OSHA makes ergonomics plan voluntary for U.S. businesses
The U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration has unveiled a voluntary plan to reduce ergonomic injuries. The proposed plan immediately garnered praise from business groups and criticism from work-safety advocates. The safety agency's announcement came more than a year after pressure from the business community resulted in the revocation of a mandatory standard issued by the Clinton administration that would have penalized employers for failing to take action to prevent repetitive strain injuries, which affect 1.8 million workers each year.
"This plan is a major improvement over the rejected old rule because it will prevent ergonomics injuries before they occur and reach a much larger number of at-risk workers," U.S. Labor Secretary Elaine Chao said in a written statement.
Under the proposal released yesterday, the government said it would establish a national advisory committee to conduct research on ergonomics concerns. Additionally, the government said, guidelines for certain targeted industries would be released over the course of the year.
Work-safety representatives criticized the plan for failing to identify industries where ergonomic injuries are most prevalent and for not specifying when actual guidelines would be released or what they would entail. They added that guidelines lack the teeth necessary to prevent companies from violating or ignoring safety measures.
"This is a meaningless, hollow measure that, yet again, delays action and provides workers no real protection," said Peg Seminario, health and safety director at the AFL-CIO in Washington, D.C. "There is no legal protection, and they haven't even identified which industries will be targeted for enforcement." Business groups, which said they could lose as much as $125 billion per year if a mandatory standard is passed into law, praised the Bush administration's voluntary plan. "The Department of Labor's decision to set up a national advisory committee on ergonomics and provide guidance on preventing ergonomics injuries is a helping hand in contrast to the Clinton administration's menacing fist regulatory approach," the National Federation of Independent Business, which represents small business, said in a statement.
John Henshaw, the assistant secretary of labor for OSHA, said the agency plans to develop a recognition program to highlight workplaces with exemplary approaches to ergonomics, and it would designate 10 regional coordinators to do enforcement, outreach, and assistance. He said the advisory committee would work with the National Institute of Occuational Safety and Health to develop new research.

EPRI predicts the future of powering buildings The Electric Power Research Institute (EPRI), in conjunction with the Consortium for Electric Infrastructure to Support a Digital Society (CEIDS), has issued a new report that envisions daily life in the year 2020. Called "Power the Next Century: Scenarios of Change in the Way People Interact with Buildings," the report focuses potentially attractive and useful paths for investment in technology development. EPRI considered four scenarios in the future use of energy in buildings: ·Contactor Nation: This is a high-tech world characterized by flexible, pragmatic work relationships and prickly individualism, in which rapid innovation allows inhabitants to deepen their commitment to individual choice. Rave New World: This scenario features communal connectivity in an atmosphere of radical technological change, with an affinity for group solutions and a youthful optimism in the fertility of experimentation. ·Gridlock: Incremental technological advance, combined with a desire to "get away" from other people, and a failure to resolve common standards and solutions, makes this scenario a stressful place, characterized by both competition and frustration. ·Take Our Medicine: This world thinks of itself as mature. Its inhabitants are willing to make difficult decisions to advance the greater good, even if that requires the sacrifice of some individual rights; restraint and community-level planning characterize this scenario.

NECA member named to lead NYC low-voltage panel
National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) Member Richard Sobel has been appointed chairman of Panel E of the New York City Electrical Code Revision and Interpretation Committee. New York recently adopted the 1999 National Electrical Code (NEC), and five technical panels were formed to write amendments bridging the gap between New York's special circumstances and the NEC. Panel E is responsible for Articles 770 through 830 which include fiber optics, communications, CATV, and networking systems.
"For many years we have worked toward the goal of bringing New York's code in line with the more comprehensive NEC," Sobel said. "Nevertheless, the nature and density of our city requires special considerations to insure safety and usability."
Richard Sobel, PE, is a member of NECA's Codes and Standards Committee and serves on the National Electrical Code Committee, as a member of CMP-13. He is a principal in Quantum Electric Corporation based in Long Island City, N.Y. Cooper Bussmann now offers online educational and training presentations on the NEC
Cooper Bussmann now offers free educational and training presentations for electricians, inspectors, contractors, engineers, trainers and other electrical professionals. Narrated presentations can be viewed online 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. There are also non-narrated, downloadable versions in PowerPoint that can be stored on your computer and viewed. They can be used as a self-tutorial or for group presentations. Industry trainers are encouraged to use these materials for their sessions.
The first two presentations cover new 2002 NEC requirements. The 110.16 is intended to reduce the occurrence of serious injury or death due to arcing faults involving people who work on electrical equipment. This regulation includes switchboards, panelboards, industrial control panels and motor control centers in other than dwelling units, which are likely to require examination, adjustment, servicing or maintenance while energized.
240.85 has two new additions relating to overcurrent device applications. These changes relate to slash voltage ratings and single pole interrupting capabilities.
To access the presentation, go to the Training and Education page of bussmann.com or call (636) 527-1270 for more information.

Industry Statistics: February increase in single-family starts strongest in 20 years Overall housing starts rose 2.8% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.77 million units, according to the U.S. Commerce Department. The gain was due entirely to the single-family sector, where starts rose 7.4% to a rate of 1.46 million units--their fastest pace since December 1978.
Multi-family starts, typically more volatile, retreated 14.3% to an annual rate of 312,000 units, partially offsetting a substantial gain registered in January. Starts rose in three out of four regions in February. The West’s gain of 14% was the largest, while the Midwest and South posted more moderate gains of 0.8% and 0.9%, respectively. The Northeast was the exception to the rule, with a 9.3% decline that followed a sizeable increase in January.
“These exceptionally strong numbers, combined with upwardly revised figures for January and December, are ample evidence that housing, specifically residential fixed investment, is helping pull the economy out of recession,” said Gary Garczynski, president of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) and a builder/developer from Woodbridge, Va.
Building permits, which can be an indicator of future building activity, also rose in February. The volume of permits increased nearly 2% in February to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.75 million units. Single-family permits rose 2.7% to a rate of 1.37 million units, while multi-family permits declined 1.3% to a rate of 381,000 units. Both were up from their fourth-quarter 2001 averages. Regionally, permits rose in all but the Midwest in February. Web site tops in education and Code information
A single electrical industry Web site tops both “Link Popularity” lists of the most-often-linked resources on the National Electrical Code and electrical construction education.
NEC expert and CEE News contributing editor Mike Holt's Web site at www.mikeholt.com is on Electrical Find's list of the most popular electrical Web sites – in terms of the number of other sites that provide links to them.

Among other resources of note that you’ll find on Mike’s site, The National Electrical Code Internet Connection, are:
1. Free lessons on key changes included in the 2002 National Electrical Code. You will have to register (free) to access this information.
2. A regularly updated online Code Quiz, and the NEC Graphic of the Week.
3. A Code Forum, where Code issues are discussed by industry members. Additionally, you’ll be able to register (free) for online newsletters from Holt on a variety of electrical construction issues and interests. These will be delivered periodically to your e-mail in-box.

Updated NECA "safety expert" software now available
Bethesda, Maryland - - The National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) has just released an upgrade to its best-selling Safety Expert System software. Version 2.1 incorporates a new module that helps users comply with recent injury and illness record keeping requirements implemented by OSHA (U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics. It simplifies maintenance of records at a central location, while meeting OSHA privacy protection requirements.
This latest software release also includes new material dealing with OSHA training requirements for forklifts and powered industrial trucks, plus an update to "Preparing for Emergencies," which addresses terrorism concerns arising from the events of September 11.
NECA's Safety Expert System software is a comprehensive tool and reference that helps construction companies develop their own corporate safety programs in compliance with applicable OSHA regulations. It covers topics ranging from basic safety to fall protection to vehicle safety. For more information, visit www.necanet.org/safety/publications.htm.
The updated NECA Safety Expert System 2.1 is available for $299; and the Record Keeping Module is available as a stand-alone product for only $79. (Purchasers of the earlier version 2.0 will automatically receive the new upgrade, free of charge.)
Ordering information: Contact the NECA Order Desk at (301) 215-4504 tel, (301) 215-4500 fax, or orderdesk@necanet.org. Provide your name, company, mailing address and NECA member number (where applicable.) All non-member orders must be prepaid by check or credit card.

Beyond lightning, power surges from brownouts, blackouts, grid switching and large equipment draw can wreak havoc with systems: Aftermarket surge suppression, recommended by fire marshals and NBFAA, can prevent most of the problems.

“Lightning storms rendered too many fire alarms inoperable, especially in multi-building complexes connected with cable,” said Whitney Crahen, the veteran Fire Protection Specialist who reviews fire alarm plans for the city of San Antonio, Texas. “When lightning hits, it can spread hundreds of feet until it finds the path of least resistance - all too often the highly conductive copper wiring that feeds into life safety alarm systems.”

Crahen’s solution has been to actively enforce NFPA 70 National Electric Code 800-30, which requires surge suppression devices on circuits that extend between buildings. “Proper surge protection for fire alarms is a requirement, and enforcing it will eliminate many future problems,” Crahen said.

For the life safety systems mandated nationwide in stores, schools, offices, hotels, hospitals, and public spaces of all types - beyond lightning, the power surges from brown outs, black outs, grid switching, and large equipment draw can also wreak havoc, potentially bringing increased scrutiny and fines from fire inspectors.
“Unmonitored systems could be unoperational for months - until discovered by a fire marshal or alarm contractor,” said Craig Torrey, a fire inspector for the city of Anchorage, Alaska, who earlier in his career supported the proactive use of aftermarket surge suppression in Collier County, Florida. “Since a ‘downed property’ without a life safety system would be at increased fire risk, the owner might be directed to fix the system in as little as 24-48 hours, and may have to establish a continuous 24-hour firewatch by qualified personnel such as off-duty firemen in the interim, or face shut-down.”
“For a medium-sized store, that might cost up to $5,000 for a few days,” continues Torrey. “For a large hotel, the bill could reach into the tens of thousands of dollars - on top of system repair or replacement costs. That’s an extraordinary penalty to pay, when life safety systems can be properly protected from the start with adequate surge protection.”
Electrical deregulation, as exemplified by the rotating outage numbers recently assigned to California Edison customers, may also hasten power fluctuations as supply and transmission issues are worked out in the “marketplace.”
“How many times have you seen your VCR flashing 12:00 or your microwave read ‘PF’ for power failure?” said David Burke, a senior executive at DITEK, a leading manufacturer of commercial, industrial, and residential surge protection. “That means you had a voltage spike large enough to re-set your system. If the lights dim then return when the building next door tests their back-up generator, that’s a power spike as well. Air conditioning units and other large equipment cause power fluctuations of larger magnitude. For example, at an Orlando, Florida convention I attended, there was a 20V overcurrent each time the air conditioner chillers kicked in. A demo unit with an audible alert and built-in surge counter registered the overvoltage each time the HVAC service cycled through. Even when systems continue to work properly, over time transients will take a toll on sensitive electronics, reducing system life by as much as 30%.”
How Aftermarket Surge Protection Can Help
So why add aftermarket surge protection when most panels have the devices built into the control board? According to the May 2000 NBFAA brief, “By installing a surge protection device at the electrical outlet where the transformer is plugged in, you allow the damaging transient to be bypassed to ground BEFORE it gets to the control panel, thereby greatly reducing the potential for false alarms and/or damage to the control board. The same is true when you install surge protection on the phone line prior to it entering the panel.”
“Add surge protection on both the AC (electric power line) and the phone line,” continues the brief. “Many panels are zapped when transient voltage jumps the phone company’s lightning protector and sends 100’s or 1000’s of volts where only 48V normally reside.”
DITEK’s Burke explains, “People put a surge protector on the AC power and think they’re protected. But only 30 to 40 percent of all damaging transients actually come in on the AC circuit. Most enter through the phone or data/communication circuits that run from building to building. Any wiring to the panel is a possible entry point for transients that should have adequate surge protection.”
What is adequate surge protection? To start, surge suppressers should be UL-listed and installed a minimum of three feet from the control panel for a margin of safety. This usually requires aftermarket surge suppression. While most built-in protection does meet minimum UL requirements, this usually takes the form of a small fuse or metal oxide varistor. The downside of built-in protection is that it allows damaging transients inside sensitive panels, which can disrupt function, including ground faults, trouble alerts, and communication failures. And if the voltage dissipation isn’t adequate, there’s no recourse other than replacing the damaged equipment, which can cost tens of thousands of dollars in severe instances.
Use “surge protectors that self-restore after dissipating the surge harmlessly to ground,” as the NBFFA brief recommends. “Each time they do so it is a false alarm prevented,” continues the brief. Self-restoring surge protectors wait for a predetermined voltage to be achieved, clamp the overvoltage shunting it to ground, then automatically reset themselves to passive mode until it happens again. They can stop hundreds of surges unlike single-use devices, which offer no protection after a surge until replaced. When a catastrophic surge is detected, self-restoring devices “self-sacrifice” as do single-use devices, to protect sensitive equipment from damage. The most reputable companies offer a lifetime-warrantee that replaces any device that self-sacrifices.
Buy the proper surge protector for your application, since fire panels have different circuits that follow specific protocols. The best bet is to look for a manufacturer with a wide selection of surge suppressers with the specific model that suits your needs. It’s unwise to use a generic model designed for use on scores of applications, since it will have generic properties that likely won’t work well for your specific application.
“Put the wrong surge protector on a circuit and you can create more headaches than you fix,” says DITEK’s Burke. “For example, if you place a high-voltage surge protector on a low-voltage circuit, it might not clamp until 30-volts or higher, at which point the circuitry will already be destroyed. Alternately, if you put a low-voltage surge protector on a high-voltage device such as a horn/strobe circuit, the normal operating voltage of the horn/strobe may be seen as hostile current by the protection device. That’s a recipe for false alarms or ground faults.”
Choose surge suppressers that meet the latest codes, as fire codes at the national, state, and local levels may vary and are subject to change. Buying from a manufacturer that builds on demand is one way to ensure getting suppressers that meet the latest requirements. Since some manufacturers mass produce and warehouse product that may fail to meet the latest codes, buying from them may be unwise if your own codes are in flux. At times, to meet specialized codes or mandates especially at the local level, it may be necessary to work with a manufacturer that builds customized surge protection features. Completely customized suppressers are possible from design concept to finished product within a couple month timeframe from select manufacturers.
Keep up with technological advances that can make your life easier. “For convenience and continuous protection after a catastrophic surge, replacement smart module technology is worth looking into,” adds Burke. “This technology was originally developed for school and government use, where multiple buildings or campus-style system designs are common. It quickly identifies any sacrificed protectors with a red failure diagnostic light, which eliminates time-consuming, on-site troubleshooting. Its two-piece modular design enables quick replacement with no tools or test equipment: just pull out the bad module, snap the new one into the base assembly, hit acknowledge-reset, and the system is back in operation and fully protected.”
To protect data and video production devices from surges as well as “ghosting,” a new technology is also worth searching out, as it protects the circuit from surge and isolates suppresser components from the circuitry of the system protected. The technology combines silicon avalanche diodes (SAD) with a diode bridge integrated into one component, providing protection and isolation in one package. With fewer components to fail and less circuitry on the PC board, this improves reliability in a more compact suppression design than typically available.
Savvy installers, administrators, and OEM engineers know that while lightning is still a rare occurrence in some parts of the country, the trend toward ever more sophisticated, low-voltage life safety systems continues: and with it power surges from brown outs, black outs, grid switching, and large equipment draw that can compromise their systems. Because life safety systems must not fail, they’re increasingly turning to specialized aftermarket surge suppression devices to minimize component damage and false alarms caused by transient voltages. Proactive fire marshals and organizations such as the NBFAA are not only leading the charge, but guiding it as well, so we’ll all be a little safer - in whatever public place we find ourselves. EPA to present Energy Star awards to 36 organizations
EPA Administrator Christie Whitman presented Energy Star Partner Awards to 36 businesses and organizations in recognition of their efforts to enhance energy efficiency and reduce global warming gases. ENERGY STAR, celebrating its 10th anniversary, will recognize such organizations as Food Lion and General Motors for their voluntary leadership.
"Successful partnerships have always been integral to achieving our environmental protection goals," said EPA Administrator Christie Whitman. "Today, we honor the 2002 Energy Star Partner Award winners who serve as models to other businesses and organizations, proving you can improve our environment while saving energy and money."
In 2001 alone, Americans, with the help of Energy Star, saved $5 billion in energy costs and reduced pollution equivalent to taking 10 million cars off the road. More than 750 million Energy Star products have been sold, more than 55,000 new homes have earned the Energy Star, and more than 10,000 office buildings, schools, supermarkets and hotels have benchmarked their energy performance as a basis for future progress. All this has been accomplished without sacrificing product features, quality or personal comfort.
"For 10 years the Energy Star program has inspired energy efficiency in businesses and organizations throughout the country," Whitman added, "We look forward to another 10 years of working with our partners towards increased environmental protection."
Energy Star was established by EPA in 1992 to offer energy saving and pollution preventing solutions for consumers and businesses. Energy Star now works with more than 7,000 partners to improve the energy efficiency of products, homes, and buildings.
The 36 Energy Star Award winners will receive awards in five categories. They are:

Excellence in Efficient Products:

  • Alside (Cuyahoga Falls, Ohio)
  • Canon U.S.A., Inc. (Lake Success, N.Y.)
  • Good Earth Lighting (Wheeling, Ill.)
  • Maytag Corporation (Newton, Iowa)
  • Panasonic (Secaucus, N.J.)
  • Philips Lighting Company (Somerset, N.J.)
  • Sears, Roebuck & Co. (Hoffman Estates, Ill.)
  • VELUX America Inc. (Greenwood, S.C.)
  • Whirlpool Corporation (Benton Harbor, Mich.)
  • GE Lighting (Cleveland, Ohio)
  • Midwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (Chicago, Ill.)
  • OSRAM SYLVANIA (Danvers, Mass.)
Excellence in Energy Management
  • Arden Realty, Inc. (Los Angeles, Calif.)
  • BJ's Wholesale Club, Inc. (Natick, Mass.)
  • Food Lion, LLC (Salisbury, N.C.)
  • General Motors Corporation (Detroit, Mich.)
  • Hines (Houston, Texas)
  • Jefferson County Public Schools (Golden, Colo.)
  • Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide, Inc. (White Plains, N.Y.)
  • Society of Industrial and Office Realtors (Washington, D.C.)
  • Servidyne Systems, LLC (Atlanta, Ga.)
Excellence in Homes
  • Champion Enterprises, Inc. (Auburn Hills, Mich.)
  • D.R. Wastchak, L.L.C. (Tempe, Ariz.)
  • Ence Homes (St. George, Utah)
  • New Jersey Energy Star Homes (Mount Laurel, N.J.)
  • Vermont Energy Investment Corporation (Burlington, Vt.)
  • Reliant Energy HL&P (Houston, Texas)
  • New York State Energy Research and Development Authority (Albany, N.Y.)
Excellence in Consumer Education:
  • Northeast Energy Efficiency Partnerships, Inc. (Lexington, Mass.)
  • Northwest Energy Efficiency Alliance (Portland, Ore.)
  • Sacramento Municipal Utility District (Sacramento, Calif.)
  • Wisconsin Energy Conservation Corporation (Madison, Wis.)
Excellence in Corporate Commitment:
  • Verizon Communications Inc. (Albany, N.Y.)
Special Recognition Awards:
  • Hunter Fans (Memphis, Tenn.)
  • Royal Vendors, Inc. (Kearneysville, W.Va.)
  • Lowe's Home Improvement (North Wilkesboro, N.C.)
NECA's voice-data-video expo and conference draws electrical contractors
Integrated systems technology has become one of the hottest markets for trained, qualified electricians.
The 3rd Annual Voice-Data-Video (VDV) Expo and Conference March 11-13 in the Las Vegas Hilton, brought together the latest VDV technologies, education and information in one place.
"This event is only in its third year. It is still in its infancy - evolving and growing. There was some speculation as to how well we would fare this year in light of the economic crisis, terrorism and war," said NECA Director of Public Relations Emilio Rouco. "Any doubts were quickly laid to rest on the opening day. The Expo floor was packed with more than 1,700 visitors and the coinciding IBEW/NECA Conference was filled to capacity."
Technology and Training
On opening day, throngs of NECA and IBEW members bustled onto the VDV Expo exhibit floor to see the industry's latest tools, equipment and software.
Seventy exhibitors enjoyed heavy traffic as 1,700 people packed the floor. The Expo's shortened hours, adjusted in answer to comments from the 2001 event, seemed to agree with everyone, exhibitor and attendee alike.
It has been said before that there is a real and serious hunger among NECA members for knowledge about the VDV market and its tools and techniques and comments from exhibitors in 2002 seemed to support the notion. Bob Levin, a manufacturer representative for GE Smart said, "The attendees are very high-quality in their desire to learn. They stand and listen and ask very qualified questions. The traffic was phenomenal."
Contractor interest in learning the ropes and expanding their knowledge of the VDV market was evident in the number of students registered for each course. The only challenge NECA had this year was finding room to accommodate the demand. Registration numbers were much higher than expected for this Expo's educational tracks and rooms were filled to capacity as specialists lectured on a range of subjects. Courses included such topics as: VDV Service Contracting Strategies; Successful Management of VDV Projects; Quality Assurance in VDV Projects; Successful Entry Into the VDV Market; and more.
From the seminars, contractors learned techniques for providing first-rate post-installation voice-data-video service to customers; management skills for providing the high-quality installations that VDV customers demand; and step-by-step procedures for configuring structured cabling in commercial buildings.
Visitors to the Expo and its educational courses seemed unanimous in their enthusiasm. One attendee, a BICSI member and 28-year veteran of the IBEW had this to say, "I've attended a lot of conferences and I was very impressed. The VDV Expo is equal to any other and the classes are better, by far, than any I have taken at any other show." He went on to say, "I personally launched the datacom division of my company and the information here was so relevant and presented in a concrete, straight-forward fashion. I just took notes and listed how I could apply the information directly to my customer accounts." The gentleman, who works for an electrical-contracting firm, mentioned how valuable quality training has been to his business saying that he had recently won a $650,000 contract over competing, lower-bidding VDV/systems contractors based on experience and quality and not price.
According to NECA Exposition Sales Manager Beth Ellis the 2003 Expo is well on its way to selling out. Steve Schultz, director of convention and exposition, NECA, said "It was a great show in a trying time. Its importance to our industry was evident in the high attendance numbers of both the classes and the Expo."

IBEW/NECA Talk VDV
The VDV market is something that NECA and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) have recognized as the growth area of our industry. Each year, the Expo is held in conjunction with the IBEW/NECA VDV Conference. The conference brings together management and labor to discuss the direction in which the industry is headed and the action needed to keep ahead of the game when it comes to the VDV market.
The IBEW/NECA VDV Conference is an important opportunity for a strategic meeting of the minds, and it drew the top leadership from both the IBEW and NECA.
IBEW International President Edwin Hill opened the conference with a forceful speech, leaving no doubt about his stance on where organized labor must head to remain viable in this market. "We need to focus more on the VDV market... and planning how we are going to move ahead," said President Hill. "We must pull together - employers and tradesmen - to address this industry. We must seize the future together as partners - NECA and the IBEW."
John Grau, NECA CEO, spoke of the combined efforts and teamwork it took to get the VDV Expo and Conference up and running.

"We will remain focused on the future. We will continue to follow our course, expanding educational opportunities and providing training for a strong VDV workforce," Grau said.