Origin Story

NEC code

The NEC Correlating Committee is responsible for the NEC and multiple other electrical codes and standards published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). The committee has a critical obligation to ensure that the NEC development doesn’t disrupt the foundation and structure established in the early years of its long existence and evolution.

The first edition of the Electrical Code was published in 1897, and NFPA became the publisher in 1911. Early editions included a series of rules identified as articles up until the 1937 edition when the organizational structure was established.

The Electrical Committee was chaired by A.R. Small from Underwriters Laboratories, and George Andrae and Alan Coggeshall represented the National Electrical Contractor’s Association.

That edition of the Code contained an introduction and 10 chapters. Chapters 1 through 4 had general application. Chapter 5 addressed special occupancies, Chapter 6 addressed special equipment and Chapter 7 addressed special conditions, just as they do today. Chapters 5, 6 and 7 supplemented or amended the general requirements in chapters 1 through 4, same as today. Chapter 8 addressed communications, signaling and radios, and Chapter 9 included tables and diagrams referred to from the rules in the Code , which is unchanged. Chapter 10 included construction rules. The primary reasons for establishing this structure was to avoid what they referred to as the “vicious-circle problem,” which was reducing requirement repetitions, improving enforceability and allowing for future growth.

The 1937 NEC Report on Proposals (proceedings) also had a detailed table of contents aligned with the structure mentioned above, which eventually became Section 90.3.

At this time, the Electrical Committee handled all content in the Code as a single committee with members being assigned to various portions of the document. Eventually, the Electrical Committee was divided into subcommittees that evolved into Code -Making panels. Each was assigned responsibilities that rendered the workload manageable. The Electrical Committee became the NEC Technical Correlating Committee, with responsibility for oversight of the then-formed Code -Making Panels. The Correlating Committee monitors the Code -Making Panels’ work, while ensuring compliance with the association regulations that govern the development of codes and standards.

The following exemplifies how the NEC Correlating Committee functioned then and today. In the 1996—1999 development cycle, the Technical Correlating Committee assigned a special task group to address rules in the NEC above 600 volts (V). Until the 1999 development cycle, Article 710 contained all requirements related to installations and equipment above 600V, and CMP-13 had purview over all of them.

In the 1999 development cycle, actions by CMP-13 and action by the Technical Correlating Committee resulted in deletion of former Article 710 and distributed all of its contained requirements to the appropriate Code -Making Panels that had purview over those installations. The Code benefited by reducing the number of vicious-circle problems created by having to forward requirements to committees for comments and information. The result was the requirements for installations over 600V (now over 1,000V) were placed in the appropriate articles. Articles 110, 240, 250, 300 and 310, all gained the relocated over 600V requirements, and they then became the responsibility of the appropriate Code panel. Also, during this process, Article 490 was formed to contain rules for equipment over 600V. All of this historical information is available in the 1998 NEC Report on Proposals Nos. 13–35, 13–38, 13–42, 13–50 and 1–271 on page 69.

The work of the 1935-1937 Electrical Committee, which resulted in Section 90.3, was significant and timeless and still functions today. This work must be upheld and relied on to maintain the current organizational structure of the NEC . Rules should be revised and incorporated under the established structure in a fashion that allows for effective assignment of purview and correlation.

Although used in many electrical training programs, the NEC is not intended as an instruction manual for untrained people. To change the structure of the NEC for untrained individuals or groups is a serious error, short-sighted and would have significant consequences. Responsible leadership of the Correlating Committee is essential in maintaining steady stewardship and integrity of the Code, while supporting the safe growth of the practical Code rules for the electrical industry in the years to come.

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 chair of the NEC Correlating Committee; chair of the NFPA Electrical Section; and a member of the IBEW, NFPA Education Section and the UL Electrical Council. Reach him at mj...

Stay Informed Join our Newsletter

Having trouble finding time to sit down with the latest issue of
ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR? Don't worry, we'll come to you.