What is an Assured Equipment Grounding Conductor Program?
An assured equipment grounding conductor program is an OSHA and NFPA 70E requirement that ensures the safety of temporary power cord sets (extension cords). The program is designed to prevent shocks or electrocution by ensuring the ground wire is electrically continuous from the equipment being used to the source.
NFPA 70E article 110.6(A)-(B) states that where an employee is using an extension cord to operate tools or equipment while performing maintenance or construction activities supplied by 125 volts-GFCI protection is required. This requirement can be met through the use of a permanently mounted or portable type (see fig.1) GFCI. When temporary power cables are being used that operate at levels higher than 125 volts the employee can be protected through the use of a GFCI or the employer can develop and implement an assured equipment grounding conductor program.
Simple mistake results in a tragic accident
Back in the mid-90's, I was working as a maintenance electrician for a large metal forming company in Northeast Ohio. I can remember being briefed about an accident that occurred a few years earlier. A die setter had been electrocuted because someone had wired a 480-volt extension cable incorrectly. He had placed one of the phase conductors on the ground terminal during assembly. This simple mistake ultimately resulted in a tragic accident.
Both NFPA 70E and OSHA recognize the dangers associated with temporary power cables. Therefore, employers who use extension cables energized above 125 volts, are required to institute an AEGC or use a GFCI to prevent accidents like the one I have just described.
How do I get the program started?
As I travel around the country presenting electrical safety training, I rarely see compliance with this standard. One reason may be that NFPA 70E only mentions it in a brief statement in article 110.6(B) (see page 18 of the 2018 edition). To get the full description, the employer will have to read the OSHA requirements listed in 1910.304(b)(3)(ii)(C)
Here is a brief overview:
A written description of the program is required and must to be available to affected employees. We recommend this be attached to your company's written electrical safety program.
The employer shall designate one or more competent persons to implement the program.
A qualified person must ensure that all equipment grounding conductors are tested for continuity and shall be electrically continuous.
Each receptacle and plug shall be tested for correct attachment of the equipment grounding conductor. The equipment grounding conductor shall be connected to its proper terminal
All required tests shall be performed:
• Prior to the equipment being used for the first time
• Before the equipment is returned to service following any repairs
• Before the equipment is used after an incident which likely caused damage (for example, the cord set is run over by a forklift)
•The tests must be completed at intervals not to exceed 3 months
Each cord set shall be visually inspected before each day's use for external defects. This inspection is typically performed by the end user.
Test results must be documented
Rozel recommends using a tried and true record-keeping system. The system requires the employer to develop a written log and then color-coding with tape after the qualified employee performs the test. The log keeps track of the date each piece of equipment is tested and its maintenance history. The tape indicates the status of the equipment. When an extension cord passes its test, it can be tagged with a tape color that relates to the time of year: white for winter, green for spring, red for summer and orange for fall. Once trained to the program, the end user can easily identify that the cord has been tested and is safe to use.
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