NEIS: Enforcement Tools for Code Officials

Since 1997, the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) has been publishing a series of National Electrical Installation Standards™. There are currently eleven NEIS™ in print (see sidebar). Other documents in progress include installation standards on panelboards, busways, transformers, motors, wiring devices, hazardous (classified) locations, industrial heat tracing, telecommunications, and temporary power systems for construction sites. NECA plans to publish five new standards each year.

NEIS define what is meant by installing electrical products and systems in a “neat and workmanlike” manner, as required in NEC Section 110-12 and six other places. Everything in NECA’s installation standards complies with the National Electrical Code (NFPA 70-1999). However, because they are quality standards for electrical construction, NEIS also contain additional requirements that go beyond, and extend, the minimum safety requirements of the NEC.

National Electrical Installation Standards are written primarily to be referenced by consulting engineers, in bid documents and specifications for electrical construction projects. Doing this turns them into a resource that code officials can use when inspecting and approving electrical installations.

As Atlanta chief electrical inspector Leon Dover explains, “the way NEIS standards become enforceable is through the plan review process. Once we’ve reviewed and approved the plans and specs for a building, then everything in them — including any industry standards referenced — become an official part of what the inspector will be looking at on the job site with a view toward compliance. So when engineers reference these National Electrical Installation Standards in project specifications, that definitely makes them enforceable by code officials.”

Regulatory Adoption of NEIS

Miami-Dade County [Florida] became the first U.S. governmental entity to approve NEIS for regulatory use, at the end of 1999. (See the May 2000 issue of IAEI News for more background on this issue.)

John Travers, chief electrical inspector for the city of Hialeah, was involved in the successful effort to adopt NEIS into the South Florida Building Code as official references for methods of construction. More recently, he explained how this came about.

“We’d had a deterioration in what we consider workmanship in this area over the last 15 years. This was largely due to the competitive nature of the construction market, and the quality of the workforce. But also, it was partly due to an easing of regulatory requirements by the state.”

For more than 50 years, Florida had licensing of journeymen electricians. But this was repealed in 1998, and the state prohibited counties and cities from imposing competency or licensing requirements. The requirement for journeyman ratios on jobsites was also repealed.

“So we couldn’t do anything about licensing,” Travers recalls. “But we did manage to insert a phrase in the South Florida Building Code requiring that electrical installations be performed in a ‘neat and workmanlike manner,’ the same language that also appears in the NEC. This was better than nothing, but since there were no specific workmanship requirements spelled out, it basically left inspectors free to shoot from the hip. When the NEIS came along, I saw an opportunity to adopt these standards to explain what was actually meant by installing electrical equipment in a neat and workmanlike manner. I tried to make them work for us, to help solve our problem.”

Another jurisdiction currently considering the National Electrical Installation Standards for regulatory use is the city of Laurel, Maryland. As in south Florida, one of the primary reasons behind this inspector-led effort is a concern with declining workmanship.

According to electrical code consultant Art Hesse, “the NECA standards are good because so many people in the field have different understandings of what ‘neat and workmanlike’ means, based on their own varying levels of training and experience.

“And there’s another important layer to these NEIS standards — maintenance and special procedures. A lot of people wouldn’t really know what to do in case of a meltdown or ground fault. But these standards tell you what to check and what work needs to be performed before it’s safe to turn the power back on. The NEIS manuals fill an important void in that respect,” Hesse observes.

John Travers, who serves as director of codes and education for IAEI’s Miami-Dade Division, concurs. “The level of competence on electrical work has gone way down. We, the electrical inspectors, now work for every single electrical contractor out there. In effect, we’ve become their quality control officers.

“It used to be that most electricians and contractors had pretty much the same background, so you could count on them to follow a lot of the same practices on jobs. Now that’s not true anymore. Since we don’t have journeyman licensing, you have people with all different backgrounds and training — including almost none at all — out there wiring up buildings.

“The NEIS standards can help us with this by providing a reference that defines electrical construction techniques. And some of these standards have additional clout because of the other groups that participate in developing them.”

ANSI-Approved Industry Standards

Although they are published by NECA, National Electrical Installation Standards are developed in cooperation with other organizations and technical societies. For example, the three lighting installation standards were all jointly developed with the Illuminating Engineering Society of North America. Other organizations with which NECA is currently developing joint NEIS include:

  • The Aluminum Association
  • BICSI (telecommunications installers association)
  • Electrical Generating Systems Association (EGSA)
  • Fiber Optic Association (FOA)
  • National Electrical Manufacturing Association (NEMA)
  • Steel Tube Institute (STI)

Working with other industry expert groups is NECA’s preferred method of developing National Electrical Installation Standards, for several reasons. It results in better, more technically accurate standards; and the final published documents have better acceptance from specifiers, users, and inspectors.

NEIS are also submitted for approval by the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), the same as the National Electrical Code, National Fire Alarm Code, Life Safety Code, and other regulatory standards. Electrical inspectors and code officials take part in the ANSI letter ballots for NECA’s installation standards.

Because of the close coordination between the NEIS and National Electrical Code, Code-Making Panels and other NFPA technical committees participate in the ANSI approval process for NEIS. There are also a number of chief electrical inspectors and other code officials who vote on ANSI letter ballots for National Electrical Installation Standards.

National Electrical Installation Standards

The following NEIS are in print and available for use at this time. Most are approved as American National Standards:

NECA 1-2000 — Standard Practice for Good Workmanship in Electrical Contracting (ANSI)

NECA 100-1999 — Symbols for Electrical Construction Drawings (ANSI)

NECA 101-2001 — Standard for Installing Steel Conduits (Rigid, IMC, EMT)

NECA/AA 104-2000 — Recommended Practice for Installing Aluminum Building Wire and Cable (ANSI)

NECA/FOA 301-1997 — Standard for Installing and Testing Fiber Optic Cables

NECA 400-1998 — Recommended Practice for Installing and Maintaining Switchboards (ANSI)

NECA 402-2000 — Recommended Practice for Installing and Maintaining Motor Control Centers (ANSI)

NECA/EGSA 404-2000 — Recommended Practice for Installing Generator Sets (ANSI)

NECA/IESNA 500-1998 — Recommended Practice for Installing Indoor Commercial Lighting Systems (ANSI)

NECA/IESNA 501-2000 — Recommended Practice for Installing Industrial Lighting Systems (ANSI)

For more information about NEIS, please contact NECA Codes and Standards or visit the NEIS website. There is also a free quarterly NEIS Newsletter that inspectors can subscribe to:

NECA Codes and Standards
3 Bethesda Metro Center Suite 1100
Bethesda, MD 20814
(301) 215-4521, (301) 215-4500 Fax

Brooke Stauffer
Brooke Stauffer was the director of codes and standards for the National Electrical Contractors Association (NECA) in Bethesda, Maryland.