The 2008 edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC)was approved last month at the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) World Safety Conference & Exposition in Boston. As with all the NFPA-published editions of the most widely adopted code in the world that came before it, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) had a hand in its development—dozens of hands, in fact.

The NFPA has been the Code’s sponsor since 1911. And, ever since, NECA contractors have played a leading role in keeping it up to date.

NFPA also publishes 10 other electrical standards, and NECA and our member-contractors are involved in the development of most of them as well. But, arguably, none of them bear the hallmarks of NECA participation to the extent of the National Electrical Code.

To keep up with current products and construction methods, the NEC is revised every three years. The revision process itself takes nearly two years to complete. The Code deals with so many topics that no single technical committee would have the expertise—or time—to write or revise the entire document.

Instead, the NEC traditionally has been maintained by 19 different Code-Making Panels (CMP). Panel members are chosen for their technical expertise in particular areas. For example, CMP-2 writes rules for branch circuits and feeders, CMP-5 is responsible for grounding, and so on. Reflecting how the NEC keeps up with the times, a temporary 20th CMP was added for the 2008 edition to write a new Article 585 on “Critical Operations Power Systems,” which applies to electrical systems that must keep critical operations going in the event of a natural disaster, terrorist attack or other emergency that causes a power outage.

Without compensation or recognition outside of the electrical industry, participants in the never-ending NEC revision process spend a lot of time in meetings and handling correspondence to fine-tune proposed changes—and to submit a few of their own.

Of course, you don’t have to be a NECA member or even a panelist to propose a revision to the NEC. If you perceive a problem with an existing provision, or if you simply have an idea for improving some aspect of the Code, NFPA wants to hear from you. Check your current 2005 Code book for details and deadlines.

For the 2008 edition, the NEC Technical Correlating Committee received 3,688 change proposals and 2,349 comments during the revision cycle. According to the NFPA Journal, “The sheer number of proposals and comments is a healthy indicator that the NEC is widely used and a constantly evolving document.”

Agreed. But I think NECA’s substantial involvement in the process says something, too—and not just that ours is the single most influential group in Code development.

The most important point is that it is developed under consensus procedures that allow broad public review and participation by the very people whose work it governs. The fact that so many electrical contractors contribute to the Code as impartial experts—with no axes to grind and no products to sell through their participation—ensures the NEC continues to fulfill its mission. That is, first and foremost, the practical safeguarding of persons and property against the hazards rising from the uses of electricity.

I thank my NECA colleagues for their involvement in the process. I also encourage all knowledgeable electrical contractors to help bring the Code home by interacting with the local governmental body responsible for its local adoption and enforcement.

After all, it’s your Code, too! NECA is just pleased to have had an opportunity to help make it as accurate and useful as possible.