High Workmanship Standards

By Michael Johnston | Oct 15, 2017

During the mid-1990s, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) made a major effort to develop electrical installation standards for the electrical construction industry. The initial work included the creation of NECA 1, Standard for Good Workmanship in Electrical Construction. This first standard is the flagship document and foundation for a library of quality and performance standards. NECA believes there is a great opportunity to have a positive impact on the electrical industry by standardizing quality control aspects of electrical work. This is the primary objective of the National Electrical Installation Standards (NEIS).

The NEIS are the first workmanship, quality and performance standards specifically for electrical construction. They go far beyond the mandatory minimum safety requirements found in other electrically related standards. Multiple NFPA standards contain a standard general requirement that the installation be performed in a “neat and workmanlike manner.” However, those standards fail to describe or explain what that means. The National Electrical Code (NEC) contains such a requirement in at least seven locations. 

Workmanship is not described or detailed. This is a subjective rule and is often left in the eye of the beholder, whose own personal standards are limited to experience and training.

Everyone has a different set of personal and business standards they uphold in their work. The NEIS fill this gap. This library of workmanship standards clearly explains what it means to install electrical products and systems in a “neat and workmanlike” manner. Over the years, the NEIS has taken a larger role in the day-to-day operations of electrical engineers, specifying designers, electrical contractors, and even electricians.

Everything in NECA’s installation standards comply with the NEC, and because they are quality and performance standards, most NEIS contain additional requirements that go beyond, and extend, basic electrical safety requirements. With the NEIS, the electrical installation and design meets Code and the shared expectations of everyone involved, including owners, specifying engineers, electrical contractors, electricians and even the authority having jurisdiction. Standardizing installation methods and practices creates opportunities for growth and competitive advantages in the electrical construction business. Customers expect quality installations, and the NEIS provide a baseline to meet them. Conforming to the NEIS demonstrates a commitment and interest in providing a quality product and service for customers.

The NEIS are included in contractor and electrical worker training, design and installation, specifications and marketing. A popular use is to reference the NEIS by specification. Referring to them saves engineers and designers specification development time. Many engineering and design firms reference the NEIS to ensure a minimum level of performance, quality and integrity in their designs and the finished product. ECs can help their employees understand the difference between an installation that just meets the minimum and one with a higher level of quality. Designers make good use of the valuable content of these standards by putting the digital NEIS to work within their organization on common reference servers. This sets a precedent for others to make similar use of the NEIS in the workplace for specification and quality control.

Although the standards are voluntary, the NEIS provide details that clarify what constitutes good workmanship in various electrical installation tasks. Section 110.12 of the NEC contains the general workmanship rule, applying across the entire set of requirements. The challenge is that “neat and workmanlike” is subjective for many Code users, including enforcement officials, especially if they have little or no experience in the electrical industry. The NEIS help describe what the installation should look like and how it should perform to meet this requirement. Obviously, the more experience and training one has, the easier it is to determine if an electrical installation is workmanlike. For this reason, some inspection jurisdictions and private inspection firms have adopted these voluntary standards for use in their daily operations.

The objective of the NEIS is to establish a benchmark of quality and performance for electrical installations and systems. They provide needed value to those involved in installation, engineering, designing, specifying and other aspects of the electrical business. 

As the electrical industry advances, the NEIS will continue to address trending subject matter and meet the growing needs of industry professionals in their quest to provide the best product and service for their customers. For more, visit

About The Author

A man, Mike Johnston, in front of a gray background.

Michael Johnston

NECA Executive Director of Codes and Standards

JOHNSTON is NECA’s executive director of codes and standards. He is a member of the NEC Correlating Committee, NFPA Standards Council, IBEW, UL Electrical Council and NFPA’s Electrical Section. Reach him at [email protected].






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