Industrial control panel wiring and design standards have changed in 2018 to facilitate international regulatory compliance and to accommodate new technologies. Most notable changes have been made to UL508A, now UL 60947-4, NFPA79, and NFPA70. To keep operators safe, protect equipment and maintain high quality standards, engineers need to know how to adapt and implement these new regulations.
Industrial Control Panel Wiring and Design Standards Changes in 2018
UL508A and UL 60947-4
UL 60947-4 was originally instituted in 2012 in an effort to facilitate uniformity between UL and EIC standards. However, it was not until Jan 27, 2017 that all manufacturers and engineers were required to adhere to the new standards. The end date of this slow transition has caught some unawares, and a failure to comply to the industrial control panel wiring standards in 2018 presents trade complications, risks of fines, and international safety hazards.
Differences between American UL, European EIC, Canadian CSA, and Mexican ANCE industrial control panel wiring and design standards posed obstacles in an increasingly globalized business environment, and caused UL regulators to make revisions. UL 60947-4 specifications makes it easier for regulatory bodies to test and verify equipment internationally, without making complicated conversions or guessing on regulations stated under one set of rules, but not the other.
Some of the most notable changes to UL 60947-4 are how equipment is tested and verified, and how important terms are defined. Engineers should be aware of the following specifications in UL 60947-4, among others:
- Testing and verifying equipment according to industrial voltage standards; for example 480 V at 60Hz in the United States, and 400 V at 50Hz in Europe.
- Labels in accordance with EN and US directives.
- Changes to low voltage switchgear and controlgear standards across various applications.
UL 60947-4 does not introduce dramatic changes or significant obstacles to industrial control panel wiring and design. Simply understanding the new industrial control panel regulations in 2018 can give businesses an advantage in international trade. Ignoring the switch to the global UL 60947-4 standards carries several risks:
- Falling further behind international compliance: further harmonization between regulators is sure to come, and will build off UL 60947-4.
- Non-compliance fines from European regulators or export agencies.
- Trade limitations with global partners.
- Reputational damage due to non-compliance with the recognized standard.
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NFPA79-2018: Electrical Standard for Industrial Machinery
While accounting for international harmonization and trade agreements as well, NFPA79-2018 is more concerned with operator safety. The changes to these industrial control panel wiring standards aim to make it easier for engineers and operators to design, locate, and install the right control panels for the right applications. Installing a control panel that is not designed to meet the electrical needs of the facility or the equipment can pose extreme damages to equipment, and fatal hazards to operators.
Many engineers and operators may not be aware of NFPA79 changes, and others may not understand how to implement them, or what they actually mean for the factory floor. However, all understand the risks posed by improper surge and short-circuit protections. If control panels are not properly wired and designed for the electrical output of the system, one mistake can put all the equipment and every person at risk of explosions, fire, and electrocution.
NFPA79-2018 aims to; clearly define minimum and maximum electrical requirements for applications; display the limitations and requirements of equipment in a understandable manner; and provide simplified methods for testing and verification. To accomplish this, some of the following changes have been made:
- Revised definitions.
- Clarification on supply circuit conductor terminations.
- Labeling for main disconnecting means.
- Placement for supply circuit disconnecting means.
- Labeling for short circuit protection on adjustable speed drives.
- Surge-protection device definitions.
- Thermal and mechanical stress qualifications on ground-fault current paths.
When designers, installers, maintenance workers, operators, and everyone involved with the control panel understand electrical safety and how to interpret short-circuit and surge protection, millions of dollars in losses, injuries and deaths can be prevented. Understanding the updates to the NFPA79 industrial control panel wiring standards goes a long way towards electrical safety compliance.
NFPA70-2017: National Electrical Code
Changes to NFPA70: National Electric Code (NEC) impacts changes to both of the previous industrial control panel wiring standards in 2018. NFPA70-2017 was and continues to be included in UL and other NFPA regulations. Like NFPA79-2018, noncompliance with NFPA NEC poses serious risks. NFPA NEC works towards the same ultimate goal as NFPA79, but imposes regulations on different levels. Several changes to this industrial control panel wiring standard in 2018 were made to accomodate the use of alternative energy, and to define or redefine safety procedures for these quickly-growing applications.
NFPA70-2017 highlights several specific, but especially dangerous hazards in industrial controls. Like NFPA70-2018, these industrial control panel wiring standards in 2018 aim for easier safety evaluations, testing, and labeling, as well as specific regulations to prevent lethal risks.
Understanding the specifics of NFPA70-2017 and NFPA79-2018 as they pertain to your own facility, equipment, applications and staff means drastically reducing liability and risk of loss. Changes to NFPA70-2017 include the following:
- Increased shock protection and specifications on the use of panelboard barriers and ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs).
- Additional labeling, fuse and circuit-breaker protections to prevent arc flash.
- Mandatory markings and short-circuit current ratings by application.
- Types of equipment requiring short-circuit ratings.
- Equipment maintenance requirements
While UL standards are concerned with international regulatory uniformity, NFPA79-2018 concerns simplification to electrical safety testing, and NFPA70-2017 is concerned with modernizing electrical safety practices, all are essential industrial control panel wiring standards in 2018. Understanding these standards will not only better protect your equipment and allow you to wire you facility more efficiently, but it will also protect you from fines, liability, workplace injuries, and even deaths.
To learn more about specific changes to industrial control panel wiring standards and how to safely implement them at your facility, join us for a free workshop and event on October 4, 2018.