Electrical codes and standards are the foundation of safety in today’s electrified lives. National Electrical Code adoption processes are continuous and vary between jurisdictions. Adoption and use of the latest edition benefits of a Code that has been developed and maintained by qualified technical committees through an open consensus process.
Staying current in electrical Code adoption also results in rules that remain relevant and applicable to rapidly changing and developing technologies. Jurisdictions usually adopt the NEC through a process that makes it law. So, where the NEC is adopted legally, anything less is illegal—an interesting way of looking at it, and it usually holds up in court. The NEC is the minimum, so one must do at least that much.
When jurisdictions make alterations
Often, jurisdictions adopt the NEC without amendments because they have complete trust in the NFPA’s open consensus Code-development process aligning with ANSI’s essential requirements. Others adopt the Code with local amendments to the minimum rules outlined in the NEC. Modifications may be necessary due to unique conditions and are usually more restrictive for justifiable and defendable reasons.
However, alterations to electrical installation rules that lessen established national minimum requirements can present liabilities and result in less protection for people and property. The public is seldom ever heard or considered in a Code adoption process. Consumers and the unsuspecting public expect their electrical systems to perform safely.
It is risky to selectively delete new Code requirements based on costs or other reasons that are not safety-driven because it compromises the Code’s integrity.
The very first rule indicates that the Code’s purpose is the practical safeguarding of people and property from hazards arising from electricity use. Compliance with the NEC results in electrical installations and systems that are essentially safe, free from hazards. The NEC is the minimum set of rules that must be followed for compliance, ensuring that occupancies are safe from potential electrical hazards. Adopting jurisdictions should always treat the purpose of the NEC with the highest regard of importance and value to the public.
Electrical safety should never be compromised by efforts to circumvent NEC adoption. The risk management departments of inspection jurisdictions strongly advise against compromising the minimum requirements of national standards that they adopt, especially when the reasons are not safety-driven and usually not defendable. Often, the risk-management departments are unaware of this type of activity. As safety requirements change, so does the cost of doing business.
Keeping people safe
Organizations that are proactive and proficient in business understand the value of keeping current with the latest safety requirements that affect consumers. The electrical industry is evolving rapidly and embracing new technologies, equipment and installation methods.
When the NEC is adopted into law and enforced, the public is the ultimate beneficiary. It is risky to choose to selectively delete new Code requirements based on costs or other reasons that are not safety-driven because it compromises the Code’s integrity. The benefits of improved protection far outweigh the minimal additional cost to meet the new or changing Code rules. NFPA published an important paper, “Falling Behind on Electrical Safety,” and it is eye opening. It can be viewed here: https://bit.ly/2I8blbU.
The NEC technical committees have a big responsibility to act in the interest of safety and protecting people and property. The result is a Code that is available for adoption and enforcement by building departments and has the integrity of the most extensive and fair development process in the world. The latest edition of the NEC and the electrical safety it provides should not be compromised by selective adoption. Its integrity should be upheld without compromise to result in electrical safety within the home and beyond.
The minimum requirements for electrical safety are weakened when local adoption processes delete rules selectively without defendable justification or reasonable substantiation. There should always be justifiable reasons to reduce the requirements of already established minimums. Consumers deserve responsible leadership in carrying out adoption processes, with the public’s interests and safety as priorities.
The Electrical Safety Foundation International develops a wide variety of information about electrical safety for consumers. It also publishes valuable information regarding which edition of the Code each state has adopted, available on ESFI’s website: https://www.esfi.org/2020-national-electrical-code-adoption.
About The Author
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].