Are the Electrical Safety Codes under Fire?

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If I told you a group across the United States and Canada is lobbying to remove requirements pertaining to proven life safety devices from the Codes, would you be shocked? Would you be surprised that this same organization would like to see codes adopted on a six-year cycle compared to the current three-year cycle?

Don’t be shocked.

Unfortunately, this is happening in many jurisdictions across the US and recently in Canada. A particular incident that stands out for me was receiving a request from one of our chapters. There was a proposal that was submitted to the state officials to remove GFCIs, AFCIs and tamper-resistance receptacles from their state code. The IAEI International Office, the local IAEI Chapter and members of the Electrical Code Coalition wrote letters to express their concerns and opposition to this preposterous proposal. Thankfully the proposal did not pass mainly due to the strong arguments and facts presented by IAEI and the Coalition.

As I stated earlier, proposals to remove AFCIs from the Safety Codes are not uncommon; rather, they are occurring on a regular basis both at state, provincial, territories and municipal levels. I have written numerous letters opposing such amendments. Our chapters have attended hearings to voice their opposition and to present the factual information regarding the cost and safety benefits of these safety devices.

So what is the motive behind such requests? Money! Overstated cost is most often presented during these hearings along with statements that the technology has not been proven or has not resulted in the reduction of shock and fire hazards.

Requirements for arc-fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs), ground-fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs) and tamper-resistance receptacles have been codified within the National Electrical Code® (NEC®) and the  Canadian Electrical Code, Part 1 (CE Code) for a number of years because they mitigate hazards associated with the use of electricity. The rationale supporting the inclusion of the requirements to install these safety devices is not simply compelling, but it is based on electrical accidents and fire data. The use of these devices minimizes tragedies, severe injuries, and extensive property loss.

IAEI has a strong and respective voice in the electrical industry; however, it can be difficult at times to convince those parties responsible for oversight of code regulations within their jurisdictions to listen to our concerns. This is due either to not knowing who we are and what we stand for or that we are not speaking on behalf of the electrical industry. However, strength is in numbers, a reason IAEI is a member of the Electrical Code Coalition. The Coalition is an industry group that supports electrical safety through the adoption of the National Electrical Code, product certification by qualified testing laboratories, electrical installations performed by qualified contractors and installers, and electrical inspection by qualified electrical inspectors. Even though the Coalition is US-based, IAEI supports the same principals and mission in Canada.

So what does IAEI support?

  • Adopting the latest edition of the Codes on a three-year cycle to ensure that the Code requirements take into account the latest in technology and safety.
  • The uniform adoption of the latest edition across jurisdictions, which will help open up opportunities for inspectors, contractors, electricians to work in other jurisdictions as they will be trained and proficient on the same code.
  • Continual improvements to the codes that will protect person and property from fire and shock hazards.

IAEI will continue our fight and speaking out against those promoting the removal of safety requirements that have been proven to save lives and property, and IAEI will continue to support the updating of Codes in a timely manner.

IAEI was one of the founding members of the Electrical Code Coalition, which was established in 1996. To learn more about the Electrical Code Coalition, visit http://www.electricalcodecoalition.org/

 

David Clements is CEO of IAEI

 

Follow Dave on Twitter@DavidEClements

 

 

 

About the Author

David Clements is CEO/Executive Director of IAEI. He has been an active IAEI member at the local, section and national levels for more than twenty-five years. He served as international board member from 1995 until 2007 when he served as our 2007 international president. In 2010, he retired after twenty-nine years with Nova Scotia Power, in Halifax, Nova Scotia, as their chief electrical inspector. During his tenure as chief electrical inspector, he was a voting member on the Canadian Standards Association (CSA), Technical Committee on the Canadian Electrical Code, Part I, a member of the Regulatory Authority Committee and member of the Canadian Advisory Committee on Electrical Safety. He has served on NFPA Smart Grid Steering Committee, Electrical Infrastructure Training Program and is presently a member of the UL Electrical Council.