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AN ADVISORY TO JMME, INC. CLIENTS AND ASSOCIATES REGARDING ALLEGATIONS AGAINST STEEL CONDUIT COUPLINGS

June 22, 2007

NFPA has been provided information on alleged steel conduit coupling failure

Profit motivated information has been submitted informally to the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) in an apparent attempt by a fluoropolymer chemical manufacturer seeking to discredit non-fire rated cable used in steel electrical metallic tubing (EMT) conduit to potentially increase demand for "plenum rated cable" or "other fire-rated cables to be installed in conduit." This follows 11-years of attempts by allied fluoropolymer interests to eliminate or grossly modify codes and building regulations for installation requirements of non-fluoropolymer products in competing industries. In doing so, the recent deceptive and misleading information being submitted to NFPA suggests that "steel" is failing at low temperatures and that "steel conduit couplings" are failing on EMT conduit. In fact, given the temperature of 450ºC as noted in their latest information, the attack is rather on:

  • Zinc couplings [zinc melts at 420ºC, (842ºF)],
  • Tin components in electrical systems [tin melts at 232ºC, (450ºF)],
  • Electrical installation practices,
  • Electrical labor practices,
  • Steel engineering and design
  • Steel workmanship
  • Steel labor practice
  • Metal workmanship
  • Metal engineering and design
  • Non-flame retardant cable jacket and insulation
In my opinion, a combination of events has led to this strategy:
While the development of zinc couplings manufactured to UL 514B specifications for use on EMT conduit systems might perform as the information infers, we are unaware of any testing that would demonstrate the findings related to coupling failure and subsequent fire development as is surmised. It is unknown if any extensive testing by independent third-parties where coupling performance has been studied specifically in the NFPA 262 test with plenum-rated or other cable types. Further, the existence of any fire data supporting the conclusions presented on the transmission of combustible gases in spreading actual fire beyond the fire zone is not available. This would need to be researched more conclusively and if necessary addressed through engineering, design or product development. Steel couplings likely do not perform as stated in the information; the direct statement that "the steel conduit couplings 'melting and failing' at temperatures beginning as low as 450 degrees C" appears to be inaccurate based on melting temperatures for steel and at best is a poorly or deliberately worded sentence intended to besmirch "steel" products.

We need to consider where this is headed with yet another round of misinformation, but I believe that a broad-based advocacy for steel, zinc, tin and plastic products used in electrical systems in accordance with the NEC and meeting UL and other manufacturing certification and listing requirements is becoming necessary. Additionally, because the citation is specific to couplings, this brings in the need to have labor involved in the advocacy of the systems they install and the practices used to assure that the systems will perform as intended.

We would like to propose that JMME develop such an advocacy plan and I respectfully seek your input on the need for such a partnership (a Partnership for Safe Electrical Systems administered through JMME, Inc.). The efforts of the partnership would not only be intended to address issues presented at NFPA, but at any code or legislative body where similar issues would present themselves (like Massachusetts where a Dupont marketing partner was on the subcommittee overseeing the proposed regulation changes). Partnership would be open to trade associations, labor organizations, and manufacturers of electrical components or integrated components used in electrical systems with specific interest in the advancement of the partnership; new members could be subject to a 2/3 approval of the directing vote of the partnership.

I welcome your commentary and relative interest in such a partnership. I also welcome any input you would have on possible member partners.

If we can get this up and running, I would like to have representation ready to speak at the NFPA 90A Comments meeting. I would go one step further by introducing the organization to NFPA Standards Council and NFPA President Jim Shannon personally during the fall of 2007.

John Moritz is President of JMME, Inc. , (http://www.jmme.com) a consulting firm providing manufacturers, end users and regulators with advice and strategic guidance on the important role plastics play in today's corporate and personal worlds. Since its inception, JMME has been dedicated to corporate responsibility for developing safe products, effective protections provided by codes and standards for the safe use of plastic products and the overall protection of sports participants and spectators through effective testing and development of plastic sports equipment. John has written numerous articles and presentations on issues related to the selection of plastics in various industries and their potential effects on the marketplace, environment and regulatory processes. John serves on numerous codes and standards technical committees where he has fought diligently to preserve the consensus process and the integrity of the documents. Inquiries are encouraged and welcomed.

©Copyright 2007, JMME, Inc. All rights reserved.



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