Every three years, the National Electric Code (NEC) is updated, and as a result industry standards for the installation of electrical wiring and equipment are revised. The full NEC text spans approximately 1,000 pages, broken down into several chapters and annexes, and includes safety information that’s relevant to all industrial audiences.
While it is not an enforceable governing document, many industries recognize the NEC as the standard for electrical safety and choose to follow its recommendations and best practices. The mining industry is a prime example of this adoption.
Historic Challenges with Mining Governance
Two branches of the U.S. Department of Labor – the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), and more specifically the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) – publish and maintain regulatory information to help maintain safe, healthy conditions for mining operations. While MSHA last updated their standards and regulations in 2006 when the Mine Improvement and New Emergency Response Act (MINER Act) was passed, it’s important to note the following:
- Creating new regulatory legislation for mining is a lengthy, complex process requiring an Act of Congress
- Prior to 2006, MSHA safety standards had not been updated since 1977 when the Federal Mine Safety and Health Act passed
- Regulations in the MINER Act focused on accident preparedness and did not address many other key areas, including electrical safety
Considering the disparity between slow-moving mining regulation and rapidly changing technology, it’s clear to see why mining operations turn to the NEC for guidance on how they might safely bridge the gap to meet global demand for
2017 NEC Revisions: What's New?
To help frame the full 2017 NEC update, here are the six code revisions that are the most relevant to the mining industry.
- Nominal system voltage
- Available fault current at the service overcurrent protective devices
- Clearing time of service overcurrent protective devices based on available fault current at time of service
- The date the label was applied
- A listed combination-type AFCI located at the origin of the branch circuit, or
- A listed outlet branch-circuit-type AFCI located at the first receptacle outlet of the existing branch circuit.
An exception states that AFCI protection isn’t required if existing conductors are less than six feet long and don’t include additional outlets or devices.
Seeing 2020: Planning for the Next NEC Cycle
Many industry experts have weighed-in online offering their analysis of the NEC changes for 2017. While it’s not required by law for mining operations to comply with the NEC, it’s worthwhile to do some additional research to make sure your operation is up to code, prioritizing both the safety of your employees and optimizing the efficiency of your operation.
The NEC is scheduled to be revised again in 2020, bringing potential changes that even the best experts might not predict. Making time to dig into the details of this code and conducting an audit of your operation now could save you from a landslide of expensive, time-consuming upgrades in the future.