The National Electrical Code, or NEC, is a commonly used standard for installing various types of electrical equipment. It is one of the older standards that are still in use today, though it has been updated and changed many times over the years. If your workplace installs or maintains any type of electrical equipment, you will likely have to be familiar with the NEC in order to be compliant.
History of the National Electrical Code
The NEC was originally published back in 1897. Due to the regularly changing technologies covered by the NEC, a new update is published every three years. The most recent update came out in 2020. The organization that creates and publishes the NEC consists of many different panels that work together to determine what changes are needed with each release.
Today the NEC is a part of the National Fire Code series. This set of standards is released by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), which is a well-known trade association. The NFPA also sponsors the work that is done on the NEC.
Where the NEC is Used
The NEC is primarily an American organization, but the standards that they develop are used in countries around the world. The NEC standards are not legally required to be followed on their own. Some of their best practices, however, are also incorporated into various OSHA and other regulations, in which case it may be required to follow. In general, however, companies follow the National Electrical Code standards because they have been shown to be so effective over the years.
While these standards are not technically laws, companies may be obligated to follow them in some situations. For example, if a building company fails to follow well known standards (such as those published by the NEC) and something happens that results in the death or injury of a party, they could be held responsible. In some cases, the company could be following best practices published by another organization, but that is not very common. The standards released by the NEC are the most commonly used, and therefore the standard that is most often going to be cited if a lawsuit occurs.
Learning and Following the NEC
Companies that need to follow the NEC will need to understand what sections of it will apply to them. The NEC is published as a book, which is approximately 1000 pages. It is also available electronically for viewing. Given how much information is contained in each version of the NEC, it is easy to see that most companies will only have to worry about specific sections. Determining what requirements apply to your business is an important first step in remaining compliant. The set of codes is broken up into nine chapters, each of which will contain information on a variety of different specific subjects.
Once you have determined what sections apply to the type of work you perform, you will want to provide training to all of your employees who need it. This training will show employees how to safely work with the relevant types of electrical equipment. In most cases, the employees will know the basics of how to do the work but will just need to be shown any specific processes that need to be used in order to be compliant.
Refresher training should also be given to all employees on a regular basis. Of course, every three years when a new version of the NEC is released, new training should be developed and provided to employees. Most organizations and even governmental agencies will not immediately move to the latest version of these standards upon release. Instead, they will take some time to learn more about them before developing the right training processes and putting them into place in their production environments.
Why Follow the NEC?
While some of the NEC standards are requirements in various areas, the vast majority of companies follow these best practices because they are proven to work well. For over 120 years now the NEC has been seen as the organization that publishes the best electrical standards in the industry. Long before there was OSHA or other safety focused governmental agencies, the NEC was followed by companies because of the benefits it provides.
Even long ago, companies recognized the fact that when working with electrical equipment it is important to put safety first. This not only means that when you are installing the equipment you want employees to be safe, but also that the equipment works safely for years to come. The NEC has helped make it easier for companies to avoid various problems and stay up to date with the latest electrical equipment requirements. Today, the NEC continues to keep up with all the rapidly advancing electrical systems and provide excellent information to companies that work with it.