GFCI Receptacles

Q: Where can I find the requirements for ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCI) protection in the dietary/kitchen area of a nursing home? I thought it was 6′ within a water source. But when I look in the 2011 NEC it does not say that. The way I read it, it is everywhere in the kitchen/dietary that is 110v. What is your thought, and where can I find the clarification?

A: According to NFPA 70-2011, section 210.8, says:

All 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in the locations specified in 210.8(A)(1) through (8) shall have ground-fault circuit interrupter protection for personnel.

(6) Kitchens— where the receptacles are installed to serve the countertop surfaces

(7) Sinks — located in areas other than kitchens where receptacles are installed within 1.8 m (6 ft) of the outside edge of the sink

Section 210.8 does apply to healthcare facilities so NFPA 70-2011 does require GFCI receptacles in kitchens in healthcare facilities.

Surveyors will often use section 210.8 in assessing GFCI compliance in healthcare occupancies.

Tamper-Resistant Receptacles

Q: My question involves childproof outlets in healthcare. Where are they required and where in the code does it discuss not using snap-in covers?

A: According to NFPA 70-2011, Article 517.18(C), tamper-resistant receptacles are required in pediatric locations of health care facilities (i.e. hospitals, physician offices, therapy areas, etc.) including patient rooms, bathrooms, playrooms, activity rooms, and patient care areas of designated pediatric locations. As an option, the receptacle may use a listed tamper-resistant cover. The listing would have to be from an independent testing laboratory, such as UL, ETL, or the like. In essence, wherever an unattended child could be, you would have to have tamper-resistant receptacles.

 

Hospital Grade Receptacles

Q: Do hospital grade receptacles need to be tested yearly in an ambulatory setting?

A: Section 6.3.4.1 of NFPA 99-2012 says hospital-grade receptacle testing shall be performed after initial installation, replacement, or servicing of the device. It also says additional testing of receptacles in patient care rooms shall be performed at intervals defined by documented performance data.

This means hospital-grade receptacles must be tested at intervals determined by the healthcare organization, based on ‘documented performance data’. This could be data provided by the manufacturer, or it could be data compiled by the healthcare organization itself. You could base the frequency on testing hospital grade receptacles in patient care rooms on the history of known failures of the receptacles. Whatever frequency you decide, make sure you document the process that you used to decide this frequency.

The important thing to realize is, hospital grade receptacles are NOT exempt from testing. To be sure, non-hospital grade receptacles must be tested annually, if they are located near patient bed areas, and near deep sedation or where general anesthesia is administered.

GFCI Receptacles on Ice Machines

Q: We had our Joint Commission inspection today and they cited us for water coolers and ice machines not being plugged into GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) receptacles. One of our buildings was built in 1972 and the other was 2008. They cited NFPA 99-2012 Chapters 6 and 9, under EC 02.05.05 EP 8. Do you believe that was a correct finding? Thanks

A: Yes… that is a legitimate finding.

NFPA 99-2012, section 6.3.2.1 says the electrical installation must be in accordance with NFPA 70 National Electrical Code. Article 210.8(B) of NFPA 70-2011 says ground-fault circuit-interruption for personnel protection shall be provided as required in 210.8(A) through (C). The ground-fault circuit-interrupter shall be installed in a readily accessible location.

Sub-section (B) “Other Than Dwelling Units” says all 125-volt, single-phase, 15- and 20-ampere receptacles installed in the locations specified in 210.8(B)(1) through (8) shall have ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for personnel:

(1) Bathrooms

(2) Kitchens

(3) Rooftops

(4) Outdoors

(5) Sinks — where receptacles are installed within 6 ft of the outside edge of the sink.

(6) Indoor wet locations

(7) Locker rooms with associated showering facilities

(8) Garages, service bays, and similar areas where electrical diagnostic equipment, electrical hand tools, or portable lighting equipment are to be used

So, item #6 ‘wet locations’ is the kicker on this issue. The AHJs are now interpreting anything that holds water to be a wet location, and therefore must have a GFCI receptacle. Another issue that you need to be aware of, is all GFCI receptacles need to be tested monthly. Ouch. More labor and documentation.

I don’t see where NFPA 99-2012 Chapter 9 (HVAC) applies in this issue, but it is a legitimate finding through chapter 6.

Receptacle Adapters

Q: There seems to be some confusion on the use of multiplug outlet adaptors such as changing the receptacle from 2 outlet to 6 in our hospital. I have been told that they have to have a reset, while some have said they only need a surge protector. I cannot seem to find anything in the Life Safety Code. Do you have a comment on this?

A: Yes I do… NFPA 99-2012, section 10.2.4 discusses this to some detail:

  • Three-prong to two-prong adapters are not permitted
  • All adapters must be UL listed for their purpose

So, while this section seems to allow three-to-one receptacle adapters (or 2-to-6 adapters in your case), I would not be in a hurry to implement them. Most surveyors will cite an organization for using these three-to-one adapters because it implies there are not a sufficient number of receptacles in that area, and creates an unsafe environment. According to the NFPA 99-2012 Handbook, it says this about section 10.2.4:

“Any use of adapters or extension cords within healthcare facilities, while permitted subject to the conditions listed in 10.2.4.1 through 10.2.4.3, should be used with caution. The nature of this caution includes attention of the introduction of trip hazards for patients, staff, or visitors; the increased possibility of damage to cords that are lying on the floor; the ease with which grounding resistances or power cord ampacity can be exceeded; and the possibility of incorrect polarization.”

So, my advice is to NOT use these adapters for the reasons stated above. Take the time to increase the number of properly installed receptacles in that area.