I'm often perplexed at what is the most effective method of improving the safety of electrical installations around the world. Should we focus on providing the installation community with better tools, assistance and guidance on installing electrical equipment or should we focus on supporting the inspection community and rely on the AHJ community to ensure that installations are safe upon completion? To me it's a little bit of a chicken and egg paradox. On one hand, better and more thorough enforcement of Code requirements will lead to more installations that meet or exceed the requirements of NFPA 70: National Electrical Code (NEC). But on the flip side, if we focus on helping the installation community, it leads to compliant installations long before the AHJ ever steps foot on a job site.
Each approach presents its own unique set of pros and cons. For instance, creating a culture where inspection is less needed due to better installations opens the door down the road for installers to cut corners where they know inspectors won't look. It also allows government officials to use a "lack of citations" as fuel for discussions around manpower. If a jurisdiction is seriously looking at cutting staff salaries to meet budget constraints, they might look upon this as an opportunity to cover larger territories with less inspectors; after all, the electricians in the area must really know what they are doing when inspectors rarely cite NEC® violations. I think for now the answer lies somewhere in the middle between the two extremes: provide tools, training, and solutions that set installers up to be able to install electrical system while reducing the friction that exists when referencing the NEC. At the same time, provide the inspection community with guidance and training on how to perform electrical inspections and needed guidance on professional qualifications for electrical inspectors.
NFPA has been busy over the last year developing two new documents to provide this needed guidance. NFPA 1078: Standard for Electrical Inspector Professional Qualifications and NFPA 78: Guide on Electrical Inspections were created in response to a call for help from the inspection community. Recently, NFPA’s Jeff Sargent discussed the development of these documents during an NFPA Live Member’s Only event. Here is the portion of the video where he breaks it down.
Simultaneously, NFPA has been busy putting together a plan for how to reduce friction between the NEC and its users. As we all know, the book itself can be difficult to read and understand. Providing training and products that offer a better explanation of code requirements and how to apply provisions of the NEC has been a core focus of NFPA lately. Tools and solutions that both save time and present needed information to the installation community at the time that they need it will work two-fold in improving electrical safety. By making both the installer’s job easier and more efficient, they are able to serve more clients while fostering a better understanding of NEC requirements. When more jobs are being completed by qualified personnel and being completed in compliance with the NEC, the safety of our installations increases significantly.
It is an exciting time here at NFPA as we focus on transitioning a 120-year-old standards development organization to a modern-day information and knowledge provider committed to improving the safety ecosystem and eliminating death, injury, property and economic loss due to fire, electrical and related hazards.