Letters: Reader Feedback

Codes = Safety As one of the authors of The Art of Overcurrent Protection, published by CSE (the series last ran in the early '90s), and as a member of NFPA, IEEE and the International Assn. of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), I remain puzzled by the attitude of far too many engineers toward NFPA and ANSI standards.

12/01/2005


Codes = Safety

As one of the authors of The Art of Overcurrent Protection, published by CSE (the series last ran in the early '90s), and as a member of NFPA, IEEE and the International Assn. of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI), I remain puzzled by the attitude of far too many engineers toward NFPA and ANSI standards.

In Keith Lane's NEC series, which ran in Codes and Standards August through October, he suggests a number of strategies—mostly dealing with selective coordination—that skirt or question current NEC guidelines.

He is not alone. For many years I have observed engineers treat NFPA standards as the enemy. This notion is strange to me in that NFPA standards and codes are true consensus documents. Nearly 280 persons, drawn from every segment of the industry, are involved. These people study the code and spend three years reading every proposed change and the accompanying substantiation. They debate and take testimony; they vote on each proposed change and issue a report on proposals; they solicit further comment; they debate some more until a consensus is reached. A final report is issued and sent to the correlating committee for final acceptance.

My point is this: There is little in previous code revisions that has not been questioned over and over. And code review is in constant motion. For example, multiple chapters of IAEI, which includes 17,000 members from all branches of the electrical industry, meet monthly to consider code issues. Why? To increase safety. In my opinion, it is not the mission of code makers to maximize rental space, to consider that only a few major faults occur or to accept partial selectivity when complete coordination is required. It is not the job of code-making panels to suggest that increasing the instantaneous trip on a circuit breaker is OK for convenience when it may increase arc-flash hazard. It is not the job of the code-making panels or AHJs to accept circuit breakers without instantaneous trip settings unless the short-circuit ratings of equipment being protected can withstand the available fault current for that amount of time. They should—and must—consider the worst case.

Engineers need to remember that all NFPA standards have been developed by the best minds in the industry. Few engineers could hope to stay aware of all of the changes in the industry, be up to date on death and injury statistics, etc. If any engineer has a code or standard issue, every NFPA standard has a procedure for submitting proposals for change. Every proposal will get a fair hearing.

The NEC is an essential part of the safety system. However, the principal thing too many forget is this: No one part of the code is the code. It is to be considered in its entirety.

GEORGE FARRELL, CARY, ILL.





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