NFPA announces GFCI as the winner of the 2022 Philip J. DiNenno Prize

NFPA Conference & Expo to feature special panel presentation on the impact of GFCI technology

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) has announced Electrical Shock Hazard Protection by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Protection as the winner of the 2022 Phillip J. DiNenno Prize, which recognizes pioneering innovations that have significantly impacted building, fire, and electrical safety. The prestigious award is named for the late Philip J. DiNenno, the greatly respected former CEO of Hughes Associates, in recognition of his extraordinary contributions to fire safety.

The 2022 DiNenno Prize selection reflects a departure from the traditional recognition of one or more individuals who have played a pivotal role in the creation of a fire and life safety technology. Instead, it honors the ground-breaking technology itself, as its innovators are no longer living.

The (GFCI) concept has evolved since its inception in the 1940s into a series of sophisticated protection devices that have increased protection of people from electric shock. It has also allowed for greater degrees of safe electrical power usage among numerous applications in all types of environments. In addition, widespread installation of GFCI protection throughout the built environment has directly led to significant, quantifiable increases in society’s current levels of electrical safety. Furthermore, GFCI technologies will continue to prevent tragedies attributable to electrocutions even more so in the future.

“GFCI technology in itself is very important in electrical safety, saving hundreds of lives per year,” said Craig Beyler, DiNenno Selection and Prize Committee Chair. “This year’s recommendation remains true to the core tenets of the DiNenno Prize and continues to honor live and deceased innovators equally.”

The DiNenno Prize typically features a $50,000 award to its recipients. In absence of living recipients, the Phoenix Burn Society for Burn Survivors and the Electrical Fire Safety International (ESFI) have been selected as the beneficiaries of the prize and will each receive a cash donation to support their work in reducing loss from electrical hazards.

The award will be officially presented at the NFPA “Stars at Night” award ceremony in coordination with the NFPA Conference & Expo (C&E) in Boston this June. Jack Wells and Henry Zylstra, who each played a critical role in the advancement of GFCI technology, will serve as legacy presenters of the DiNenno Prize.

In addition, there will be a special panel presentation on Ground Fault Circuit (GFCI) Protection at C&E on Monday morning at 8:00 am. Wells, Zylstra, Alan Manche and Steve Rood will serve as presenters, reviewing the role GFCI has played in electrical safety; Wells and Zylstra will share stories about their involvement in the development and commercialization of GFCI technology.

Jack Wells

As the primary associate at Pass & Seymour (P&S), Wells worked to ensure that commercialization of the GFC within the receptacle embodiment became accepted in the marketplace (once GFCI receptacle installation requirements became mandated within the National Electrical Code®). Wells drove acceptance of the GFCI receptacle installation mandates by arranging and conducting numerous seminars and presentations with the various respective engineering, inspection, contractor, and distribution supply constituencies over several years. As the GFCI product line manager, he simultaneously ensured that P&S engineering continued to incrementally improve the initial receptacle GFCI product offering, and managed the subsequent product launches to drive market development and acceptance. These efforts to gain technical and application experience of the new technology were central to the successful commercialization of receptacle GFCIs within residential and commercial installations, leading to the consistent increases in safety as exemplified by the CPSC electrocutions graph and ESFI summary of GFCI-protected homes.

Henry Zylstra

Zylstra was the primary engineering lead at Schneider Electric/Square D driving the subsequent development of the two-pole GFCI circuit breaker and fostered the continued development to improve the utility and robustness of the initial single-pole GFCI breaker embodiment. He is the author and holder of numerous patents pertaining to single-pole, two-pole and other types of GFCI breakers, ensuring the continued commercialization of the breaker embodiment driven by consistent miniaturization and improvements in robustness, reliability, and capability. Zylstra continued his engagement in the technical expertise for GFCI through the turn of this century, serving on the UL STP that continued to enhance GFCI protection. These and other efforts led to ensuring product and marketplace acceptability as installation mandates have continued to expand, leading to the realities of increased public safety.

For this release and other announcements about NFPA initiatives, research, and resources, please visit the NFPA press room.

NFPA: 125 Years of Protecting People and Property

The National Fire Protection Association® (NFPA®) is a global self-funded nonprofit organization devoted to eliminating death, injury, property, and economic loss due to fire, electrical, and related hazards. The association began its work to solve the fire problem in a young, industrialized nation in 1896 and has since become a global force known for advancing safety worldwide. NFPA delivers information and knowledge through more than 325 consensus codes and standards, research, training, education, outreach, and advocacy, and by partnering with others who share an interest in furthering the NFPA mission. NFPA will formally celebrate its 125th anniversary at its Conference & Expo in Boston on June 6 – 9, 2022. For more information or to view NFPA codes and standards for free, visit

Contact: Lorraine Carli, Public Affairs Office: +1 617 984-7275


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