Who’s Got the Power?

Who has the final say when there’s a Code conundrum?

In Art. 100 of the 2014 National Electrical Code (NEC), the term Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) is defined as “An organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure.”

It’s inevitable. During the course of an engineering/construction project, codes and standards issues will arise that must be settled by the AHJ. Therefore, it’s important at the beginning of any project that the AHJ(s) be identified by agency/organization and preferably by the person’s name. For residential and light commercial projects within a governmental jurisdiction, such as a city or state, the governmental inspector will most likely be the primary AHJ. For large industrial facilities, many times located outside of a local governmental jurisdiction, identifying the AHJ can be more challenging. For most industrial plants in the United States, the primary AHJ is typically the owner company and its appointed engineer(s).

While everyone on the project — from the consulting engineering firm to the construction contractor — has liability for the work being performed, the AHJ plays other vital roles. From providing project specifications (if the AHJ is the client) to approving design drawings to inspecting the final installation, the AHJ is ultimately responsible for a safe, code-compliant installation. For petrochemical plants, the owner company will most likely be the primary AHJ. But in the U.S., there are also federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) regulations and agency inspectors that must be considered.

OSHA has the authority to enforce its federal regulations at any facility in the country. Some states, such as Alaska, have their own OSHA programs and have opted out of the federal program. It’s important to be familiar with the OSHA program where the job is being constructed and to conform to their regulations during the design phase of the project. OSHA 29 CFR, Part 1910, Subpart S is where you can find general electrical requirements. And, OSHA 29 CFR, Part 1926, Subpart K applies to electrical applications on construction sites. The full text of OSHA regulations can be found at www.osha.gov. There is no cost for the online version.

In summary, while the local AHJ has a lot of authority, in the end they can be overridden by OSHA inspectors and OSHA regulations. This is important to keep in mind, especially in cases where NEC special permission or waivers have been granted by the local AHJ.

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