. "That's going to be a hugely disruptive moment in the Canadian power industry."


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The Best of the Worst: 2017’s Most Interesting What’s Wrong Here Photos

It's that time again — when some of the most popular and bizarre Code violations are presented. Thanks to NEC Consultant Russ LeBlanc, who continues to amaze us with a seemingly unlimited supply of electrical blunders from the field, we present (in no particular order) the "best of the worst" What's Wrong Here photos from 2017.

1 2017WWHBWBelow1 0

Look Out Below!

These unsuspecting pedestrians have no idea they’re walking over some temporary feeder cables installed to provide power for the street fair. For the most part, these cables are protected by the mats that have been placed over them, which helps minimize tripping hazards and provide some degree of separation from unqualified people. Unfortunately, the installers did not stagger the matt connectors. The result is the exposure of unguarded cables. This is a violation of Sec. 525.20(E). Laying these single conductor cables on the ground may seem like a violation of Sec. 590.4(J), which prohibits temporary feeder cables or cords from being installed in this manner. However, because this wiring is for a fair, Sec. 525.3(A) clarifies that where the Code rules for other Articles differ from the rules in Art. 525, the requirements found in Art. 525 shall apply to portable wiring. For the most part, these accessible cables comply with Sec. 525.20(G) since the protective matting does not constitute a greater tripping hazard than the cables themselves. The exposed connectors do need to be addressed though.

2 2017WWHBWCampground2

Campground Chaos

These UF cables are providing 120V power for receptacles and lights at several tent sites in this campground. While Sec. 340.10(3) permits UF cable to be used outside in wet locations, and Sec. 340.12(10) allows UF to be used where exposed to the direct rays of the sun if the cable is identified as being sunlight resistant, Sec. 225.26 specifically prohibits trees from being used for supporting overhead conductor spans. The swaying and movement of the trees can cause the cables to be damaged, resulting in shock or fire hazards. UF cable is not permitted to be used as overhead cable except where installed as messenger-supported wiring in accordance with Sec. 340.12(11). Another violation you may be able to spot in the photo relates to the splices made in the UF cable without the use of any box or enclosure. Section 300.15 requires splices to be placed in a box or enclosure. However, a box is not required when the UF is spliced underground in accordance with Sec. 300.15(G).

3 2017WWHBWDock2 0

Help Support Our Cause

Looking closely, you may notice that there is only one clip for this vertical PVC conduit run, and it’s broken. The lack of a secure supporting means has caused the conduit to slip down and out of the luminaire mounted at the top of the post. This resulted in the individual conductors being exposed. According to Sec. 352.30, ¾-in. PVC is required to be secured within 3 ft of each conduit termination and supported again every 3 ft. The exposed conductors are a violation of Sec. 300.3(A), since they are no longer installed in a Chapter 3 wiring method as required. It also appears as though there is no box installed for the luminaire. The installer simply secured the fixture canopy directly to a piece of plywood screwed to the wooden post. Not installing a box for the conductor splices is a violation of Sec. 300.15.

4 2017WWHBWConduit2

Conduit Calamity

Believe it or not, this isn’t a flexible cord or cable. This is a group of PVC runs that have “self-destructed” due to the lack of proper supports and failure to use expansion fittings. Table 352.30 establishes the maximum spacing between PVC conduit supports. For sizes ½ in. through 1 in., conduit supports must be spaced no farther than 3 ft apart. For sizes 1¼ in. through 2 in., conduit supports must be spaced no farther than 5 ft apart — so on and so forth. However, even if the conduit supports are spaced correctly, failure to install an expansion fitting as required by Sec. 352.44 can result in bending and warping of the conduit and eventual failure. That appears to have been the case for this installation. The extra strain on the conduit supports from the pipe warping and bending can cause one clip to come loose or break. Over time, another clip fails, and then another and another until the pipe eventually looks like the one in this picture.

5 2017WWHBWExtension5

A New Class of Extension Cords

Is that an extension cord made of PVC and EMT? It appears as though this installer could not figure out a way to get the wiring inside the wall or to put an extension box on the double-duplex receptacle enclosure. There are a few Code violations here including the improper supporting of the switch box. According to Sec. 352.12(B), PVC cannot be used to support boxes. The specific requirements for supporting boxes found in Sec. 314.23(F) will reaffirm the fact that this box installation is incorrect. Using the attachment plug to support the box is not a recognized use for this device, and it violates the requirements of Sec. 110.3(B). Can you imagine how the installer connected the attachment plug into the wiring inside the box and raceway? Is the metal box connected to the equipment ground wire? Based on the workmanship that is visible, it probably isn’t. Metal boxes are required to be grounded and bonded in accordance with Sec. 314.4.

6 2017WWHBWFan2

I’m Not a Member of This Fan Club

Sec. 352.30(A), which requires this PVC conduit to be securely fastened within 3 ft of each outlet or junction box and at 3-ft intervals thereafter. The fan is being used as a junction box here, and I am sure connecting a PVC conduit to it in this manner would violate Sec. 110.3(B) since it is definitely not designed for this purpose. Lastly, I strongly doubt the receptacle installed at the end of the PVC was provided with GFCI protection as required by Sec. 210.8(B)(2).

7 2017WWHBWKneeBend2

This Gives New Meaning to Deep Knee Bends

There are definitely some concerns with the bending methods used on this PVC conduit. Section 352.24 requires field-made bends in PVC conduit to be made with identified bending equipment, such as heating blankets, heater boxes, and other equipment specifically made for the purpose. This PVC looks as though the installer tried to bend the conduit by simply folding it around his knee. The conduit is now kinked and damaged, and its internal diameter has most likely been reduced. A closer look reveals that the conduit has no connector, and it is not even secured to the box. It is partially pushed into the threaded box hole but not secured to the box, as required by Sec. 314.17(B). It may be tough to tell from this angle, but there was no gasket between the weatherproof box and the cover. For this outdoor wet location, Sec. 314.15 requires boxes to be placed or equipped to prevent moisture from entering them. With the gasket missing, moisture may be able to enter the box and damage any splices or connections inside.

8 2017WWHBWSqueeze2

Squeeze Play

At one point in time, this UF cable was buried. Unfortunately, a seed landed at the concrete base of this light pole and over time it grew into a tree, which eventually swallowed the cable and pulled it right out of the ground. Since that time, this cable has gotten stepped on and damaged to the point where it shorted out and tripped the breaker. Thankfully, the breaker did its job. Otherwise this damaged cable would have continued to present a real shock hazard. Column 1 of Table 300.5 in the 2017 NEC requires UF cable to be buried with at least 24 in. of cover for this location. Sec. 340.12(10) prohibits this UF cable from being used in areas where subject to physical damage. It’s obvious from the photo that this cable has suffered some severe physical damage. I was able to cut the cable away from this tree base and use some listed underground splice kits — in accordance with Sec. 110.14(B) — to extend and re-route this cable away from this pole to a safe and properly buried location.

9 2017WWHBWParkingLot2

Parking Lot Panelboard Problems

The panelboard is certainly not very weatherproof with the cover wide open and flapping in the breeze. This open cover defeats the requirements outlined in Sec. 312.2, which states that surface-type enclosures in wet locations must be placed or equipped to prevent water and moisture from entering and accumulating in the cabinet. Enclosures in wet locations are required to be weatherproof. That won’t happen with the cover wide open. In addition, a couple of circuit breaker blanks are missing from the internal cover, exposing energized bus bars and breaker terminals. This is a violation of Sec. 408.7, which requires these unused openings to be closed up using identified closures or other approved means. The missing breaker blanks could also be considered a violation of Sec. 110.27 because the live parts are exposed and are no longer effectively guarded against accidental contact. Small fingers like those of a child could easily reach inside the panelboard and receive a dangerous shock. On another note, the rusted metal raceways coming up out of the ground may be in need of some additional approved corrosion protection as specified in Sec. 300.6(A)(3).

10 2017WWHBWTap2

A Terrible Tap

This was a terrible attempt to tap power from this 800A circuit breaker. The installer simply took a 12 AWG wire and shoved it into the same terminal with the 350kcmil conductor. This created a very poor connection, which resulted in some arcing and sparking. The heat from this arcing ultimately damaged this 800A breaker to the point where it needed to be replaced because the terminals were so badly damaged. The conductors were also damaged. Thankfully, this did not start a fire. Jamming two conductors into a terminal designed for only one is a violation of Sec. 110.14(A) and can result in damaged equipment, or even worse. There is one open terminal remaining for each pole of the breaker, but the terminal is much too big to accommodate the 12 AWG wire. If this installer was trying to make a feeder tap, there are splicing devices that could have been used to make a connection directly onto the conductors instead of jamming wires into the terminals. Of course, the installer could have put the 12 AWG wires on their own breaker too.

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OSHA’s Top 10 Violations of 2017

OSHA announced its preliminary Top 10 list of most cited violations for fiscal year 2017 at the National Safety Council (NSC) Congress and Expo in September. The announcement was made by Patrick Kapust, deputy director of OSHA's Directorate of Enforcement Programs.

Although this annual list of the most frequently cited violations almost always features the same hazard categories, the individual rankings do shift in their ranking a bit. This year, six of the 10 categories held the same position as last year. The three categories that switched positions were Ladders (No. 6), Powered Industrial Trucks (No. 7), and Electrical Wiring Methods (No. 10). Fall Protection – Training Requirements (No. 9) is new to the list this year. The General Electrical Requirements category dropped out of the top 10 this year.

In reviewing this year’s data, it’s interesting to note the total number of violations for all 10 categories (28,774) was far lower than last year’s total (35,019) number of violations.


No. 1 Violation: Fall Protection

Fall Protection retains its No. 1 position on this important list. These violations are associated with the Fall Protection rules of OSHA 1926.501, which sets forth requirements for employers to provide fall protection systems for its employees. The good news is this category posted 834 fewer incidents than last year. There were a total of 6,072 violations issued in this category.


No. 2 Violation: Hazard Communication

Hazard Communication remained in the No. 2 position. The purpose of this group of rules is to ensure the hazards of all chemicals produced or imported are classified — and that information concerning the classified hazards is properly transmitted to employers and employees. The requirements of 1910.1200 are consistent with the provisions of the United Nations Globally Harmonized System of Classification and Labeling of Chemicals (GHS), Revision 3. Fortunately, this category posted 1,479 fewer incidents than last year. There were a total of 4,176 violations issued in this category.


No. 3 Violation: Scaffolding

Violations related to Scaffolding use are still widespread across many industries. It’s important to note that the rules of 1926.451 do not apply to aerial lifts — the criteria for which are set out exclusively in 1926.453. The good news here is that this year's total number of violations was 612 less than last year. There were a total of 3,288 violations issued in this category.


No. 4 Violation: Respiratory Protection

The rules of 1910.134, which focus on Respiratory Protection, apply to General Industry (part 1910), Shipyards (part 1915), Marine Terminals (part 1917), Longshoring (part 1918), and Construction (part 1926). Violations associated with respiratory protection requirements apply to many different trades in the construction industry as well as plant/facility workers. There were 476 fewer violations issued in this category this year, as compared to last year's listing. Overall, there were 3,097 violations issued in this category.


No. 5 Violation: Lockout/Tagout

Lockout/Tagout rules are vitally important for many different types of employees. Standard 1910.147 establishes minimum performance requirements for the control of such hazardous energy. This standard covers the servicing and maintenance of machines and equipment in which the unexpected energization or startup of the machines or equipment — or release of stored energy — could harm employees. There were 529 fewer incidents reported in this category as compared to last year. There were a total of 2,877 violations issued in this category.


No. 6 Violation: Ladders

Section 1926.1053 applies to all Ladders, including job-made ladders. These rules apply to many different plants/facilities as well as all types of construction sites. This category moved up one place on the ranking from last year. However, there were 384 fewer violations issued in this category this year, as compared to last year's listing. There were a total of 2,241 violations issued in this category.


No. 7 Violation: Powered Industrial Trucks

Although violations associated with Powered Industrial Trucks don’t often come to mind when thinking about electrical work, OSHA issues a lot of citations in this area. Section 1910.178 contains safety requirements relating to fire protection, design, maintenance, and use of fork trucks, tractors, platform lift trucks, motorized hand trucks, and other specialized industrial trucks powered by electric motors or internal combustion engines. The number of violations in this category decreased by 693 over last year and it dropped to number seven on the ranking list. There were a total of 2,162 violations issued in this category.


No. 8 Violation: Machine Guarding

As noted in 1910.212, one or more methods of Machine Guarding shall be provided to protect the operator and other employees in the machine area from hazards such as those created by point of operation, ingoing nip points, rotating parts, flying chips and sparks. Examples of guarding methods include barrier guards, two-hand tripping devices, and electronic safety devices. This category saw a decrease of 515 violations this year. There were a total of 1,933 violations issued in this category.


No. 9 Violation: Fall Protection – Training Requirements

This violation category is new to the top 10 list this year. Section 1926.503 focuses on Fall Protection – Training Requirements. The employer shall provide a training program for each employee who might be exposed to fall hazards. The program shall enable each employee to recognize the hazards of falling and shall train each employee in the procedures to be followed in order to minimize these hazards. There were a total of 1,523 violations issued in this category.


No. 10 Violation: Electrical Wiring Methods

The good news here is that this “electrically focused” category dropped to last place on this list. Section 1910.305 focuses on Electrical Wiring Methods, components, and equipment for general use. It does not, however, apply to conductors that are an integral part of factory-assembled equipment. This category saw 532 fewer violations this year as compared to last year's listing. There were a total of 1,405 violations issued in this category.

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6 wiring and grounding problems that lead to low power quality

Wiring and grounding problems

In this technical article, typical wiring and grounding problems, as related to power quality, are presented. Possible solutions are given for these problems as well as the possible causes for the problems being observed on the grounding system. (See Table 2 at the bottom of article)

wiring grounding problems 1

6 wiring and grounding problems that lead to low power quality

The following list is just a sample of problems that can occur on the grounding system.

  1. Isolated grounds
  2. Ground loops
  3. Missing safety ground
  4. Multiple neutral-to-ground bonds
  5. Additional ground rods
  6. Insufficient neutral conductors

1. Insulated grounds

Insulated grounds in themselves are not a grounding problem. However, improperly used insulated grounds can be a problem. Insulated grounds are used to control noise on the grounding system. This is accomplished by using insulated ground receptacles, which are indicated by a “∆” on the face of the outlet.

Insulated ground receptacles are often orange in color. Figure 1 illustrates a properly wired insulated ground circuit.
Properly wired isolated ground circuit

2properly wired isolated ground circuit 768x404
Figure 1 – Properly wired isolated ground circuit

The NEC has this to say about insulated grounds.

NEC 250-74 Connecting receptacle grounding terminal to box

An equipment bonding jumper shall be used to connect the grounding terminal of a grounding-type receptacle to a grounded box.

Exception No. 4. Where required for the reduction of electrical noise (electromagnetic interference) on the grounding circuit, a receptacle in which the grounding terminal is purposely insulated from the receptacle mounting means shall be permitted. The receptacle grounding terminal shall be grounded by an insulated equipment grounding conductor run with the circuit conductors. This grounding conductor shall be permitted to pass through one or more panelboards without connection to the panelboard grounding terminal as permitted in Section 384-20, Exception so as to terminate within the same building or structure directly at an equipment grounding conductor terminal of the applicable derived system or source.

(FPN): Use of an isolated equipment grounding conductor does not relieve the requirement for grounding the raceway system and outlet box.


NEC 517-16 Receptacles with insulated grounding terminals

Receptacles with insulated grounding terminals, as permitted in Section 250-74, Exception No. 4, shall be identified. Such identification shall be visible after installation.

(FPN): Caution is important in specifying such a system with receptacles having insulated grounding terminals, since the grounding impedance is controlled only by the grounding conductors and does not benefit functionally from any parallel grounding paths.


The following is a list of pitfalls that should be avoided when installing insulated ground circuits:

  • Running an insulated ground circuit to a regular receptacle.
  • Sharing the conduit of an insulated ground circuit with another circuit.
  • Installing an insulated ground receptacle in a two-gang box with another circuit.
  • Not running the insulated ground circuit in a metal cable armor or conduit.
  • Do not assume that an insulated ground receptacle has a truly insulated ground.


2. Ground loops

Ground loops can occur for several reasons. One is when two or more pieces of equipment share a common circuit like a communication circuit, but have separate grounding systems (Figure 2).

3circuit with ground loop
Figure 2 – Circuit with a ground loop

To avoid this problem, only one ground should be used for grounding systems in a building. More than one grounding electrode can be used, but they must be tied together (NEC 250-81, 250-83, and 250-84) as illustrated in Figure 3 below.
4grounding electrodes bonded together
Figure 3 – Grounding electrodes must be bonded together


3. Missing safety ground

A missing safety ground poses a serious problem. Missing safety grounds usually occur because the safety ground has been bypassed. This is typical in buildings where the 120-volt outlets only have two conductors.


Modern equipment is typically equipped with a plug that has three prongs, one of which is a ground prong. When using this equipment on a two-prong outlet, a grounding plug adapter or “cheater plug” can be employed provided there is an equipment ground present in the outlet box.


This device allows the use of a three-prong device in a two-prong outlet. When properly connected, the safety ground remains intact. Figure 4 illustrates the proper use of the cheater plug.

5grounding plug adapter

Figure 4 – Proper use of a grounding plug adapter or “cheater plug”

If an equipment ground is not present in the outlet box, then the grounding plug adapter should not be used. If the equipment grounding conductor is present, the preferred method for solving the missing safety ground problem is to install a new three-prong outlet in the outlet box.

This method insures that the grounding conductor will not be bypassed. The NEC discusses equipment grounding conductors in detail in Section 250 — Grounding.


4. Multiple neutral to ground bonds

Another misconception when grounding equipment is that the neutral must be tied to the grounding conductor. Only one neutral-to-ground bond is permitted in a system or sub-system. This typically occurs at the service entrance to a facility unless there is a separately derived system.
A separately derived system is defined as a system that receives its power from the windings of a transformer, generator, or some type of converter. Separately derived systems must be grounded in accordance with NEC 250-26.


The neutral should be kept separate from the grounding conductor in all panels and junction boxes that are downline from the service entrance. Extra neutral-to-ground bonds in a power system will cause neutral currents to flow on the ground system.


This flow of current on the ground system occurs because of the parallel paths. Figures 5 and 6 illustrate this effect.

6neutral current flow
Figure 5 – Neutral current flow with one neutral-to-ground bond

neutral current flow extra neutral to ground bond
Figure 6 – Neutral current flow with and extra neutral-to-ground bond

As seen in Figure 6, neutral current can find its way onto the ground system due to the extra neutral-to-ground bond in the secondary panel board. Notice that not only will current flow in the ground wire for the power system, but currents can flow in the shield wire for the communication cable between the two PCs.

If the neutral-to-ground bond needs to be reestablished (high neutral-to-ground voltages), this can be accomplished by creating a separately derived system as defined above. Figure 7 illustrates a separately derived system.
7separately derived system
Figure 7 – Example of the use of a separately derived system


5. Additional ground rods

Additional ground rods are another common problem in grounding systems. Ground rods for a facility or building should be part of the grounding system. The ground rods should be connected where all the building grounding electrodes are bonded together.

Isolated grounds can be used as described in the NEC’s Isolated Ground section, but should not be confused with isolated ground rods, which are not permitted.


The main problem with additional ground rods is that they create secondary paths for transient currents, such as lightning strikes, to flow. When a facility incorporates the use of one ground rod, any currents caused by lightning will enter the building ground system at one point.The ground potential of the entire facility will rise and fall together.


However, if there is more than one ground rod for the facility, the transient current enters the facility’s grounding system at more than one location and a portion of the transient current will flow on the grounding system causing the ground potential of equipment to rise at different levels.

This, in turn, can cause severe transient voltage problems and possible conductor overload conditions!


6. Insufficient neutral conductor

With the increased use of electronic equipment in commercial buildings, there is a growing concern for the increased current imposed on the grounded conductor (neutral conductor). With a typical three-phase load that is balanced, there is theoretically no current flowing in the neutral conductor, as illustrated in Figure 8.

8balanced three phase system 768x534
Figure 8 – A balanced three-phase system

However, PCs, laser printers, and other pieces of electronic office equipment all use the same basic technology for receiving the power that they need to operate. Figure 9 illustrates the typical power supply of a PC. The input power is generally 120 volts AC, single phase.

The internal electronic parts require various levels of DC voltage (e.g., ± 5, 12 volts DC) to operate.
9one line smps 768x328
Figure 9 – The basic one-line for a SMPS

This DC voltage is obtained by converting the AC voltage through some type of rectifier circuit as shown. The capacitor is used for filtering and smoothing the rectified AC signal. These types of power supplies are referred to as switch mode power supplies (SMPS).

The concern with devices that incorporate the use of SMPS is that they introduce triplen harmonics into the power system.

Triplen harmonics are those that are odd multiples of the fundamental frequency component (h = 3, 9, 15, 21, …). For a system that has balanced single-phase loads as illustrated in Figure 10, fundamental and third harmonic components are present.

Applying Kirchoff’s current law at node N shows that the fundamental current component in the neutral must be zero. But when loads are balanced, the third harmonic components in each phase coincide. Therefore, the magnitude of third harmonic current in the neutral must be three times the third harmonic phase current.
10balanced single phase loads 768x533

This becomes a problem in office buildings when multiple single-phase loads are supplied from a three-phase system. Separate neutral wires are run with each circuit, therefore the neutral current will be equivalent to the line current.

However, when the multiple neutral currents are returned to the panel or transformer serving the loads, the triplen currents will add in the common neutral for the panel and this can cause over heating and eventually even cause failure of the neutral conductor!

If office partitions are used, the same, often undersized neutral conductor is run in the partition with three-phase conductors. Each receptacle is fed from a separate phase in order to balance the load current.

NOTE! However, a single neutral is usually shared by all three phases. This can lead to disastrous results if the partition electrical receptacles are used to supply nonlinear loads rich in triplen harmonics. Under the worst conditions, the neutral current will never exceed 173% of the phase current.

Figure 10 illustrates a case where a three-phase panel is used to serve multiple single-phase SMPS PCs.



As discussed above, the three main reasons for grounding in electrical systems are:

  1. Personal safety
  2. Proper protective device operation
  3. Noise control

By following the guidelines found below, the objectives for grounding can be accomplished:

  • All equipment should have a safety ground. A safety ground conductor
  • Avoid load currents on the grounding system.
  • Place all equipment in a system on the same equipotential reference.

Table 1 summarizes typical wiring and grounding issues.

Table 1 – Summary of wiring and grounding issues

Good power quality and noise control practices do not conflict with safety requirements.
Wiring and grounding problems cause a majority of equipment interference problems.
Make an effort to put sensitive equipment on dedicated circuits.
The grounded conductor, neutral conductor, should be bonded to the ground at the transformer or main panel, but not at other panel down line except as allowed by separately derived systems.

Table 2 – Typical wiring and grounding problems and causes

Wiring Condition or Problem Observed 

Possible Cause

Impulse, voltage drop out Loose connections
Impulse, voltage drop out Faulty breaker
Ground currents Extra neutral-to-ground bond
Ground currents Neutral-to-ground reversal
Extreme voltage fluctuations High impedance in neutral circuit
Voltage fluctuations High impedance neutral-to-ground bonds
High neutral to ground voltage High impedance ground
Burnt smell at the panel, junction box, or load Faulted conductor, bad connection, arcing, or overloaded wiring
Panel or junction box is warm to the touch Faulty circuit breaker or bad connection
Buzzing sound Arcing
Scorched insulation Overloaded wiring, faulted conductor, or bad connection
Scorched panel or junction box Bad connection, faulted conductor
No voltage at load equipment Tripped breaker, bad connection, or faulted conductor
Intermittent voltage at the load equipment Bad connection or arcing


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Discover EcoStruxure™ Power

EcoStruxure™ Power delivers IoT-enabled future-ready power solutions with tailored propositions for end customers and partners that “simply work”. Discover enhanced value around safety, reliability, efficiency, sustainability, and connectivity for your business today.


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Inside an Unexpected Service Equipment Meltdown

It’s 10 a.m. on a weekday. The lights in your building start flickering and then suddenly go out. You smell smoke and immediately call the fire department. After the firemen put out the fire in your service equipment room, you ask yourself, “What just happened?”

The clues offered in this gallery of photos reveal the root cause of this catastrophic electrical equipment failure and the resulting fire that ensued. Each image helps reinforce the need to properly inspect, operate, and maintain the equipment under your control.


Electrical Service Meltdown 1

Ground Zero

Upon initial investigation, you see the 400A main breaker (on left) is fried. The service conductors are melted right through the steel breaker enclosure and front cover. All of the service conductor insulation is melted away, and only bare and burned 500kcmil copper remains. As you look at the charred ¾-in. plywood behind the main breaker you realize how lucky you were that this incident happened during normal business hours so you could quickly react to the fire.


Electrical Service Meltdown 2

Damage Could Have Been Much Worse

The ¾-in. plywood caught on fire from the intense heat produced by the short‐circuited internal breaker components. Additional heat was generated by the phase‐to-ground and phase‐to‐phase faults that ensued after the conductor insulation melted. With no conductor insulation, the copper conductors pressed against the enclosure top and front cover. Note the other wood framing members in this electrical room. Black soot from the fire can be seen on the 2x4 framing members and plywood ceiling above the steel enclosure.


Electrical Service Meltdown 3

Heat Transfer

The intense heat in the breaker enclosure transferred to the adjacent panelboard enclosure. You can see the scorched paint on the left interior wall of this enclosure. An unused red conductor in the panelboard was in contact with the side wall and melted on the steel. If you look closely, you can see the mark left on the enclosure after the conductor with melted insulation was pulled away.


Electrical Service Meltdown 4

Melted Cable Insulation in Adjacent Switch Panel

Upon further investigation, you examine the 500kcmil conductors in the through‐the‐wall pipe nipple that feed a 400A switch, which serves as a second service entrance for the building. The service conductor insulation in the nipple is also melted together. So how did all of this happen?


Electrical Service Meltdown 5

Pole-Top Source of Power

We start our investigation by reviewing the service and service equipment layout. The building is fed by a 208Y/120V, 3-phase pole‐mounted utility transformer arrangement. Each transformer has its own pole‐mounted fuse for each of the three utility phases. The service lateral consists of three 500kcmil phase conductors and a reduced‐size neutral. Most of the service equipment is 65 years old.


Electrical Service Meltdown 6

Ground Fault Current Flowed Through This Main Breaker Panel

The service conductors enter the bottom of this enclosure (lower left) and are connected to the three terminals at the top of the switch. A second set of phase conductors is tapped from these same terminals and feeds the line‐side of the back‐to‐back 400A fused switch on the back side of this wall. The intense heat from the shorted and grounded phase conductors transferred enough heat to the phase conductors in the through‐the-wall pipe nipple to melt all of the insulation together in the nipple (see previous slide). Although no fault current was actually flowing in the tapped phase conductors in the nipple, ground fault current was flowing through the steel enclosures as it tried to find a circuit path back to the electric utility source through the bonded neutral.


Electrical Service Meltdown 7

Energized Bare Conductor Burns through Top of Steel Enclosure

When the line‐side service conductors overheated from the short circuit within the main breaker, the conductor insulation melted. The residual bending stress in the conductors forced the conductors tight against the top of the enclosure and the front cover. The C‐phase conductor ground faulted to the enclosure top while the B‐phase conductor ground faulted to the enclosure front cover and melted completely open. When both conductors contacted the enclosure steel, a phase‐to‐ground‐to‐phase fault was established.


Electrical Service Meltdown 8

Failed Arc Chute Plates Lead to Phase-to-Phase Faults

It is clear in this photo that one or more of the arc chute plates fell across the movable contact of the B‐phase. The B-phase arc chute steel plate is severely arc‐damaged from making contact with the A phase. It looks like the cross‐connection occurred through the notch in the insulated housing. This notch is where the operating shaft connects all three movable contacts to the breaker trip mechanism. The A‐phase movable contact assembly is severely melted away. A similar shorting occurred between the B-phase and C-phase.


Electrical Service Meltdown 9

Severe Arc Flash Damage on C-Phase Contacts

This is a close up of the C‐phase movable contact for the breaker. The left main contact appears to be missing its precious metal contact pad. The spring for this same contact appears to be broken. It is unclear if the contact pad unsoldered itself due to the intense heat created by the arcing. It is possible that the missing contact pad and broken spring pre‐existed and were contributory to initiating the breaker meltdown. The triangular contact is the C‐phase arcing contact. It “makes” before the main contacts close and “breaks” after the main contacts open. The arcing that occurs during opening and closing of the breaker is designed to occur on the sacrificial arcing contacts and not the main contacts of each phase.


Electrical Service Meltdown 10

Molten Metal Drips Down from Above

Molten copper and brass dripped down within the breaker housing. The solidified metals are seen just above the three thermal‐magnetic trip assemblies. The arc chute plates shorted the breaker internally near the main contacts. All the fault current flowed upstream of these current sensing elements. The breaker was not able to sense the overcurrent conditions from the shorting. The only remaining overcurrent protective devices for this service were located on the electric utility pole. The utility’s fuses provide primary fuse protection for its three pole‐mounted transformers. These fuses allowed the maximum transformer capacity to feed into this fault before they melted opened.


Electrical Service Meltdown 11

Load Side of Breaker Enclosure Suffers Less Damage

The bottom area of the breaker enclosure was away from the zone of intense heating. The intense heating occurred near the breaker contacts and the grounded phase conductors at the top of the enclosure. You can see that the conductor insulation is intact on the breaker load‐side conductors. The grounded‐conductor insulation in the forefront is intact (and not melted) until it passes to the left side of the breaker housing where arcing occurred within the breaker housing.


Electrical Service Meltdown 12

Two for the Price of One is Not Always a Good Deal

Here’s a close up shot of the line‐side terminals on the failed main breaker. You can see on the left-most terminal, some of the conductor strands have been cut to allow them to fit in the terminal clamp hole. It is not likely that this terminal was designed or rated for two 500kcmil conductors. If it was rated for two conductors, there would be no need to cut the conductor strands to make them fit. You can see severe discoloration of the copper due to the overcurrent and overheating.


Electrical Service Meltdown 13

Improper Use of 400A Switch

This photo shows the lower section of the 400A switch that is tapped from the load side of the 400A main breaker that melted. This switch is not a service disconnect and is not classified as service equipment. It is a feeder switch. The neutral of this feeder switch should not be bonded to the steel enclosure. Since this switch neutral was incorrectly bonded to the enclosure, when ground‐fault current flowed on the main switch enclosure, it also formed a parallel fault‐current path through the feeder supply conduit, switch enclosure, back to the improperly bonded neutral conductor, and then back to the utility source. The fault current flowing in the enclosure heated the steel up enough to melt the sealing compound in the screw holes of the black insulation board. The melted, dripping sealant is visible in several places in the photo.


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Fifteen Best Practices for a Successful Data Center Migration


Data center migrations are often complex and risky. These best practices will help I&O leaders invest the appropriate amount of time and money into planning, execution and testing in order to protect the business and maximize the chances of a successful data center migration.


Key Challenges

  • Colocation, merger and acquisition (M&A) activity, outdated facilities, consolidation initiatives and new approaches to sourcing data center capacity often create the need to move IT equipment from one data center to another.
  • Most migrations experience cost overruns and performance degradations due to improper planning or the lack of dedicated teams and resources.
  • Existing staff members often have little experience in planning, organizing and actually moving equipment from one data center to another.


I&O leaders planning data center migrations as part of an infrastructure delivery strategy:

  • Use outside expertise with a proven methodology, if you do not have the internal knowledge and skills to effectively plan, manage and execute the data center migration project.
  • Design and execute a strong communication plan at all phases of the project to eliminate rumors. Engage all affected constituencies often and with complete information.
  • Develop risk mitigation, migration and fallback plans by using disaster recovery (DR) procedures for test runs.
  • Continuously document the process throughout the project to develop lessons learned and reference materials for postmigration evaluations and closure.


This research examines best practices in data center migration. It is not a full examination of all migration methodologies. Rather, it is a list of best practices that are intended to help I&O leaders succeed during a migration process.

Data center migration is not merely about establishing an infrastructure and moving workloads from Point A to Point B. It's often a complex and risky project, where the right process and expertise are crucial. Just to illustrate, advanced planning is paramount to a successful migration. Nevertheless, if the organization does not have the right internal resources to plan properly, it must combine those internal resources with external ones in order to effectively plan, manage and execute the migration project. I&O leaders must prevent the migration project from adversely affecting the business. They must ensure that applications and services continue to function normally — with minimal downtime and with no degradation in performance.

To help I&O leaders achieve this goal, this research focuses on 15 best practices for data center migration (see Figure 1).

Figure 1. Fifteen Best Practices for Data Center Migration

Data Center Migration
Research image courtesy of Gartner, Inc.
Source: Gartner (March 2017)


Most successful data center migration projects share similar practices, such as expertise, preparation, management, execution, communication and business alignment. The purpose of this research is not to provide an extensive examination of each one of these practices. Rather, it is to provide a pragmatic list of best practices. This list was derived from observations of numerous Gartner clients involved in data center migration projects over the last six years.

Based on our guidance in "Data Center Migrations — Five Steps to Success," we've organized these 15 best practices into the five major steps shown in Figure 1: initiation, risk assessment, planning, execution and closure. However, organizations may vary the order of these best practices, depending on the circumstances of their migration. They can also apply these best practices to multiple environments (for example, on-premises, colocation and/or cloud).

The following sections describe the 15 best practices that should be considered in a data center migration project.

1 — Skills and Expertise

Having the right skills and expertise is crucial. Because data center migration is not an everyday activity, existing staff members often have little experience in planning, organizing and actually moving workloads from one data center to another. I&O leaders must assess whether internal resources are available and capable of effectively planning, managing and executing the migration. If internal resources are lacking, we recommend using outside expertise.

Note: A key reason why migration projects fail is that I&O teams often think of migration primarily as an equipment-moving project. However, the majority of the work — as well as the majority of the risk — lies in developing a workload migration plan. The equipment is the easy part — workload placement, dependencies, business impact and risk are the hard parts.

2 — Project Team

Major or complex migration needs a dedicated leader. That leader should establish a team with representatives from all affected constituencies. The leader also should have the authority to allocate resources and to direct people (see "Data Center Migrations — Lessons That Will Save Time and Money" ).

Team members should not only be experts in their domains, but also be willing to learn about adjacent disciplines, because surfacing all the interdependencies will be critical. The more elaborate or expansive the migration, the greater the likelihood that team members will need to be relieved of their day-to-day responsibilities to work on the migration project full time. Be realistic about the experience of these staff members, and be prepared to augment their skills with outside help as needed. For longer projects, be aware that replacement planning will likely be required: As team members move to other roles during the project, their skills will need to be replaced.

3 — Preparation

A successful data center migration depends on previous preparation and advanced planning.

A committee including both IT and business representatives should be established to adequately account for all required resources, including:

  • Migration costs (see "Three Alignments to Achieve Before Using Data Center Consolidation to Optimize Costs" )
  • Existing contracts for software, hardware, services (including telecom), maintenance, DR, facilities and other items

Preparation should also involve the following tasks:

  • Creating a detailed inventory of both equipment and applications
  • Performing a business impact analysis (BIA) review (see "Use Business Impact Analysis to Enable Effective Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery Programs" )

These fundamental tasks should entail a detailed evaluation or audit of exactly what needs to be moved, when and how.

Rehearsal is also an essential part of the preparation process. To ensure all units understand the process, organizations should first define the rehearsal on paper, iterating as necessary. Then, the organization should schedule multiple migration rehearsals during the project to validate assumptions and to determine critical information like migration time and resource availability.

4 — Simplification

The less there is to move, the easier the migration. Therefore, simplify, minimize, virtualize, consolidate and eliminate as much as possible before starting the migration process.

5 — Interdependencies

Part of the risk assessment stage, often called the "discovery phase," should include a detailed assessment of the interdependencies among applications and IT equipment (servers, storage and networking). This assessment will help define the viability and details of a phased migration. We recommend using several tools, including configuration management database (CMDB) tools and others, during the risk assessment stage.

6 — Communication

Executing an effective communication plan during all phases of the migration project is paramount to eliminating rumors and false information sources. Communication should engage all affected constituencies, and clearly assign roles and responsibilities.

Publicizing the migration to both the internal IT staff and the affected business units is also critical to avoiding surprises. HR can be of great assistance — particularly if personnel will be impacted. Publicize milestones, failures and successes. Prepare a detailed employee and management communication plan, and provide updates regularly (preferably through a continuously updated online portal).

7 — Planning

Data center migrations typically occur in stages. The number of stages often varies according to factors like data center size, service risk levels, budget and time constraints. Most organizations use a variation of the following multistage approach:

  • First, the organization migrates low-risk groups, with the assumption that something in the process will probably need to be corrected.
  • Once the overall process is solid and the staff is well-trained in dealing with contingencies, the organization migrates high-risk groups.

8 — Contingency Plan

Problems will arise during the migration. The challenge is to identify these problems ahead of time and formulate appropriate risk mitigations. The key to success is a good, solid preparation phase. For example, a detailed inventory of equipment and network links is typically the foundation of contingency plans. In addition, interim equipment and backup systems should be included in the contingency plans wherever necessary.

9 — Premigration Tests

Performance improves with practice. Before migrating the equipment, run a complete set of tests to establish a "baseline" of infrastructure and application operability, functionality and performance.

10 — Migration

To avoid unexpected errors, impose a "change freeze" period starting before the migration and ending after the migration.

During the migration, be prepared to face common issues, such as network connectivity problems, incorrect credentials (username and password) and lack of validation/testing. These issues may have a cascading effect on other workload moves, especially if an escalation path has not been properly determined. Thus, such issues may elongate the freeze period and negatively impact the project.

11 — Testing

For all testing, adopt a risk-based approach that incorporates the BIA results and input from business subject matter experts (SMEs). For example, when performing application-level tests, ensure that application owners/business units participate in the validation effort and sign-off process.

Do not forget to include failover scenarios in your testing plan.

12 — Postmigration Tests

Use the same test cases executed during the premigration phase, and compare the postmigration results with the baseline results. Differences in results may indicate that new problems have arisen during the migration process. Address all issues discovered.

After a successful migration, have special support resources on hand for a few days. Pay extra attention to differences in online transaction processing performance, peak performance and batch-processing performance. Finally, double check that all services were fully tested in terms of functionality, resiliency and performance.

13 — Audit

A postmove review and audit of the migration project is recommended. The review should include an evaluation of the following:

  • The project process
  • Conformity with the initial business plan and design specifications
  • Conformity with the project schedule
  • Feedback from project members and stakeholders

This review will provide valuable insight regarding critical success factors, lessons learned and knowledge that can be syndicated for other projects within your enterprise. Lessons learned could make future projects more effective.

14 — Closure

Execute the closure properly to ensure no hidden costs or expenses will continue to impact IT in the future. For example, take the following steps:

  • Close out service contracts on older IT equipment
  • Close out software contracts no longer in use
  • Degauss leftover storage assets (including copiers)
  • Cancel vendor contracts for building management, maintenance services and supply delivery services

15 — Updates

Finally, processes, procedures and documentation — including DR plans, compliance tests and audit certifications — should be updated once the data center migration is complete. In addition, validate whether all support systems (for example, CMDB) were properly updated. The new data center will likely have a different setup, which may also require training sessions for the operational teams. Lastly, recognition and marketing are also important. Recognize the efforts of all parties, and promote the successful migration with the business entities.

Acronym Key and Glossary Terms

BIA:  business impact analysis
CMDB:  configuration management database
DR:  disaster recovery
SME:  subject matter expert


The best practices identified in this research were derived from observations of numerous Gartner clients involved in data center migration initiatives. This data was collected from January 2011 through January 2017. The clients involved spanned a wide variety of industries and multiple geographies.

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Google and Cisco Signed the Papers

...and Now Starts the Heavy Lifting

Google Cisco

What to look out for when the latest marriage in the land of hybrid cloud starts bearing fruit.

There is probably no vendor closer than Cisco to the kind of ubiquity VMware enjoys in enterprise data centers. Zooming out from the technical details of Cisco’s recently announced cloud partnership with Google, this is a key thing to understand.

Recently, the leadership at Amazon Web Services and Google Cloud Platform started taking steps that demonstrate an understanding that the road to the traditional enterprise market lies through companies whose products are already in enterprise data centers. Their top rivals – Microsoft, IBM, and Oracle – are such companies, and the most obvious way to deal with that reality is to partner with other enterprise stalwarts, such as Cisco and VMware.

Hence, since this past August you can spin up VMware servers in AWS that reportedly look and act like they’re on the same network as your on-premises VMware environment (result of a partnership between Amazon and VMware announced a year earlier), and sometime next year you’ll be able to run a Google cloud software stack on a Cisco HyperFlex system inside your data center that will make GCP an extension of your on-premises IT (or vice versa).

“This type of announcement gets them [Google] a tremendous amount of enterprise attention,” Stephen Elliot, program VP for management software and DevOps at IDC Research, said in an interview with Data Center Knowledge. “These types of announcements are a recognition that the companies that are going to win in the future are going to be those that really understand the legacy challenges” but present a roadmap for transitioning that legacy to any cloud environment.

A Kubernetes World

Another thing Google and Cisco’s partnership does is provide new enterprise distribution opportunities for Kubernetes, the Google-born open source project that’s quickly becoming the dominant platform for managing and orchestrating Linux containers, he added. Built to mimic the way Google deploys and runs software across its global data center network, Kubernetes will likely become core to the way most developers and IT operations staff work in the future.

In Google and Cisco’s vision, Kubernetes is how software deployed on-premises will run the same way cloud-native software runs in the cloud. In a different partnership, Google, VMware, and Pivotal are busy adopting Kubernetes for VMware – another path to the enterprise data center for the open source platform; both Amazon and Microsoft recently joined the Cloud Native Computing Foundation, the Linux Foundation group that now administers Kubernetes; and Docker, the company that did more than any other to popularize use of application containers, is integrating Kubernetes with its flagship enterprise product.

Also born at Google, also open source, and also part of the future hybrid cloud stack by Cisco and GCP is Istio, whose alpha release Google, IBM, and Lyft launched in May. An enabling technology for container-based systems, it is a way to combine micro-services that run in containers into applications without altering their code and to manage and secure them in a consistent manner.

Another part of the stack is Apigee, the API management platform Google acquired last year. This is key to unlocking the value of hybrid cloud. Through APIs, services running in Google’s cloud will be able to access and use data stored on legacy enterprise systems in company data centers.

Big Questions

We’re witnessing early stages of what Elliot described as a “massive workload migration decade,” and both technology vendors and their customers are going through the thought process necessary to build the enterprise technology platforms of the future. As enterprises go through the process, the vendors have to be prepared to help them migrate to those platforms.

There are tens if not hundreds of billions of dollars of “technical debt,” or investment in existing enterprise data centers out there. “There’s also CIOs recognizing that different workloads are going to be on different types of architectures,” Elliot said.

Helping CIOs get to a point where their teams are using modern application architectures while leveraging their existing tech investments is key. A partnership like Google and Cisco’s can be really interesting for large enterprise accounts, but it will depend on the way the partners will handle the integration.

Since the partnership revolves around open source technology, there’s also the question of how much the vendors expect to rely on the open source communities to enable this integration, and how much individual enterprise end users are willing to invest in open source development efforts themselves, he pointed out.

The fundamental question overall is how complete of a package enterprises can expect to see once the solution hits the market. What level of integration between Kubernetes, Istio, Apigee and their own systems should they expect, how much security will be baked in, and what level of support they will get?

We’ll start seeing answers to those questions next year, but they are questions all technology vendors who are hoping to survive in the enterprise market should be working to answer. “It’s going to be a multi-cloud world, and it’s going to be pretty complex,” Elliot said. “If you’re not in this game, making these kinds of announcements, you’re on the edge of a cliff.”

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How to Avoid Common Mistakes in Data Center Planning and Design

The new, free eBook from Schneider Electric, “A Practical Guide to Data Center Planning and Design” will walk you through the data center planning process, including design and site selection. It also includes some best practices and success stories based on real customer implementations.

Download the eBook now to get some valuable tips that’ll help ensure your next data center is a resounding success – and doesn’t fall victim to any of those common mistakes.

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Power Quality Tips

Here are some common signs that you might be having problems with power quality and steps to take to begin addressing some of the issues.

How do you know if you have power quality problems?

The answer is you either conduct a battery of specific tests in the course of a power quality analysis, or you produce reports from your power quality monitor. Fully executing either approach requires expertise not typically present in plant engineering.

It might be better to ask how you know to suspect power quality problems. Here are some common signs, but note that their absence does not mean your power quality is necessarily what it should be:

• A high rate of motor bearing failures and/or motor winding failures.

• The mechanics find pitted bearings in mechanical drives and other equipment under their purvey.

• Circuit board replacement is a normal occurrence. Same for PLC module replacement.

• Lights flicker. Lights don’t seem bright enough. Lighting system component replacement is a normal occurrence.

• Neutral conductors appear discolored.

• Nuisance breaker trips occur, but their source is rarely, if ever, identified.

• Insulation resistance (IR) testing shows cable failure at an abnormal rate. Note that a qualified electrical testing firm can tell you from experience whether the rate is abnormal.

If you have any of these symptoms, suspect one or more power quality problems. You may be able to identify some issues with a little sleuthing and some basic measurements, but you’ll probably need a qualified firm to do a complete workup.

If you suspect power quality problems that are due to equipment failures and other symptoms, how do you respond?

It is unlikely you have the required expertise in house, and you probably have to go through a process before you can bring in a firm with that expertise.

While that process is in progress, what can you do to start addressing at least some of these issues?

• Perform voltage measurements on all feeders, then on all branch circuits. Measure line to ground and line to line, RMS. You’re looking for low voltage, high voltage, and voltage imbalance. The sheer scope of the work may require hiring an electrical services firm. While awaiting approval, take the measurements for your critical equipment.

• Inspect for grounding and bonding errors. If you see a ground rod on the load side, that’s a red flag that something is wrong. This rod serves no electrical purpose, and is probably substituting for proper bonding.

• Check all transformers (except auto-transformers) for proper grounding; the National Electrical Code (NEC) considers them to be separately derived sources.

One way to turbocharge this process is to start keeping a spreadsheet of the problems as they occur if they seem related to power quality.

If you note key information, you can sort in a way that will enable you to conduct a Pareto analysis. This will, for one thing, reveal patterns that can lead to quicker resolution.

Include these fields:

• Whether the supply is a branch circuit or feeder.
• Nominal voltage.
• Building or area where load is situated.
• Affiliated production line, if applicable.
• Type of equipment served (use standardized codes, such as 1 for production motor with drive, 2 for production motor without drive, 3 for lights, 4 for HVAC, 5 for computers, etc.).

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Effective Electrical Safety Comes Down to Two Factors

This technical paper on effective workplace electrical safety details the critical question that those responsible for safety must ask.

Click here for the PDF

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