Electrical Contractors' Unique Stake in the National Electrical Safety Code (NESC)

Regardless of what part of the utility industry that they are in, electrical contractors are directly impacted by the National Electrical Safety Code® (NESC®) and its ongoing evolution. The code—from its work practices for employees, including the responsibilities of electrical contractors in relation to those of employers and host employers, to its detailed guidance on grounding, clearance issues, construction strength, and loading—in one way or another bears heavily on the daily work of elecrical contractors.

Now is the time for electrical contractors and any other concerned party to help shape the next, 2017 edition of the NESC. From September 1, 2014, to May 1, 2015, runs a period in which anyone can electronically submit comments on the “Preprint” of proposed changes to the current edition of the code. Ensuring that the NESC remains realistic, practical, and useful and in alignment with new developments, technologies, and challenges in the industry relies on stakeholders across the utility industry seizing their opportunity to provide their opinions and insights.

It is a particularly worthwhile endeavor for electrical contractors because no one has a more valuable perspective or has more at stake in the NESC than those workers with boots on the ground. The ongoing open commentary period is your opportunity to chime in on whether you agree or disagree with the proposed NESC changes and why.


This year marks a major milestone for the NESC: 100 years and counting of successfully working within its scope to help to protect electrical contractors, as well as other utility workers and the public, during the installation, operation, and maintenance of electric supply and communication lines and their associated equipment. In continuous use in the United States since its inception (and increasingly so in a number of countries around the world at least in some fashion), the NESC today ranks as one of the most widely adopted safety codes. See an infographic on the NESC at http://standards.ieee.org/about/nesc/100/index.html.

The NESC applies to systems such as telephone, cable TV, and railroad signal systems at both public and private utilities; outlining basic safety provisions generally for outdoor delivery lines; and associated hardware and equipment. More precisely, the code applies from the point of generation of power or communications or the point of delivery from another entity, to its point of transfer to a premises wiring system.

The NESC is not an instruction manual, but its safety intelligence comes to bear in the work of electrical contractors in a variety of ways. State legislatures, public service commissions (PSCs), and other regulators widely adopt the code in whole or part, providing one primary avenue through which the NESC finds its way into the rules and practices of the power and communication utilities. In addition, the NESC is frequently referenced in apprenticeship programs, all-hands safety meetings, safety manuals, spot checks to ensure regulations are followed, “tailboard discussions,” and other elements of holistic safety programs that have been implemented among utilities. As such, electrical contractors find the safety provisions within the NESC to be pervasive throughout their daily work.


Since 1972, IEEE has served as secretariat of the NESC. The IEEE Standards Association (IEEE-SA) oversees an open, continual process of refinement that plays itself out over five years from the publication of one edition of the code to the publication of the next.

The current step in the process is an eight-month period of open commentary on the Preprint of proposed changes from the current 2012 edition of the code. Proposed revisions and comments received during this time will be considered by the appropriate NESC subcommittees as the refineme