Postponement of Code Adoption Impacts Safety

Postponement of Code Adoption Impacts Safety

This piece was originally published in the August 2018 issue of electroindustry.

Jack Lyons, Northeast Field Representative, NEMA

Several states in the Northeast have not yet adopted the 2017 National Electrical Code® (NEC). The obstacles to adoption—whether administrative, legislative, or regulatory—are frustrating because they postpone the credibility of new products and installation changes that provide safer electrical systems.

The Connecticut Legislative Review Board (LRB), for example, recently sent back to the State Building Inspector (SBI) a report on changes to the State Building Code because it lacked substantiation for the modifications. The SBI’s report contained all the proposed changes that the Codes and Standards Committee (CAS) reviewed and modified over the past two years. The report also reflected changes to the 2015 version of the International Code Council codes (I-Codes) and the 2017 NEC. Although the CAS and SBI’s office will provide the additional information to the LRB, the process will push adoption to October 2018 rather than the original date of July 2018.

Meanwhile, the Rhode Island legislature has before it HB 7773, which would remove the NEC and the Rhode Island Building Codes from a mandate requiring a cost analysis for all state regulations. The governor executed an order and a bill was passed to require such an analysis for all regulatory changes. As the NEMA field rep in the area, I was involved in the technical review of the 2017 NEC, but all the work was postponed because of the cost of performing this analysis and the time involved in locating vendors to do it. HB 7773 passed the House and is now in a Senate committee. The bill focuses on the fire and life safety of building requirements and should not be subject to cost analysis. The analysis is ongoing and the timeline and outcomes are uncertain.

The Maryland legislature has tried over the past two years to promulgate a statewide electrical code. The effort, which has failed passage in committees, would standardize licensing and installation and is tied to statewide licensing for master electricians. The Maryland State Electrical Code is disseminated through the state fire marshal’s office and is for state buildings or counties that do not have a separate code adoption process. Some larger counties are in the process of reviewing and preparing to adopt the 2017 NEC, but there is no timeline to meet it.

The mayor of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, recently signed a bill that would allow the city to adopt several of the 2018 I-Codes and the 2017 NEC for commercial occupancies. A 2017 statute gave Philadelphia the opportunity to jump ahead one cycle of the state’s Uniform Construction Code (UCC), which will be based on the 2015 I-Codes and the 2014 NEC. The statute does not allow Philadelphia to update beyond the 2015 International Residential Code (an I-Code). The adoption date for the city and the state is October 1, 2018. The city will be aligned with the state in 2021 and must enforce the UCC at that time.

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