The National Electrical Manufacturers Association Field Representatives Program promotes the use and adoption of the National Electrical Code and monitors regional developments of importance to the electrical manufacturing industry. Electrical inspectors can rely on the field representatives’ expertise to interpret how the Code applies to specific installations and to provide a direct link to manufacturers, which is critical to getting quick resolution on installation-related issues. Philip Cox, retired IAEI chief executive officer and executive director, as well as a former NEMA field representative, said one of the best attributes of the field representative is the ability to resolve problems between manufacturers and electrical inspectors.
“If an inspector has difficulty with a company, the field representative knows exactly how to address the problem and can get both parties together to work it out,” said Cox. “Field representatives add value by being able to recognize a problem before it occurs. The field representatives’ contribution to the association and the industry is immeasurable in dollars. Their work in the field often goes unseen.”
By participating in the meetings of code enforcement officials (electrical and building), as well as those of other organizations, field representatives can establish lines of communications between stakeholders and clarify policies and practices related to the installation of electrical equipment. Their knowledge of installation requirements and familiarity with the players involved puts them in an ideal position to advocate for adoption of NEC by local and state jurisdictions.
“The representatives attend the code-making sessions to evaluate whether the codes will affect NEMA members and provide unbiased reports to NEMA,” said Cox. “Because the representatives are former inspectors, their experience with the Code enables them to provide well-rounded answers, give suggestions on language, and review proposals. They have a very supportive role in the code-making process.”
In addition to their involvement with the NEC, field representatives track the progress of state and local laws and regulations bearing on energy use, the environment, and product certification. They take action when necessary. In 2003, for example, the Texas legislature adopted the Electrician’s Occupations Code, requiring the licensing of all electrical workers with one exemption, i.e., “work involved in the manufacture of electrical equipment.” Regulatory and enforcement staff of the Texas Department of Licensing and Regulation (TDLR) interpreted this to mean that “in the field work” would require the licensing of anyone working on, repairing, retrofitting, or performing maintenance on electrical equipment. This would require, in turn, that electrical equipment manufacturers be registered with the state as electrical contractors and employ at least one licensed master level electrician who would be responsible for all installations. More importantly, manufacturer technicians working on such equipment would be required to be registered at least as an apprentice electrician, thus virtually eliminating short time turnaround on warranty repairs.
NEMA’s Southern Field Office representative and several manufacturers provided public testimony against this definition, contending that it would prevent electrical manufacturers from performing work traditionally done prior to the enactment of the mandatory statewide licensing law. Even though the advisory board subsequently removed certain words from the definition, the coalition was determined to gain a clear exemption for electrical manufacturers and launched an ambitious lobbying campaign.
The result? Swayed by the convincing argument of the coalition, the TDLR adopted an amendment to the Texas Administrative Code that continues to protect the citizens of Texas from unsafe electrical installations without upsetting decades old electrical industry practices. Had the coalition not been successful, manufacturers would have had to comply with the Texas electrician’s licensing law or would have had to completely change their business models and practices, proven safe and successful for many decades.
In another case, the Northeast field representative, working on behalf of NEMA’s Personnel Protection section, lobbied Massachusetts’ officials to withdraw a proposed amendment to the NEC on replacement receptacles. The Board of Fire Prevention Regulations ultimately voted to withdraw the amendment, which would have provided an exemption to the requirement for ground-fault circuit interrupters in certain circumstances.
The West Coast field representative worked to defeat California legislation that would restrict the installation of conduit for fire alarm systems by fire alarm installers. The Midwest office helped defeat Colorado legislation that would have overturned the adoption of the 2002 NEC. Field representative testimony, along with that of others, resulted in the state maintaining existing laws, requiring the adoption of the current NEC every three years.
IAEI benefits from NEMA’s field representative program as well. IAEI often calls on the NEMA field representatives to conduct workshops and technical presentations to educate professionals from the inspection and installation industry.
“The importance of the field representative program to IAEI is that they provide a liaison between the enforcing agencies and manufacturers. The better informed the enforcer is about the products, the better he can enforce code rules,” said Cox. “While at IAEI, one of my major goals was to help manufacturers understand the inspector obligation to enforce the code, their dedication to safety, and to ensure safe installation of products, according to the Code. I also wanted the inspector to understand the role of the manufacturer in the development and production of materials and products and the problems they face. Inspectors must be aware that the manufacturer has constraints and cannot change things on the spur of the moment and that good justification should exist before a change is required. The field representatives create a relationship of trust between the manufacturer and the inspector. The enforcing agencies can rely on NEMA for good information and support. NEMA members are proud of their products and they can depend on the field representative program to help them continue to produce quality products that are safe and effective to the consumer.”