In the nine years since the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) set out to produce technical manuals defining precisely what the National Electrical Code means by installing products and systems in a “neat and workmanlike” manner, our association has become a major standards-developing organization. We have published 38 documents in our National Electrical Installation Standard series, and there are currently a dozen others in development, with several more awaiting final review at the American National Standards Institute (ANSI).
The series will continue to grow as NECA establishes performance requirements for every type of electrical and communications system installed by electrical contractors. That’s good news for contractors who rely on them for installation how-to’s left out of specifications—and for consulting engineers and designers (the largest NEIS customer base) and electrical inspectors, who hold our standards in such high regard that they use them as textbooks.
As proud as I am of the ongoing success of the NEIS initiative, however, I don’t want to imply that NECA’s involvement in standard development began in 1997. It actually dates back to 1902, when, just a few months after NECA’s founding, member-contractors began developing recommendations for overhauling the first so-called National Electrical Code. In 1911, the National Fire Protection Association assumed sponsorship of the Code, and NECA has been a major partner in helping keep it up-to-date ever since.
It doesn’t end there, either. NECA is involved with several other important codes and standards.
An example is the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC), which is used throughout the United States and in more than 100 countries and covers utility generation, transmission and distribution systems up to the service point. Electric utilities, communications providers and state public utility commissions adopt the NESC as their wiring rules for high-voltage electrical systems, telephone systems, long-haul fiber-optic networks and similar outside plant installations. (By the way, the new 2007 edition is now available, as discussed at http://standards.ieee.org/nesc.)
Another example is NFPA 70E, Standard for Electrical Safety in Employee Workplaces, which is NFPA’s second highest-selling standard. “NFPA 70E provides guidance, which, if followed, will help to reduce or eliminate workplace injuries from electrical shock and arcing hazards,” according to John Luke of NECA-member ESCO Electric in Marion, Iowa, who serves on the committee drafting the 2009 edition. He knows what he’s talking about: NFPA 70E has revolutionized safety in the electrical construction industry by requiring such things as the use of lockout/tagout procedures, flame-resistant clothing, voltage-rated tools and the like.
And, NECA’s interaction with ANSI goes well beyond submitting our own installation standards to the institute’s consensus-review process. Most recently, NECA was approved as a member of the ANSI A10 Committee on Safety Requirements for Construction and Demolition Operations. The A10 committee currently publishes or is developing more than 40 standards relating to protection of employees and the public from hazards associated with construction and demolition operations.
There are more examples still, but I think you get the point. (You can find more information on NECA’s involvement in developing codes and standards at http://neca-neis.org.)
What it all boils down to is this: NECA participates in standard development today for the same reason our association first entered the arena more than a century ago—to give electrical contractors a strong voice in creating the rules that govern our daily work. It’s one more way NECA serves as our industry’s chief advocate.