Adopting And Enforcing The NEC

Published On
Jun 1, 2017

Each new edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) brings change typically driven by the desire for electrical safety improvements for people and property. The Code provides the minimum requirements for safe electrical installations. Essentially, this means installations must be equal to or greater than the contained rules. With any change comes apprehension—a natural reaction. Within the throes of debating cost and compliance with minimum safety rules, it is important to remember those that most benefit from the requirements: consumers. The general public is usually unfamiliar with new and existing Code rules that keep them safe both at home and work.


The first rule in the NEC states that the Code’s purpose is the practical safeguarding of persons and property from hazards arising from electricity use. This long-standing requirement is a straightforward reminder of electrical safety basics. Compliance with the NEC rules results in electrical installations and systems that are essentially free from electrical hazards. Anything less than the minimum is a risk. Without question, consumers expect electrical safety even when they are not aware of the rules that make residences and businesses safe.


Consumers benefit when the NEC is adopted and enforced. Any requirements that are amended or deleted from the Code or otherwise lessened in adoption processes result in compromising already established minimums. It is risky business to selectively delete new electrical Code requirements because of cost or for other reasons that are not related to safety. This results in a compromise in the integrity of the Code.

Nobody wins when the NEC adoption comes under attack by groups that apparently oppose electrical safety for cost-related reasons. The NEC technical committees have a big responsibility to act in the interest of safety and the best interest of protecting people and property. The NEC’s integrity and the electrical safety it provides should not be compromised by selective adoption processes that are not safety-driven.

Adoption processes

Since the recent publication of the 2017 NEC, Code-enforcing jurisdictions are busy with their adoption processes. When a jurisdiction adopts the NEC, it usually occurs through a process that makes it law. Where the NEC is adopted legally, anything less is illegal. This holds true in court. Often, jurisdictions adopt the NEC without amendments because the jurisdiction places trust in the open-consensus Code-development process that meets American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requirements.

Most jurisdictions are not interested in writing their own Code rules when the minimum has been clearly established through substantiation and fair deliberation. Some jurisdictions adopt the Code with amendments that are usually more restrictive than the minimum set forth in the NEC, and such modifications are necessary because of unique conditions in those areas. 

Most jurisdictions adopting construction codes, including the NEC, understand the importance of maintaining a minimum standard for electrical safety. So why would any jurisdiction delete or lessen any electrical rules from the already established minimums in the NEC? It is important that jurisdictions consider the risk of such actions. Modifications to electrical safety rules that reduce the minimum requirements can present liabilities and result in less protection for people and property than consumers deserve.

That’s why the National Electrical Contractors Association and other industry associations urge state and local authorities to adopt the NEC’s minimum requirements in the basic interest of safety.

Not compromising safety

Electrical safety should not be compromised by efforts to circumvent NEC adoption by jurisdictions. The risk management departments of inspection jurisdictions strongly advise not compromising the minimum requirements of national standards that they adopt, especially when the reasons are not safety-driven and are usually not defendable. The minimum requirements for electrical safety are compromised when local adoption processes lessen them by deleting rules selectively and without reasonable substantiation.

There should always be justifiable reasons to lessen the requirements of already established minimums. Consumers deserve responsible leadership that puts their interests and safety first, rather than interests that are not safety-driven. When it comes down to it, the bottom line should always be electrical safety and the integrity and history of the rules that provide that positive result for the consumer.

About the Author

Michael Johnston

Executive Director of Standards and Safety, NECA

Michael Johnston is NECA’s executive director of standards and safety. He is a member of the NEC Correlating Committee, NFPA Standards Council, IBEW, UL Electrical Council and NFPA’s Electrical Section. Reach him at

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