Legrand recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of the GFCI receptacle, first brought to market by its Pass & Seymour product line in 1972.
A break-through in electrical safety first patented in 1965 by inventor Charles Dalziel, the ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI, was designed to monitor the flow of an electrical current along a circuit and stop the flow of electricity if a fault is detected. The technology offered revolutionary protection against electrocution as well as a reduced risk of electrical fire. However, the earliest options for implementing this life-saving protection were limited in number and exclusively offered in portable form or as a supplement to the panelboard.
“In the early ‘70s, our team recognized the need for additional iterations of Dalziel’s technology,” shares Jack Wells, a former product manager for the Pass & Seymour line and major contributor in launching the first-ever GFCI outlets. “Panel protection was being used for pools and such, but individual circuits throughout the home weren’t being protected. One of our customers, Rucker, had worked with Dalziel and were looking bring ground fault protection to more places. We saw an opportunity through our P&S receptacles to help make that happen and save more lives.”
The launch of the GFCI coincided with an already evolving NEC that sought to enhance electrical safety throughout the US by requiring ground-fault protection in additional locations, beginning with residential outdoor receptacles and followed by bathroom receptacles in 1975. Today, ground-fault protection is required in several areas of both residential and commercial spaces, including anywhere within 6 feet of a sink or water source.
“It’s easy to take this protection for granted in 2022, but there was once quite a bit of risk just in plugging in your kitchen appliances or using an electric razor by the bathroom sink,” comments Scott Bausch, vice president and general manager of Pass & Seymour for Legrand. “By taking the safety and protection offered by GFCI technology and working to incorporate it into outlets, that ‘72 P&S team was making it easier, more accessible, for ground-fault protection to be part of American homes, and then part of other spaces too. The yearly number of electrocutions caused by consumer products has fallen by more than 90 percent since GFCI technology started being required in the home. It’s incredible to know our employees and our GFCI devices – which we’re still working to improve and enhance today – played a role in saving those lives and make spaces safer.”