Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters

October 30, 2008

The U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC) staff is participating in voluntary standard and code activities involving Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupters (GFCIs). A GFCI is an electrical device that reduces the risk of severe or fatal electric shock. Electrocution deaths associated with consumer products have decreased from 270 in 1990 to 180 in 2001. GFCIs have contributed significantly to the reduction of electrocution and severe electric shock incidents since their introduction in the early 1970s.

 

The National Electrical Code (National Fire Protection Association [NFPA] 70), the model code for electrical wiring installations, requires GFCIs for receptacles located outdoors; in bathrooms; garages; kitchens; crawl spaces and unfinished basements; near laundry, utility, and wet bar sinks; and at certain locations such as near swimming pools. Beginning in 2005, GFCIs are also required for laundry sinks, hardwired boat hoists, vending machines, and in outdoor public spaces.

 

For several years, CPSC staff has participated in voluntary standard activities for GFCIs to improve their reliability. Several new requirements in the Underwriters Laboratories (UL) standard, UL 943, Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupters, became effective in January 2003 and July 2006. These new requirements should increase GFCI reliability in certain environmental conditions. However, GFCIs can fail in a manner such that an outlet can still provide power even though the GFCI is no longer providing protection. Present designs of GFCIs require the user to manually test the devices to determine if they are still providing protection. Unless detected during such a manual test, present designs of GFCIs do not provide a warning that they have failed. CPSC staff believes that a GFCI should not provide power if it does not provide shock protection.

 

In 2005, CPSC staff met with industry to encourage the development of a self-testing GFCI. Self-testing GFCIs would reduce the concern that this safety device may be non-functional. In addition, a self-testing GFCI would not provide power if the GFCI did not pass its test. This would ensure that electrical safety is maintained in those critical locations where GFCIs are required by codes and standards.

 

Additional Information

 

Safety Alerts:

- Install Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection for Pools, Spas and Hot Tubs

 

 

Fact Sheets:

- GFCI Fact Sheet

 

 

Incident Data:

- Electrocutions Associated with Consumer Products

 

 

Voluntary Standard and Code Activities:

- Proposal for the 2011 edition of the National Electrical Code: NFPA 70-2011, 550.13(B)

- Letter to Code Making Authorities Considering the Adoption of the 2008 National Electrical Code, May 29 2008

- Proposals for 2008 Edition of the National Electrical Code - Comments due by November 2, 2005.

- Correspondence to Certification Laboratories for GFCIs
March 20, 2003. Re: UL safety certification requirements

- Correspondence to Manufacturers of GFCIs
March 20, 2003. Re: UL safety certification requirements

- Correspondence to Underwriters Laboratories, Inc.
August 14, 2001. Re: Need to upgrade GFCI requirements

- Correspondence to National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA)
June 28, 2002. Re: CPSC staff draft proposals for GFCI protection of vending machines.

- Correspondence to National Automatic Merchandising Association (NAMA)
September 20, 2002. Re: Response to NAMA regarding potential voluntary standard requirements for electrocution protection of vending machines.

- Proposals for 2005 Edition of the National Electrical Code

 

1 - October 22, 2002 Memorandum regarding CPSC staff proposals for new GFCI requirements in the NEC

2 - New 422.XX, vending machines

3 - New 210.8 (A), general purpose receptacles

4 - New 210.8 (B), outdoors in areas accessible to the public

 

 

CPSC Staff Reports, Memoranda and Contracts:

- Report:  Consumer Opinion Forum, Survey #2 – GFCI Receptacles

- Report: CPSC Analysis of GFCI Data (GFCI field survey data)

March 10, 2003. Economic Considerations – GFCIs

Engineering Staff Position Paper

Report: An Evaluation of the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission's Electrocution Reduction Program

1 - Part One

2 - Part Two

 

 

Underwriters Laboratories Inc.

- For further information concerning UL 943 Standard for Ground-Fault Circuit Interrupters, please contact Brad Schmidt at Bradley.J.Schmidt@us.ul.com

 

 

Contact CPSC

- For additional information or to comment, please contact cpsc-os@cpsc.gov

- Join a voluntary standards Email Subscription List