210.8 Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter Protection for Personnel

The ground-fault circuit-interrupter is important to reduce the severity of shock. The parent text of this section was modified during the 2023 cycle to require that the GFCI protection provided be listed.  As has been required since the 2011 version of the NEC, the GFCI must be installed in a readily accessible location. 

In addition, this section was modified for 2023 to clarify the measurement process.  The previous language included measuring the shortest path that the power supply cord would take without piercing a window.  The window was removed to add clarity and language that ensures that receptacles within the measured distance are afforded ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection.  The reference to the appliance was removed as well, as the reference should only be the power supply cord, regardless of what the power supply cord is connected to.  The measurement is now the shortest path that the power supply cord would take without piercing a floor, wall, ceiling, or fixed barrier.  

Three informational notes that point to other areas of the NEC where ground-fault circuit-interrupter requirements reside were removed for 2023 as the user of the NEC would have to follow the requirements of those other Articles and Sections for those specific applications.  The informational notes are not needed.  The informational note pointing to 215.9 reminds the user of the NEC that feeder protection is permitted and GFCI protection at the branch circuit would not be required. This change is related to the requirements of Section 4.1.1 of the NEC style manual which states that the use of redundant references shall be avoided.  

4.1.1 In the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70). General requirements contained in

Chapters 1 through 4 shall not be repeated in other articles of the document. Committees shall always be mindful of the structure of the document as specified in 90.3 when contemplating the inclusion of a reference to another requirement. The use of redundant references shall be avoided. Only include references to other requirements with the document.

Important reference links to be reviewed before you speak to the hazards of shock include the following from organizations that focus on providing information around statistics and technical information.

Consumer products safety commission (CPSC)

(A) Dwelling Units

The first draft did not change any text because the committee voted to expand Ground-Fault Circuit-Interrupter to all circuits in the dwelling but it failed to pass the ballot.  This would have placed GFCI requirements for any receptacle outlet in the dwelling unit.  It was substantiated due to a broad distribution of incidents over many products and product categories as documented by the Consumer Products Safety Committee (CPSC). National consumer product related electrocution estimates show that based on data collected by the CPSC for a 10-year period, the US loses an average of 49 consumer lives every year. Lives are lost each year not just because of proximity to water but due to use of appliances, extension cords and other items that can be plugged into any receptacle outlet within a home. Outside of receptacle outlet examples, lighting examples of loss of life due to shock are also a statistic.

In the second draft, expansion to the entire house was seen as a public comment.  A strategic expansion was though implemented.  The changes that can be found in the final draft of 210.8(A) include the following:

List item (5), “Basements”, was modified moving the exception to the end of this section and removed the text that related to the exception of this list item as it was not necessary.  Also deleted the informational note as it was not needed.

List items (6) was modified and list item (7) was created to include a new requirement for areas with sinks and permanent provisions for food preparation, beverage preparation or cooking.  This change adds clarity through proper itemization of these requirements and aligns the existing requirements that were added for these same areas in (B) Other Than Dwelling Units.  Just because the structure has changed does not mean the hazard doesn’t exist.  List items (2) and (3) in 210.8(B) were modified in this manner as well.

The exceptions were moved to the end of this first level sub-division to align with the style manual.  They were modified for clarity as well. 

Exception No. 2 was modified to remove fire alarm and replace burglar alarm system with “premises security system”.  This influenced changes in points between Article 760 and 210.8.  The informational notes that referenced 210.8 exceptions were removed in Article 760.  This limits duplicate language.

Exception No. 3 was modified to align with the new defined terms in Article 100 for weight-supporting ceiling receptacles (WSCR) and weight-supporting attachment fittings (WSAF).

A new Exception No. 4 was added to address those receptacles that may be a part of exhaust fan assemblies that are mounted internally to the units and not accessible for general use by the homeowner.[1] 

(B) Other Than Dwelling Units

List item (2) and list item (3) are separated out for clarity and a new requirement for beverage preparation was added to list item (3).  List item (3) now addresses areas that include sinks and permanent provisions for food preparation, beverage preparation or cooking.

New list item (4) adds a ground-fault circuit-interrupter requirement for buffet serving areas that have permanent provisions for food serving, beverage serving, or cooking.

List item (7) includes a significant change that now addresses where an appliance is installed within six feet of the sink.  The measurement of 6’ is now from the sink to the nearest edge of the appliance.   

List item (8) was cleaned up to include indoor damp or wet locations instead of indoor damp and wet locations.  This is editorial and the intent is not changed.

New list item (13) is added to require GFCI protection for aquariums, bait wells, and similar open aquatic vessels or containers.  Some examples are provided to help in interpretation noting tanks or bowls.  The measurement here again is 6 feet from the top inside edge or rim from the conductive support framing of the vessel or container.

The exceptions were moved to the end of this first level sub-division to align with the style manual.  They were modified for clarity as well to align with the requirements to which they are associated.  Exception No. 6 was modified to align with the new defined terms in Article 100 for weight-supporting ceiling receptacles (WSCR) and weight-supporting attachment fittings (WSAF).

(C) Crawl Space Lighting Outlet

This section did not change during this 2023 code cycle.  It was introduced during the 2017 Code Cycle with a substantiation of an electrocution of a worker in a crawl space who’s back broke a light bulb.  

Image of a crawl space with a light demonstrating the hazard.

Keep in mind that the requirement for receptacles to be protected in crawl spaces was added in 210.8(A)(4) as part of the 1990 version of the NEC.  The rationale for adding crawl spaces in that section is that in an analysis of over 3,000 electric shock incidents, the CPSC found the number of electric shock injuries and fatalities occurring in residential basements to be significantly greater than reported by the Underwriters Laboratories (U.L.) Clipping Service.  

The most comprehensive single source of data on this subject is the “Report on Electrocutions, Electric Shock and Electrical Burn Injuries Involving Consumer Products”  by Safety Sciences (September, 1984, San Diego, CA) which includes incidents for the period January 1976 – June 1983. A review of this report and data received since 1983 indicates approximately 312 deaths and 192 injuries involving consumer products commonly cited in scenarios of basement accidents.The electric shock hazard is also very great in crawl spaces under the home. Included in the above “Report“ are 330 in-depth investigations of selected cases. Of these cases the number found occurring in basement or crawl spaces were 26 and of this amount, crawl spaces accounted for 16 fatalities due to faults in portable tools, work lights and extension cords. Thus, crawl space fatalities accounted for 61.5 percent of the basement or crawl space selected cases.

(D) Specific Appliances

The significance of this section is that protection from shock is provided for appliances that are not cord-and-plug connected.  The driver for requirements of ground-fault circuit-interrupter on 210.8(A) and 210.8(B) has been the statistics of shock on appliances that are plugged into circuits in the areas addressed in both of these sections.  These are cord-and-plugged appliances as 210.8(A) and 210.8(B) both only address receptacles supplied by single-phase or three-phase branch circuits.  The hazard is not the receptacle but rather the appliance that is plugged into the receptacle.

The challenge that is presented when ground-fault circuit-interrupter is required for only those appliances that are cord-and-plugged connected and must be plugged into a receptacle is when said appliances are hard wired into the circuit.  The hazard has not been removed due to the appliance no longer being “plugged in” and rather being “hardwired” into the branch circuit. 

This is the reason 210.8(D) exists.  This first-level subdivision addresses those appliance applications that would not be covered by 210.8(A) or 210.8(B) due to being hardwired to an outlet supplied by a branch circuit.  The intent of this section is to provide protection as part of the branch circuit but the clarity of previous code cycles is such that it may be confusing to the installer, designer, inspector that ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection is not required in the branch circuit if the appliance has ground-fault circuit-interrupter built into the cord.  The intent here is to ensure the branch circuit is provided with protection regardless of whether or not the appliance has built in protection features.  

Article 210 applies only to the branch circuit and cannot make requirements on the appliance.  Appliances are addressed in Article 422.  The requirements found in Article 422 cannot in turn impact the branch circuit as those requirements are found in Article 210.

This section was modified to ensure that the ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for appliances rated 150 volts or less to ground and 60 amperes or less, single- or 3-phase is placed in the branch circuit either at the breaker, the receptacle, or some other location upstream of the outlet to which the appliance is hardwired into the circuit.  This provision is for the branch circuit supplying the appliance regardless of whether or not it is cord-and-plugged connected or hard wired.  The hazard is the same in both cases.

The list of appliances includes:

  • Automotive vacuum machines
  • Drinking water coolers and bottle fill stations
  • High-pressure spray washing machines
  • Tire inflation machines
  • Vending machines
  • Sump pumps
  • Dishwashers
  • Electric ranges
  • Wall-mounted ovens
  • Counter-mounted cooking units
  • Clothes dryers
  • Microwave ovens

(E) Equipment Requiring Servicing

This section provides ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection for the electrical worker servicing equipment.

HVAC equipment installed in an attic where GFCI protection is not required.  The Receptacle shown must be GFCI protected.

Companion sections that help understand this ground-fault circuit-interrupter requirement can be found in the following sections:

Article 100 Servicing

210.63 Equipment Requiring Servicing

(F) Outdoor Outlets

The introduction of this section was a part of NEC 2020.  An effective date was included as part of the passing of TIA 20-13 for some specific equipment that may pose a challenge with regard to compatibility with ground-fault circuit-interrupter. The exception, which is written in positive text language within 210.8(F), excludes ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection from those circuits supplying mini-split-type heating/ventilating/air-conditioning (HVAC) equipment and other HVAC units that employ power conversion equipment as a means to control compressor speed. ground-fault circuit-interrupter protection is required for this equipment as of 1/1/2023. 

This section was expanded during the 2023 cycle beyond all outdoor outlets for dwelling units rated 125 volts through 250 volts to include all outdoor outlets installed in the following locations:

1) Garages that have floors located at or below grade level

2) Accessory buildings

3) Boathouses

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