Special panel presentation on GFCI technology, the recently announced winner of the 2022 Philip J. DiNenno Prize, to be held during NFPA C&E

Electrical Shock Hazard Protection by Ground Fault Circuit Interrupter (GFCI) Protection was announced as the winner of the 2022 Phillip J. DiNenno Prize, which honors 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 (GFCI) concept has evolved since its inception in the 1940 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.

This year’s DiNenno Prize will be officially presented at the NFPA “Stars at Night” award ceremony in coordination with the NFPA Conference and 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 its legacy presenters, as the technology’s innovators are no longer living.

In addition, a special panel presentation on Ground Fault Circuit (GFCI) Protection will be held at C&E on Monday, June 6 at 8:00 a.m. 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.

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.

About the legacy presenters

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 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.

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