The IAEI and the Electrical Inspector

Some members have voiced interest in expanding the scope of associate members of the IAEI in order to give those members a greater role in the operation of the organization. It is felt by some that because the majority of the members are classified as associate members and many of them work very hard for the organization, they should have the right to hold any office, vote on all matters, and represent the IAEI on committees involving other organizations. A previously published article on the value of the associate member emphasizes the importance of that membership and of the work those members do for the IAEI. They serve as members of the Board of Directors at the different levels of the organization and in many cases hold the office of secretary/treasurer, a key position in the operation of the IAEI. Associate members are very important to the success of the IAEI, and membership in the organization is at least equally beneficial to them. Associate members both give to and receive valuable benefits from the IAEI. Those benefits come not from being in a position to control, but by such things as establishing contacts, gaining familiarity with enforcement policy and procedures in local jurisdictions, providing information on products, making inspectors aware of the problems associate members experience in their profession, and enabling inspectors to become more familiar with actual products they will see in the field. Through this type of information exchange, many problems and the costs associated with them have been avoided. A lack of knowledge and the failure to communicate can be very costly.

Associate members of the IAEI include individuals who are electrical contractors, manufacturers representatives, engineers, electricians, utility representatives, etc. These individuals have organizations that represent the interests of their professions and do not have to rely on the IAEI for that purpose. Those organizations represent trades or professions in an effort to serve their interests and achieve their stated goals and they are controlled by the specific interest they represent. As an example, organizations representing electrical contractors, manufacturers, utilities, etc., do not allow those with other interests to serve in leadership roles or in positions of control. By the same token, the IAEI must remain as it is to adequately represent the interest of electrical inspectors.

The IAEI is the only international organization I know of that was established specifically to represent the electrical inspector’s interest. The electrical inspector’s voice and input into the affairs of the industry is vital. Those who formed the IAEI intentionally developed the rules to have inspector member lead the organization. Three stated purposes of the organization as included in the IAEI Articles of Association are directly related to those concerns. They are:

“(a) To cooperate in the formulation of standards for the safe installation and use of electrical materials, devices and appliances.

(c) To promote cooperation between inspectors, the electrical industry and the public.

(e) To represent the Electrical Inspectors in all matters which are dealt with nationally and internationally by the electrical industry.”

How would the IAEI be affected if the Articles of Association and Bylaws were changed to permit associate members to be eligible to hold all offices, to vote on all matters, and to serve on code making panels? It would effectively destroy the IAEI, both in purpose and in objective. How would it do that? Permitting associate members to vote on all matters and to hold all offices would change the organizational structure, objectives, concept, association with other organizations, perception by the public, and would effectively silence the voice of the electrical inspection community.

The IAEI relies heavily on its credibility. Inspectors are proud of their dedication to the development of good electrical codes and the application of those rules for the benefit of the public. The electrical inspector is in a position of trust as a representative of the public in electrical safety and that role must not be compromised. When an official position is taken on a subject, such as a Code proposal, it is the general voice of the inspector because only inspectors are involved in that decision. As an example, when an associate member processes a code proposal through the IAEI and it is endorsed, the submitter of that proposal has shown that a group whose sole interest is electrical safety supports the proposed code change.

Since a majority of IAEI members are not inspectors, it is likely that they would govern the organization if they were permitted to vote on all matters and to hold all offices. The positions of the majority would be supported and those of the minority would be defeated. If inspectors lost control of the operation of the IAEI, it would no longer be an inspector’s organization. It would simply be a broad-based organization representing a variety of segments of the industry. For that type of representation, organizations already exist.

In regards to codes and standards, the IAEI presently is privileged to have a principal and alternate member on all 20 National Electrical Code Code Making Panels. It also has membership on the NEC Technical Correlating Committee, NFPA 79, and several others. Should the IAEI change structure so that it did not specifically represent the inspector, it would lose all of those positions and would forfeit direct participation in the code development process. The IAEI would no longer be classified as an organization of enforcers and would not qualify for those positions. To allow associate members to vote and serve in all levels of elected positions would result in the removal of all IAEI representatives from NEC Code Panels and other committees.

These are just some of the reasons why the IAEI must represent electrical inspectors and remain as a forum which allows that voice to be heard. There is strong support from associate members for the IAEI to remain as it is. Most associate members recognize that it is to their advantage for it to remain so.

I hope this gives a better understanding of why the rules governing the IAEI are as they are and why they must remain so.

Philip Cox
Former IAEI Executive Director, CEO, and Editor-in-Chief for the IAEI News, Philip Cox was formerly employed with the National Electrical Manufacturers Association as a field representative covering a 17-state area. He is a member of NFPA NEC Technical Correlating Committee. He served on Code-Making Panel No. 6, representing IAEI during the Code cycles for the 1984 and 1987 editions of the NEC. He served as chairman of CMP-1, representing the National Electrical Manufacturers Association during the 1996 cycle. He served as acting chairman of CMP-1, representing IAEI for the 1999 cycle and remains as a member of that panel for the 2002 Code cycle. He is a member of NFPA Electrical Section; UL Electrical Council; ITS Technical Advisory Council; and former member of The Chauncey Group International Board of Governors for the National Certification Program for Construction Code Inspectors; and former member of the IEC United States National Committee Executive Committee. He also served as chief electrical inspector for the city of Little Rock, Arkansas, and was secretary to the Little Rock Electrical Examining Board, developing and administering examinations for master, journeyman and specialty electricians. He was appointed as electrical safety coordinator for the Arkansas Department of Labor and administered the Arkansas state electrical licensing law. Cox is past president of the Western Section, IAEI, and served on the IAEI Board of Directors as board member and fifth vice president. He has been involved in the development and presentation of IAEI training programs on both chapter and international level.