Technology is progressing at a rate that has never been achieved, helping us live more easily, safely, and efficiently. This rings true across all industries, but health care in particular has progressed by leaps and bounds — thanks to incredible technological advances in the past two decades. When it comes to health care facilities, a strong electrical infrastructure is pivotal for powering the facility to perform at its best. From bustling nurse stations and quiet patient rooms to high-traffic main lobby atriums, electrical wiring must support every technological evolution available and provide each space with adaptable power for both the planned and the unexpected.
To adapt to this ever-improving tech, code changes must be made for the consistency and safety of these high-traffic facilities. As most electrical contractors are aware, the 2020 National Electrical Code (NEC) included significant changes, including new requirements for electrical applications in health care facilities. These Code requirements are being applied today and will continue to be implemented, even following the 2023 NEC release in late 2022 — as project timelines that were previously on hold over the past few years continue to move forward.
Legrand has outlined the following key NEC regulations for electrical professionals to keep top of mind when specifying electrical solutions in these settings.
AFCI protection has been expanded to patient sleeping rooms in nursing homes, assisted living and limited-care facilities.
What it means for electrical professionals: Before this Code change, if replacing receptacles in an older environment, AFCI protection was required of the replacement receptacle only if located in a specific area where the current Code required AFCI protection. This is an extension of AFCI protection to locations not dependent upon qualifying conditions that “permanent provisions for cooking” must be a part of these accommodations, as similar risks imposed by arcing events perceived in nursing homes, assisted living, and limited-care facilities are the same as those that can potentially occur within dwelling units. Electrical professionals can ensure Code compliance, in addition to maximizing safety, with dual-function AFCI/GFCI outlets that offer embedded technology to show when tripping occurs and feature convenient reset/test buttons.
New and expanded locations where tamper-resistant (TR) receptacles are required.
What it means for electrical professionals: With each Code cycle, the use of tamper-resistant receptacles is expanded. The 2020 Code update, which is continuing to be adopted by national jurisdictions, now requires all 125V and 250V and 15A and 20A receptacle outlets to be listed as tamper-resistant receptacles in the locations listed above. Electrical professionals can ensure Code compliance as well as enhance device life-span by specifying innovative heavy-duty and/or hospital-grade TR receptacles.
Revisions were made to better explain isolated ground receptacle usage outside of the patient care vicinity.
What it means for electrical professionals: The equipment grounding conductor of isolated ground receptacles does not provide the functional benefit of multiple equipment grounding paths specified in Sec. 517.13. For this reason, isolated ground-type (IG) receptacles are not permitted to be installed in patient care areas. They are permitted to be installed in patient care spaces outside the patient care vicinity; however, because they are not allowed in patient care areas, IG receptacles in patient care spaces outside the patient care vicinity are not required to be hospital-grade.
Section 517.160 (5) Conductor Identification
This Section now includes further explanation of the required conductors to help identify isolated ground circuits.
What it means for electrical professionals: With the expansion of wiring device innovation that incorporates quick disconnect assemblies wired to the branch circuit, it is important to uphold the proper conductor identification throughout the device. This allows inspectors and facilities to accurately identify isolated ground circuits where a dielectric constant of less than 3.5 may be specified.
Section 517.20 (2020) Wet Procedure Locations & NFPA 99
Classifying operating rooms as wet locations.
What it means for electrical professionals: With the recent changes that can classify operating rooms as wet locations, it should be determined if a facility may need to account for an isolated power system as opposed to ground fault protection. Understanding the requirements of having wet-rated wire with a high insulation resistance can drive the need in these spaces to use XHHW or XHHW-2 wire over THHN. Within these spaces, there may be wiring devices that have wire leads or assemblies that should also provide this wire grade.
New requirements for identification of essential electrical systems.
What it means for electrical professionals: Raceways, cables and enclosures of the life safety and critical branches of the EES of a health care facility are now clearly required to be “readily identified” via field- or factory-markings as a component of the EES. These identifying markings should be installed at intervals not exceeding 25 ft.
Steve Rood is Senior Product Line Manager for the Pass & Seymour electrical wiring device business unit of Legrand, North and Central America (LNCA). Responsible for management of GFCI, weatherproof and plastic box product lines including product development, sales training, promotional activities, and long-term strategic planning. Steve’s experience also includes identification, analysis and product coordination of relevant codes & standards targeting maximizing installation safety and coordination with higher required levels of energy management.