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Keeping Up With Electrical Code Changes

Why staying on top of the latest change proposals to the next edition of the National Electrical Code is important

Gone are the days of waiting for the latest edition of the National Electrical Code (NEC) to be released and then spending an hour or two scanning the document to pick up on the few changes you deem appropriate for the types of projects you typically work on. Advancements in electrical research, safety-related work practices and procedures, and new product/system technology have driven extensive changes on the electrical code front in recent years. Trying to take all of these changes in at one time during an NEC-focused training class can be overwhelming if you have no prior knowledge of any of the items being presented. So if you really want to maintain your expertise on Code requirements — and make those Code change training classes much more enjoyable and understandable — then you need to start tracking all of the steps in the revision process much more closely.

Although the NEC is only officially revised once every three years, the revision process is always in full swing. So no matter what stage of the revision process the standard may be in, there is always an opportunity for you to take part in it and improve your knowledge of the Code — and your expertise level in the electrical field. For example, the NEC Code-Making Panels met last month to review and act on more than 3,550 change proposals submitted to the NFPA as part of the 2014 Code-change cycle. Change proposals were submitted by individuals representing all sectors of the electrical community as well as other interested parties.

At this point in the Code revision process, you can access PDF files posted on the NFPA website under the “Next Edition” header on the NEC Document Information page to see which proposals the Code-Making Panels have recommended to “accept” or “accept in principle.” Studying these proposals now will give you a glimpse of what’s likely to change in the next edition of the Code — and help you better understand why the change is potentially being made. Just keep in mind that these “accepted proposals” must still proceed through several additional steps of the revision process before they are accepted as an official Code change item. Many factors can come into play between now and the final voting stage to derail a currently “accepted” change item. A final Report on Proposals in single document form won’t be available until mid-July.

For an additional electrical code training exercise, I suggest you look north of the U.S. border. Our Canadian friends abide by their own electrical code, which is published by CSA Standards. Although they also adhere to a three-year revision cycle, it’s not in sync with the NEC’s timetable. On February 6, they officially announced availability of the 2012 Canadian Electrical Code (CEC), Part 1. According to CSA, the 2012 CEC includes more than 180 updates and revisions, and this 22nd edition features the most comprehensive set of changes ever. Similar to the 2011 NEC, the 2012 CEC features new and extensively updated sections on renewable energy sources, such as photovoltaic, wind, and hydrokinetic systems. It also includes new and enhanced rules addressing the safety, load calculation, and installation of electric vehicle equipment. Many requirements in the CEC are similar or the same as those found in the NEC. So whether you’re checking out the latest updates to the CEC or weighing the potential change proposals to the next NEC cycle, keeping up with electrical code changes simply makes good sense. It might just be those little tidbits of seemingly trivial knowledge that end up making all the difference in an unexpected application.

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