Portable generators are internal combustion engines used to generate electricity. They are useful when temporary or remote power is needed, and are commonly used during cleanup and recovery efforts following disasters.
Under the following conditions, OSHA directs (29 CFR 1926.404(f)(3)(i)) that the frame of a portable generator need not be grounded (connected to earth) and that the frame may serve as the ground (in place of the earth):
Thus, rather than connect to a grounding electrode system, such as a driven ground rod, the generator’s frame replaces the grounding electrode.
If these conditions do not exist, then a grounding electrode, such as a ground rod, is required.
If the portable generator is providing electric power to a structure by connection via a transfer switch to a structure (home, office, shop, trailer, or similar) it must be connected to a grounding electrode system, such as a driven ground rod. The transfer switch must be approved for the use and installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s installation instructions by a qualified electrician.
Grounding requirements for generators connected via transfer switches are covered by Article 250 of the National Electrical Code (NEC).
The integrity of the connection between the generator’s frame and the equipment grounding terminals of power receptacles is important to the safe use of the equipment. The connection may be confirmed via testing by a competent electrician with the correct equipment. The ohmic resistance should measure near zero and must not be intermittent, which indicates a loose connection.
Bonding and grounding are separate requirements for generators and other electrical distribution systems. Grounding means the connection, or the establishment of a connection, of an electric circuit or equipment to reference ground, which includes the generator’s frame. Bonding is the intentional connection between the grounded circuit conductor (neutral) and the grounding means for the generator, which includes the generator’s frame. Thus, effective bonding of the neutral conductor to the generator’s frame is also a concern for the safe use of the equipment. As with grounding terminal connections, proper bonding of the neutral terminal of a power receptacle may be confirmed via testing by a competent electrician with the correct equipment, and the ohmic resistance should measure near zero and must not be intermittent, which indicates a loose connection.
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