National Electrical Code Articles and Information
Have you ever wondered where the various codes come from? And, have you ever wondered why—if the codes are so good—they undergo revisions? For example, why does the National Electrical Code get revised every three years?
Each industry has its own acknowledged experts. Among these folks are academics, manufacturers, practitioners (trades or professional), and regulatory people. These experts volunteer to serve on panels or committees that decide on standards.
Some of these standards are codifed into semi-legal documents or documents which municipalities or other bodies use as the basis of their laws pertaining to how work must be done in a given industry. In most code books, you will see a listing of who helped write that particular code book. Those folks may be called "code panel members" or have some other reference made to them.
The code-making process isn’t perfect. Many of the folks have their own agendas. For example, manufacturers naturally want to ensure the standards don’t exclude their products.
In many cases, the technical representatives of these manufacturers believe so strongly in their own products that they feel the codes should lean toward use of those products. This isn’t a bad thing—it just needs to be tempered by third parties. And, that tempering often results in some pretty tough meetings. In some cases, compromises come about. In other cases, a beneficial change doesn’t get made in that code cycle because the manufacturers weren’t able to make a strong enough logical case. In the next go around, the politics on a particular issue are likely to have cooled and a beneficial change gets made. This is why codes get revised and why some codes get revised on a regular schedule. People aren’t perfect, but everyone tries to make the system work.
In most code-making bodies, the panel members accept "change nominations," "change submittals," or "code proposals" from within their industry. These suggestions for a change then get deliberated and decided upon. Often, a trades person will submit a suggestion that describes a way to fix a problem. The panel may see the problem as clearly needing fixing, but disagree with the trades person and among themselves on how best to prevent or solve that problem. A solution in the very next code cycle might prove quite effective, or it may produce other problems that then require changing that solution in the next cycle.
How can you suggest a code change for your industry? Look in the front or back of the appropriate code book, and in most of these books you’ll see some contact information and a procedure for submitting changes. If you don’t see such information, you will at least see contact information. Follow up by sending in a suggestion that follows these steps:
How can you serve on a code-making panel? First, you need to have some established expertise. Here are some ways people recognize expertise:
If you understand how the code making process works, you understand these codes don’t come out of thin air or represent some guru’s opinion. Very few, if any, participants in the process take their contribution lightly. Spending time as one of them can be deeply rewarding.