Raising the Standard of Quality: Making installation methods and practices uniform

In 1996, when the National Electrical Contractors Association was developing National Electrical Installation Standards (NEIS) for the electrical construction industry, the initial effort included the development of NECA 1, Standard for Good Workmanship in Electrical Construction.

Standardizing various aspects of electrical work establishes a measurable benchmark of quality and workmanship. This was NECA’s primary objective and unwavering inspiration for developing the NEIS for multiple facets of electrical systems and installations addressed in the NEC and other electrical standards. 

Everyone has a different set of personal and business standards they bring to and apply in their work. This is subjective, and “workmanship” is often left in the eye of the beholder, limited by their experience and training. The NEC requires electrical conductors and equipment be installed in a manner that is “neat and workmanlike.” While this is a long-standing requirement, the Code never describes to users exactly what it is or how to accomplish it.

The NEIS set the bar by describing and clarifying “neat and workmanlike” electrical systems, equipment and other installations.

The NEIS are developed under consensus procedures accredited by the American National Standards Institute. ANSI standards are generally regarded as being the “official” U.S. standards on any given subject. Some of the NEIS are developed jointly with other organizations, expert groups and subject matter experts.

More than 40 NEIS have been developed since 1996. These standards cover common aspects of the electrical contracting business, such as installing conduit, switchboards, panelboards, generators, fire alarm systems, optical fiber cable and others. Each contains applicable installation criteria specific to that equipment. 

With NEIS, the electrical installation designs and finished products not only meet applicable minimum codes and standards, they meet the shared expectations of everyone involved including, but not limited to, owners, specifying engineers, electrical contractors and the authorities having jurisdiction. Making installation methods and practices uniform to meet higher criteria creates opportunities for growth and competitive advantages in business. The customer expects quality and dependability from their electrical system. Conforming to NEIS demonstrates a level of commitment and interest by electrical contractors in always providing a quality product and service for customers.

Implementation

One of the more popular uses of NEIS is to reference them in project specifications. This saves specification development and writing time for engineers and designers. Many engineering firms reference the NEIS to ensure a minimum level of performance, quality and integrity in their designs and finished product.

Another common use of the NEIS is to supplement electrical worker training programs. The Electrical Training Alliance has incorporated multiple NEIS into its curriculum to ensure that electrical apprentices learn the value of workmanship early in their careers.

The NEIS are voluntary standards, but have been legally adopted for use in some jurisdictions. They provide details that clarify what constitutes good workmanship in various tasks involved in electrical installations. Section 110.12 and the other NEC rules that address electrical workmanship can be subjective for  Code  enforcement officials, especially if they have little or no experience in the electrical field. The NEIS assist inspectors by describing what the installation should look like and how it should perform to meet this minimum requirement in the  Code . Obviously, the more experience and training one has, the easier it is to determine if an electrical installation is workmanlike in all aspects.

In summary, the NEIS significantly clarify what constitutes good workmanship in electrical construction and provide value to those involved in installing, engineering, designing, specifying and other aspects of the electrical contracting business.

As the electrical industry and technologies advance, so will the NEIS to meet the growing needs of industry professionals in their quest to provide the best service and product for their customers. Visit www.neca-neis.org for full information about the NEIS.

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.