NEMA Publishes COVID-19 Guidelines for Disinfecting Electrical Equipment

May 21, 2020 by Alessandro Mascellino

The National Electrical Manufacturers Association (NEMA) released a document last week addressing how to clean and disinfect electrical equipment to limit the spread of COVID-19.

Several NEMA Members have developed guidance specific to their products, but the new document aims to provide general guidelines to be utilized if a particular piece of equipment does not come with specific instructions on how to do so. The document is based on research data released by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).


Addressing Global Concerns 

As an international association with 325 manufacturers as members, NEMA is globally responsible for roughly 370,000 American jobs in more than 6,100 facilities.

Given its relevance in the U.S. electrical equipment and medical imaging industries, NEMA has been recently asked by some of its members to issue guidelines such as the ones the association has now released.

The document conveys what was advised by the CDC and starts by explaining how the COVID-19 virus can remain active for anywhere from hours to days on various surfaces. This depends on several factors, including the type of material, temperature, relative humidity, and initial viral load of the surface itself.



A table for six steps for safe & effective disinfectant use. Image used courtesy of the EPA


In order to generally reduce the risk of spreading and infection, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has in the past suggested using List N approved disinfectants. This type of disinfectant, however, may not be suitable for use with electronic devices as it could potentially damage them.


Cleaning Guidelines for Electrical Equipment

To make sure NEMA members and their affiliates safely clean their mechanical equipment without risking damaging it, the association’s new guidelines suggest various recommendations. Firstly, electrical equipment should be de-energized before cleaning, when possible, and to allow hot surfaces to cool before cleaning.

Also, cleaning solutions should be left to dry before re-energizing, and all equipment users and maintenance personnel should follow all CDC recommendations to reduce the risk of COVID-19 transmission. These should include washing hands diligently, using appropriate hand sanitizers, and wearing face coverings and other personal protective equipment.



Temperature Check at Gun Hill Bus Depot. Image used courtesy of Amanda Valdes/ MTA.


Moreover, the document also reiterates that no disinfecting products, including foggers, sprays or other types of atomized cleaning agents should be used on any electrical equipment components of any material type unless specifically instructed by the manufacturer.


Long-Term Planning 

The new NEMA guidelines have been released by the association thinking about how to protect workers and keep facilities safe as government social distancing restrictions are gradually lifted and people allowed to go back to work.

“This may include cleaning and disinfecting electrical equipment,” said Kevin J. Cosgriff, President, and CEO of NEMA.

But if following documented safety procedures is essential, inappropriate cleaning and disinfecting products could cause harm to both equipment and workers, according to Steve Sacco, Vice President of Safety and Environment at Schneider Electric.

“Disinfectant solutions and solvents can harm electrical equipment and components, causing severe damage that can result in outages and potential physical injuries,” Sacco explained.

In order to avoid incurring these dangers, the Executive said workers should follow CDC recommendations at all times. The whole text of the NEMA safety recommendation is available on the NEMA website for free, but you’ll need to register to view it.