A person fogging with disinfectant, dressed in protective gear
© Getty Images

Disinfectant fogging and electrical risks

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    Disinfectant fogging is an established process used in industries such as pharmaceutical, healthcare, critical production, and laboratories, to efficiently eliminate germs on exposed surfaces and difficult-to-reach areas.

    What is fogging?

    A person fogging with disinfectant, dressed in protective gear, in a dental office
    © HSB Canada
    The process converts liquid into a mist, which is then dispersed into the air.  There are several different fogging processes including hand-held fogging and stationary fogging. The method of fogging, type of chemicals, and concentrations vary based on the application.  

    What can go wrong?

    A person excessively fogging with disinfectant, dressed in protective gear
    © Getty Images

    Excessive fogging, failure to follow established guidelines, and using  the wrong disinfectants may lead to failures of vulnerable electrical and electronic components.  

    Early warning signs include:

    • ❌ Visual evidence of corrosion
      ❌ Discoloration
      ❌ Contaminated surfaces

    Smoke rising from burnt electronic computer device due to short circuit
    © Getty Images
    Disinfectant mist may get into electrical enclosures  and it  can settle on electronic components, leading to corrosion of microelectronics and circuit board components. The result can be corrosion of metal surfaces and discoloration of wire insulation. These effects can range from minor discolorations to shorting and failure of electrical and electronic components.  Individual circuit board  or  electronic component failures are more likely than a complete system deterioration.

    Factors affecting the severity of damage caused by fogging

    Do dispersions occur daily for months, or every few days for weeks?
    Do dispersions occur in wide, open areas or are they directed near enclosures and equipment containing electronics?
    • Are Material Safety Data Sheets available for the disinfectant?
    • Is the disinfectant selected based on a total risk assessment of effectiveness and potential negative consequences?
    • Is the process carried out by an experienced vendor or untrained personnel?
    • Is the technician trained in proper fogging methods and aware of the hazards of the applied disinfectants?
    • Are the cabinets ventilated?
    • Do they have a filtering system?
    • Are the cabinets equipped with fans that draw air into the cabinet?
    • What is the proximity of the air intake to the fogging nozzle? 
    • Is the electrical equipment energized and operating during fogging?
    • Is the equipment properly shut down before fogging?

    For more information on fogging and electrical components, NEMA’s complete COVID-19 Cleaning and Disinfecting Guidance for Electrical Equipment is available for download here.

    The tips offered here are intended to complement and not replace the recommendation of the equipment manufacturer.

    This article is for informational purposes only and is not intended to convey or constitute legal advice. HSB makes no warranties or representations as to the accuracy or completeness of the content herein. Under no circumstances shall HSB or any party involved in creating or delivering this article be liable to you for any loss or damage that results from the use of the information contained herein. Except as otherwise expressly permitted by HSB in writing, no portion of this article may be reproduced, copied, or distributed in any way. This article does not modify or invalidate any of the provisions, exclusions, terms or conditions of the applicable policy and endorsements. For specific terms and conditions, please refer to the applicable insurance form. Posted on July 28, 2021