Author(s): Jeff Sargent. Published on November 4, 2014.

IN AUGUST, representatives from 12 states visited NFPA for the 2014 National Electrical Code® adoption workshop. Participants were asked to list as many reasons as they could why timely adoption of the NEC is important in their states, and to rank the importance of those reasons. This is particularly important in those areas of the country where forces are working to delay code adoption and amend critical safety requirements.

Improved safety. New, revised, and expanded NEC requirements that push the electrical safety needle forward topped the list. Requirements aimed at safe work practices, new rules that make it safer for firefighters to access roofs covered with photovoltaic panels, and new articles covering equipment not previously addressed by the code are examples of how the fire and shock protection mission of the NEC is dynamic and responsive to a constantly changing landscape.

Maintaining consistency. Participants said this was important in a number of ways, among them consistency with references in other adopted codes; with the NEC adopted in other jurisdictions; with the tendency of the design community to use the most recently developed codes; and in those cases where multiple agencies within the same state have rules or regulations that refer to compliance with the NEC.

Reducing liability. Not following current national standards has the potential to increase liability exposure for all impacted stakeholders—contractors, designers, engineers, and inspectors—where important safety features are not integrated into the design and construction of an electrical system, simply because they were not required by the code currently adopted in a jurisdiction.

Embracing new technology and methods. Rules covering new technology and methods were recognized for a variety of benefits, such as the new NEC article covering suspended ceiling systems that support low-voltage power distribution systems. Without requirements covering systems like these, authorities having jurisdiction are put in the position of having to either grant special dispensation or not accept their use.

Avoiding negative cost impact. The costs associated with skipping code cycles can be numerous. For example, stakeholders can avoid upgrade sticker-shock by adopting a phased-in implementation of new safety equipment, such as arc-fault circuit interrupters, over several code cycles. They can also take advantage of the cost savings achieved through better or alternative methods described in up-to-date editions of the code. Manufacturers can save money by making products that need only comply with the requirements of a single edition of the code.

Keeping up with training. Training programs are updated to correspond with the latest version of the NEC, and skipping a cycle means having to find training, and training materials, covering past editions of the code. This also adds costs.

Promoting economic development. Design options and new installation practices afforded by new or revised requirements in the code can help make the difference in a company’s decision to locate in a certain jurisdiction.

The exercise is already paying dividends. One workshop participant told us that, at a recent meeting of his state’s construction codes council, he reported on what he had learned at the NEC event. When he’d finished his presentation to the codes council, the group voted to move forward with adopting the 2014 NEC even though the body was not obligated to do so by state statute.

The best result of this action is that, once the 2014 edition is adopted and in effect, the citizens of that state will enjoy all of the safety measures and other benefits associated with an electrical code that is current with the industry it regulates.

Jeffrey Sargent is a regional electrical code specialist for NFPA.