Serving on a Code Panel Can Boost Your Business
The code making process is not only for those involved in IEC at the national level. Many companies can benefit from working closely to create and change the National Electrical Code® (NEC). I challenge you to take your company to a higher technical level through participation in the code making process of the NEC.
As a manager, you must make plans that result in the achievement of your company’s goals. As a part of a comprehensive plan, you must establish the overall objectives, along with the policies and acceptable minimum standards of performance. Foremost of these abilities will be motivating your staff towards the day-in and day-out actions required to achieve the highest levels of competency. A time proven measure of this will be proficiency in code compliance and excellent execution of the standards as set out in the latest edition of the NEC. This proficiency can be best met through participating in the code making process.
You may ask, “Why should I invest time and resources in participation in the code making process?” Failure to be current on the latest developments and advances in the NEC may lead to missing out on the opportunity to enhance profitability by applying new wiring methods, taking advantage of new design considerations, or improving upon outdated requirements. Not only will your bottom line improve, your customers (general contractors and owners) will know you are an expert in your field.
Secondly, contractual obligations require you to install the work in compliance with the applicable edition of the NEC. You may argue that the design engineer is responsible, however, as the installer, it is ultimately your responsibility to assure the installation is legal and compliant with the applicable standard.
Another reason may be that if you don’t participate in the code making, someone else will. One look at the proliferation of new materials and products introduced each code cycle will show that the manufacturers are hard at work getting their new products into the code. While new products can be helpful, all aspects of the industry should be represented in the process, from the manufacturers to the installers to the business owners.
Finding Your Code Expert
Not every owner of an electrical contracting business will be suited for this work. You may be more valuable to your firm to continue as the leader and manager of the business. Perhaps there is a person in your company for which participation in the process would be a natural next step. Why not identify that resource in your company who already shows a level of competence in code matters or someone who has expressed a desire to grow and develop?
A word of caution though, do not demand of someone something they are not excited or passionate to give. You may have someone in your company who could have a profound and lasting effect upon future generations right under your nose. Do you have someone who teaches at the local IEC chapter? Is there someone on your team that everyone seems to seek out when they have a question about how to do a task or interpret a requirement of the plans or specification? Once you identify what you are seeking, that person will be easy to find. As Napoleon Hill remarked, “When you know what you want, and how you expect to earn it, life will agree to your terms, not the other way around.”
Follow the Leaders
1) Follow the proven path of leadership – find a mentor.
IEC has members on each of the Code Panels. Look at the list on page 17 and see if there is someone you already know. Give them a call and ask for their help. Most will be happy to offer advice and guidance.
2) Contact the IEC National office.
The Vice President of Codes and Standards, John Masarick, can be reached at (703) 549-7351 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org. He can provide you with detailed requirements and apprise you of upcoming opportunities. The Codes and Standards Committee has produced an excellent primer on what to expect, what will be expected of you, and a “how to” guide on the service you are contemplating. Make no mistake – it takes time, effort, and expense to do this voluntary work.
3) Find and follow the code forums available online.
These can be great resources for your own education and in many cases, provide interpretations for questions you may have. You may choose to be a member of a Code Panel in an area of special expertise such as Hazardous Location in Chapter 5 or participate in a more general area, such as wiring methods in Chapter 3. Wherever your interests specifically lie, there is a path to those positions.
Consider becoming involved with the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI) and the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA). These organizations offer a vast array of information beyond the scope of this article. Any and all information you collect and expose yourself to will ultimately prepare you for service to the industry. Remember, what we become in the pursuit of a goal exceeds the attainment of the goal.
Decide today that having a code expert on your team is important. If you are the business owner, that person may not be you. Identify that person and challenge them to do this rewarding work. Establish a value for those who achieve the highest levels of code competency and reward their efforts and continuing professional growth.
In today’s litigious society, don’t let ignorance of the mandatory requirements of the NEC become a liability, undermining years of hard work and considerable risk taken. Commit to the fundamentals of our trade, just like blocking and tackling in football. You will earn the respect of your competition and your customers, along with the practical benefits of participation in the code making process: 1) giving back to the industry, 2) building the highest quality network, and 3) overwhelming satisfaction of being a part of this important component of our business by safeguarding persons and property from hazards arising from the use of electricity.
Ken Hengst is a Senior Project Manager for Walker Engineering, Inc. in Houston, Texas, and a Principal Member of NEC Code Making Panel 8. He serves on the Board of Directors for the IEC Texas Gulf Coast Chapter and has been an IEC Instructor in the Apprenticeship Program and taught exam preparation at the Journeyman and Master level.