As we continue to learn more about the SARS-CoV-2 (COVID-19) virus, Members of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) are receiving questions regarding the cleaning and disinfecting of electrical equipment. This guidance document reflects the responses of electrical manufacturers to common questions related to cleaning and disinfecting electrical equipment. Many NEMA Members have developed guidance specific to their products. Readers are encouraged to contact equipment manufacturers to determine if specific recommendations exist.
For this guidance document, cleaning refers to the physical removal of dirt and grime, and in the process, some portion of germs on a given surface. Disinfecting refers to eliminating a high percentage of germs on a surface or rendering them incapable of reproducing.
CDC Research On COVID-19
The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) reports that the COVID-19 virus spreads from person-to-person, most frequently among those in close contact (within about six feet), and through respiratory droplets expelled by a person through coughing or sneezing. The CDC has also reported that transmission of the COVID-19 can involve contaminated surfaces and contact with various materials; scientists continue to investigate to understand the implications.
The CDC has also stated that the COVID-19 virus could remain viable for anywhere from hours to days on various surfaces, depending on many factors, including the type of material, temperature, relative humidity, and initial viral load.1 The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) suggests using List N-approved disinfectants (referenced by the CDC for routine cleaning and disinfection) to effectively reduce surface contamination. For EPA-registered disinfectants, follow the label directions for safe, effective use. It is important to note that these disinfectants may not be a viable option for certain surfaces, specifically electrical products and components, because disinfectant solutions and solvents, as listed by the EPA, can be harmful to many electrical products and components.
Guidance For Cleaning And Disinfecting Electrical Equipment
To clean and disinfect electrical equipment, first, follow the manufacturer’s recommended cleaning methods. The application of EPA List N products can cause a detrimental long-term impact on electrical equipment related to performance, reliability, and the equipment’s continued normal and safe operation. As an example, some cleaning products or solvents can cause corrosion of conductive materials and degradation of other materials. As noted in Informational Note No. 2 to 110.11 Deteriorating Agents of the 2020 National Electrical Code® (NEC), “Some cleaning agents and lubricating compounds can cause severe deterioration of many plastic materials used for insulating and structural applications in equipment.”
The use of devices such as foggers and sprays could allow disinfectant solutions to contaminate the components inside the electrical equipment. Most electrical equipment and components are not designed to protect against fogging and spraying of disinfectant solutions and solvents. In these situations, equipment exposure could result in severe damage, outages, and potential personal injury. Fogging and spraying could also impact the long-term performance of the electrical equipment.
In some instances, the only approved method for cleaning various types of electrical equipment may be to use a lint-free, dry, clean cloth, which provides mechanical cleaning but not disinfection. In very specific situations, using EPA List N products has been approved on hard external surfaces; however, consult the manufacturer to confirm application and acceptability. As noted above, the use of cleaning and disinfecting products is cautioned unless approved by the electrical manufacturer.
Ultraviolet (UV) light sources are commonly used to disinfect water and HVAC systems. UV sources are also used to disinfect the air and surfaces of critical areas in hospitals, laboratories, group facilities, and public spaces. Electrical equipment installed in areas subject to UV light disinfection will be exposed to UV radiation at various intensities and time durations, depending on the design of the disinfection system. Materials used in the fabrication of electrical equipment may degrade when exposed to UV light. Consult the electrical manufacturer to confirm the application and acceptable use of artificial sources of UV light for disinfection on equipment.
NEMA recommends the following steps for COVID-19 related cleaning and disinfection of electrical equipment:
- Ensure all required electrical safe work practices are followed before accessing any electrical component for any reason, including cleaning;
- If possible, de-energize electrical equipment before cleaning;
- Allow hot surfaces to cool before cleaning;
- Let cleaning solutions dry before re-energizing;
- Have equipment users and maintenance personnel follow all CDC recommendations to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission, including washing hands diligently, using an appropriate hand sanitizer, and using face coverings and personal protective equipment;
- Consult the equipment manufacturer for instructions regarding equipment cleaning;
Note: The instructions for use of reusable medical equipment are expected to include validated cleaning and disinfection or cleaning sterilization procedures. See the ISO 17664 series, AAMI TIR12 and AAMI TIR30.
- Do not use disinfecting products, including foggers, sprays or other types of atomized cleaning agents on any electrical equipment components of any material type: plastic, insulating, molded, painted or metallic unless specifically instructed by the manufacturer of the electrical equipment; and
- If you have specific electrical equipment questions regarding cleaning and disinfection, please contact the equipment manufacturer.
NEMA recommends that all personnel working with electrical equipment consider the possibility of contamination and take appropriate steps to protect themselves based on CDC recommendations.
The requirements or guidelines presented in this white paper are considered technically sound at the time they are approved for publication. They are not a substitute for a product seller’s or user’s own judgment with respect to the product discussed, and NEMA does not undertake to guarantee the performance of any individual manufacturer’s products by virtue of this document or guide. Thus, NEMA expressly disclaims any responsibility for damages arising from the use, application, or reliance by others on the information contained in these white papers, Standards, or guidelines.
Below is a list of references that may offer additional information regarding this subject:
- Neeltje van Doremalen et al., Aerosol and Surface Stability of SARS-CoV-2 as Compared with SARS-CoV-1, New England J. Medicine 382:1564-1567 (April 16, 2020).
- U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/index.html
- U.S. Environmental Protection List N: Disinfectants for Use Against SARS-CoV-2 https://www.epa.gov/pesticide-registration/list-n-disinfectants-use-against-sars-cov-2
- U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) 29 CFR 1910.1030 – Bloodborne Pathogens: https://www.osha.gov/laws-regs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.1030
- OSHA 29 CFR 1910.132 – Personal Protective Equipment: https://www.osha.gov/lawsregs/regulations/standardnumber/1910/1910.132
- Infectious Diseases Society of America Guidelines on Infection Prevention in Patients with Suspected or Known COVID-19: https://www.idsociety.org/practice-guideline/covid-19-guidelineinfection-prevention/
- NFPA 70, National Electrical Code®: https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-andstandards/list-of-codes-and-standards/detail?code=70
- NFPA 70B, Recommended Practice for Electrical Equipment Maintenance: https://www.nfpa.org/codes-and-standards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-andstandards/detail?code=70B
- NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in the Workplace®: https://www.nfpa.org/codes-andstandards/all-codes-and-standards/list-of-codes-and-standards/detail?code=70E
- OSHA 1910, Subpart J General Environmental Controls and Subpart S Electrical: https://www.ecfr.gov/cgi-bintextidx?SID=75a8be0e6e6e72087eec688440317975&mc=true&tpl=/ecfrbrowse/Title29/29cfr1910_main_02.tpl
- ISO 17664:2017: Processing of health care products — Information to be provided by the medical device manufacturer for the processing of medical devices: https://www.iso.org/standard/62952.html
- AAMI TIR12:2010, Designing, testing, and labeling reusable medical devices for reprocessing in health care facilities: A guide for medical device manufacturers: https://my.aami.org/store/detail.aspx?id=TIR12
- AAMI TIR30:2011/(R)2016, A compendium of processes, materials, test methods, and acceptance criteria for cleaning reusable medical devices: https://my.aami.org/store/detail.aspx?id=TIR30-PDF
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National Electrical Manufacturers Association
Reprinted by permission of the National Electrical Manufacturers Association. NEMA GD 4-2020: COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfecting Guidance for Electrical Equipment, May 2020.