State Of The NFPA

Josh111

Senior Member
Location
USA
I personally think there is a growing problem in the code development process with the amount of self serving that's leading to a less relevant document.

Each cycle, there's more informational notes that really amount to commercial breaks in the NEC to sell more standards. Think about how many times the NEC repeatedly has informational notes for NFPA 70E, for example. I mean, if care to know just 1 note in article 110 will be enough. It makes it a document with less relevant material per page.

I also think there's too many engineers on the committees, making requirements that will require more studies for simple installations that most contractors can't do. I think these engineers should instead be working to standardize products and applications instead of doing what they are doing. Just like we have tables for ampacity, we should be doing more studies to standardize tables for new things they are requiring, for instance arcing current in 240.87.

It also seems like we have more and more manufacturers submitting public inputs in the name of safety just to drive more business to themselves.

I think they should make a change: just like they want to make sure there is even representation of manufacturers, utilities, insurers, inspectors, contractors, etc; I think they should have at least 1 non-leadership level, average journeyman electrician on each committee. In general, I think they need more electricians and less big industry representatives.
 
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tortuga

Code Historian
Location
Oregon
Occupation
Electrical Design
Josh111 the funny thing about the NEC is that its copyrighted (c) material owned by the NFPA. But then it becomes a public law, as it gets adopted by reference.
There results this odd tension around this.
An author like the NFPA gains ‘exclusive rights’ in their work "immediately upon the work’s creation” (quoting 17 U.S.C. § 106)).
It is only once a jurisdiction subsequently incorporates a privately authored standard (NEC) that government makes
any decisions vis-à-vis the already created and copyrighted expressive work.
At that point, though, the state should require, by law, the standard remove its copyright.
see

What interests me is the way the RFC standards (codes) that run the internet are in the public domain, and can't be copyrighted


The 'internet' works just fine without a NFPA owning all the standards, so I see no value in the NFPA owning the current electrical code in 2021.
The thing to do would be make a copy of the last NEC that was not owned by the NFPA (1968?) and make a public domain electrical code panel to ammend it up to a modern standard , keep it in the public domain like the RFC internet standards and get a state to adopt it.
They way to do force this is to get your state legislature / governor to pass a bill banning codes that are not in the public domain and banning adopting standards by reference that are not in the public domain.
Cheers
 
I personally think there is a growing problem in the code development process with the amount of self serving that's leading to a less relevant document.

Each cycle, there's more informational notes that really amount to commercial breaks in the NEC to sell more standards. Think about how many times the NEC repeatedly has informational notes for NFPA 70E, for example. I mean, if care to know just 1 note in article 110 will be enough. It makes it a document with less relevant material per page.

I also think there's too many engineers on the committees, making requirements that will require more studies for simple installations that most contractors can't do. I think these engineers should instead be working to standardize products and applications instead of doing what they are doing. Just like we have tables for ampacity, we should be doing more studies to standardize tables for new things they are requiring, for instance arcing current in 240.87.

It also seems like we have more and more manufacturers submitting public inputs in the name of safety just to drive more business to themselves.

I think they should make a change: just like they want to make sure there is even representation of manufacturers, utilities, insurers, inspectors, contractors, etc; I think they should have at least 1 non-leadership level, average journeyman electrician on each committee. In general, I think they need more electricians and less big industry representatives.
I fully agree. I will just say also that states need to more carefully vet the code instead of just blindly adopting it (Yes a few make changes, but very few).
 

jmellc

Senior Member
Location
Durham, NC
Occupation
Facility Maintenance Tech. Licensed Electrician
My best understanding is that a copyright is to protect the financial interest of the writer. NFPA is supposedly a group organized in the interest of public safety. Maybe that was their original goal but I think their main goal now is selling books. If a document is law, anyone should be free to copy & distribute it.
 

infinity

Moderator
Staff member
Location
New Jersey
Occupation
Journeyman Electrician
I fully agree. I will just say also that states need to more carefully vet the code instead of just blindly adopting it (Yes a few make changes, but very few).
I agree too, here in NJ we're typically about 3 years behind in adopting the latest code version and that gives the powers that be time to review and amend as they see fit. As you've stated that process needs to dive even deeper into the amendments. We did not adopt AFCI protection for two code cycles because of all of the problems with them in the beginning.

Regarding the OP my biggest complaint about the current NEC process is the number of code changes that get by with little or no substantiation. Many of these changes are of it generated by a profit motive and are less about safety.
 

mbrooke

Batteries Included
Location
United States
Occupation
Technician
The entire NEC can be reduced to a few single equations and a few simple tables that anyone can understand.

The rest is nothing more than a marriage of denial and marketing hubris.
 

Josh111

Senior Member
Location
USA
The entire NEC can be reduced to a few single equations and a few simple tables that anyone can understand.

I’m not sure my belief goes that far. I think there are a number of cases for instants with things like wiring methods where it really isn’t able to be reduced to tables and equations. But I think your statement definitely is applicable to a lot of what gets put into the code, especially recently.
 

mbrooke

Batteries Included
Location
United States
Occupation
Technician
I’m not sure my belief goes that far. I think there are a number of cases for instants with things like wiring methods where it really isn’t able to be reduced to tables and equations. But I think your statement definitely is applicable to a lot of what gets put into the code, especially recently.


Sure they can, the rules themselves are derived from a few simple equations- I2R, F=MA, Delta T/T2, ect.

The most complex aspects like chemical composition of the given materials used is already done for you.
 

tortuga

Code Historian
Location
Oregon
Occupation
Electrical Design
My best understanding is that a copyright is to protect the financial interest of the writer. NFPA is supposedly a group organized in the interest of public safety. Maybe that was their original goal but I think their main goal now is selling books. If a document is law, anyone should be free to copy & distribute it.
Exactly the biggest problem is they are in a push to 'publish' a new standard every 3 years and they have a financial interest in making as many changes as possible.
 

Josh111

Senior Member
Location
USA
Exactly the biggest problem is they are in a push to 'publish' a new standard every 3 years and they have a financial interest in making as many changes as possible.
I think it would be better if they would go to a five-year cycle. Some people think that this means that electrical safety would suffer. I personally don’t think that it means that. If during the five-year development cycle a few safety issues arise that need to be more quickly resolved, states have the power to adopt their own amendments. I actually think it might be better for safety to have a 5 year cycle because instead of going back-and-forth and changing verbiage to supposedly clarify things every three years and creating more confusion in the process they might be able to create a better standard.

If they were on a five-year cycle more people would have experience with implementing the new version before the closing of public input stage due to its having been adopted. This would mean more every day electrical stakeholders having exposure and being more able to submit actually substantiated public inputs. This would make for a better standard. Instead they have this hyper-development schedule where mostly large enterprise (and the retired of course) very many times are involved in what the new code version says because everyone else is busy working and it has not yet been adopted for their work.
 

tortuga

Code Historian
Location
Oregon
Occupation
Electrical Design
Josh the revenue of the NFPA varies around
$91,022,552 - $81,323,132 per year
The president of the NFPA makes $760,000 - $1,013,092


I have been to the NFPA HQ in Quincy its nice.


Now I dont have a problem with people getting paid to do work.
The problem is they see the NEC copyright and NEC changes as a way to secure that funding.

What interests me is these 'modern' hi tech foundations like Mozilla whom sponsor the Firefox web browser use the 'General Public license' or GPL

Mozilla is able to maintain their copyright to their intellectual property, yet give it away for free and they also fund-raise plenty of money:

I think something like the GPL or creative commons license should be a requirement for state building codes and standards, then anyone could publish the book and it would be easier for all to access the information and participate in the process of creating it.
 

hbiss

EC, Westchester, New York NEC: 2014
Location
Hawthorne, New York NEC: 2014
Occupation
EC
Don't remember if this was asked and answered before: every state that adopts the NEC must have to "buy" it from the NFPA. It's copyrighted work and just like if I wanted to use some music in my business or some stock photos on my website or catalog, I would have to pay for the right to do so.

I can see where this could lead the NEC to frequently come up with new additions as frequently as states will buy them. Kind of like new car models every year- with little being changed.

-Hal
 

jim dungar

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Wisconsin
Occupation
Retired Electrical Engineer - Power Systems
The NEC is available for free from the NFPA website, what more do you want?
Why is it wrong to have to pay for convience? People have always been willing to pay for a hard handbook even when the small softcover version was offered free by distributors and trade associations.

Aren't the majority of NFPA standards, not just the NEC, on a 3 year reissue cycle?

I have known manufacturers, contractors, and users that have been on NEC code making panels, they have all blamed each other for unpopular code changes.
 

paulengr

Senior Member
I think it would be better if they would go to a five-year cycle. Some people think that this means that electrical safety would suffer. I personally don’t think that it means that. If during the five-year development cycle a few safety issues arise that need to be more quickly resolved, states have the power to adopt their own amendments. I actually think it might be better for safety to have a 5 year cycle because instead of going back-and-forth and changing verbiage to supposedly clarify things every three years and creating more confusion in the process they might be able to create a better standard.

If they were on a five-year cycle more people would have experience with implementing the new version before the closing of public input stage due to its having been adopted. This would mean more every day electrical stakeholders having exposure and being more able to submit actually substantiated public inputs. This would make for a better standard. Instead they have this hyper-development schedule where mostly large enterprise (and the retired of course) very many times are involved in what the new code version says because everyone else is busy working and it has not yet been adopted for their work.

I partly agree. NESC (IEEE C2) is one of the few IEEE documents that has a fixed cycle of 5 years. Even after the testing was done it took years for IEEE 1584 to get voted on for final approval. There was nearly 20 years between the 2001 and most recent edition. Similar issues have happened with other standards and even more mundane things like computer software. The best way to avoid stagnation and letting things get bogged down in committees is by having a fixed time table. NFPA has required 3 or 6 years for most of their standards.

The problem right now is two fold. The first is that we have manufacturers sitting on committees voting on whether or not a new product is a good idea. Almost by definition they shouldn’t even be allowed to vote. Similarly we have engineers doing the same thing. If anything it should be obvious that the problem is too many partisans that are able to manipulate the system. This has resulted in many really bad or at least unsubstantiated and expensive ideas creeping into the Code. In my opinion NFPA is creeping ever closer to the point where aggressive AGs are going to dig into them.

Similarly we have a problem over on the engineering side. There has been a battle brewing for years not only with engineering but all trades. Are you seriously telling me you need a special college degree and pass a test and pay a license fee to cut hair? Licensing boards have become far too strong for all professions and it has become nothing but a scam, electricians and engineers included. At one time when things were just getting started the first president of the AIME (what became IEEE) wasn’t even an engineer. At that time AIME and SME (mining engineering) promoted developing standards and promoting education for the public good. Their engineers for the most part worked within various manufacturing and other businesses. The ASCE (civil engineers) on the other hand represented a group that wanted to put themselves up on a pedestal, banning everyone else from practicing engineering (literally doing simple arithmetic or looking things up in tables in many cases). They were all about the money and felt they should be a protected group like doctors and lawyers. And the battle still goes on today. Most recently the NCEES has been heavily pushing efforts to sue anyone and everyone they deem to be doing engineering without a license. Recently for example in Oregon they went after a mathematician because he claimed when they put in red light cameras the traffic engineers purposely adjusted the light timing so fast that it was physically impossible to stop in time. He beat them in court because essentially his crime wasn’t practicing engineering without a license but doing unauthorized arithmetic.

And to some value points, two of the big “gotchas” in terms of required engineering studies are short circuit studies and arc flash studies, and the two go hand in hand. The problem with short circuit isn’t that an average licensed electrician can’t do it. There are lots of seemingly simple methods out there. A basic example is the “infinite bus” method of calculating short circuit on a transformer secondary. The calculation is simply kVAx1000/(Volts x 1.732 if it’s 3 phase or 1 if it’s not) / (%Z/100). You can also include feeders and other things with the point-by-point method published by Cooper-Bussman which truly makes it a simple calculation. But there’s a catch: inductive loads (motors and generators) become SOURCES during a short circuit. This simple calculation misses this fact. For 30 cycle equipment it is less of an issue but with 3 cycle equipment it can be a significant factor. This is where engineering software and knowing how to use it matters. And at that point, might as well just pay the fees. There are some rules of thumb though. If no motors exceed 25 HP you can effectively ignore this (not enough inductance to matter).

Aside from this issue the problem with using the infinite bus calculation is that it is often wildly off and produces very high results. It’s one thing if the calculation says you need 25 kA AIC or even 35 kA. But the price goes way up on 65 or 100 kA equipment. So this is where an engineer can actually reduce costs on a job.

Realistically the ANSI method was developed way back when we used slide rules instead of calculators and spreadsheets. It is easily possible to still do this with a spreadsheet and a little knowledge. Expensive engineering software is convenient but not absolutely necessary.

Second major area is arc flash. This one is much harder to solve. Currently NFPA gives you two options. You can use the tables in 70E but then it has all kinds of “gotcha” clauses about arcing current and trip times that are essentially impossible to answer. Or use the engineering approach which means use IEEE 1584. The current calculation method is not too terrible. It is long, tedious, and needs spreadsheets but it can be done. Aside from some basic equipment data the key problem
Input is the short circuit current. Everything else is fairly straightforward.

But wait, we can just use the infinite bus calculation or ANSI method, right? Well not so fast. With short circuit ratings we don’t care about accuracy as long as we don’t undersize the equipment. If we calculate 20 kA and the real short circuit is say 15 kA that’s not a problem but would be a big problem if it was 25 kA. All the short cuts result in higher short circuit currents. So it works for short circuits.

Logically we would expect that if we overestimate currents for arc flash we just get overestimated arc flash energy. But that’s not what happens. At the first step in the calculation we calculate the arcing current which is essentially a percentage of the short circuit current. Then we look up how fast a fuse or breaker will trip with the known arcjng current. Finally we use these two pieces of information and some others to calculate the thermal energy from the arc. If the short circuit current is overestimated something curious happens. If the breaker trips due to an instantaneous setting then as we would expect, the overestimate results in higher thermal energy. If the arcing current is low enough that the breaker is operating on its thermal (inverse time) curve, if the arcing current is overestimated then the arcing time goes down. BUT the increase in current is not enough to overcome the decrease in time. The result is that the overestimated arcjng thermal energy is underestimated rather than overestimated. Often by a large amount. Thus current practice is to estimate arc flash with the most accurate calculations available. Thus means getting as close to an accurate short circuit result as possible with NO short cuts.

Mind you it can still be done. But as an example all impedances in AC consist of a resistance and a reactance. With larger cables in power distribution (starting around #6-8) the reactance dominates. To simplify things the typical ANSI method simply drops resistance and does all calculations with reactance. So instead of complex numbers we work in simple algebra. Under predicting impedances results in higher short circuit predictions but as I said already this is not a problem for short circuit estimation but is a big problem for arc flash. IEC does similar things. You can still optionally do the full calculation with either method but what engineers call the “ANSI” method is the method designed for slide rules. Most computer programs call the full calculation the “comprehensive” method.

Neither calculation requires an engineer. In fact most engineering firms use apprentice or JW level workers to do the actual work. The engineers just check the results and verify everything. At least they claim to…most engineering studies are chock full of all kinds of errors. I once had a major engineering firm (KBR) tell me I had an arc flash boundary of over 3000 feet, larger than the plant itself. The voltage was high enough the software reverted to a known invalid calculation (Lee method) which the engineer did not understand and just accepted the result. If you saw the price tag (hundreds of thousands) you can understand why we had a very heated meeting with them.
 

ActionDave

Chief Moderator
Staff member
Location
Durango, CO, 10 h 20 min without traffic from wing
Occupation
Licensed Electrician
.....I have known manufacturers, contractors, and users that have been on NEC code making panels, they have all blamed each other for unpopular code changes.
I don't think there would be any AFCIs in the code if manufactures didn't have a the level of influence they do in the code making process.

Ridiculous roof top derating factors based on nothing. What contracting organization was behind that code change? The copper manufactures were responding to pressure from local building departments??

How about the fact that you have to by a full size generator if you want the convenience of an automatic transfer switch. Which of the contracting organizations was pushing for that change? I think Generac had a lot more to do with it based on the ROPs and ROCs I remember.

What about the rain-tite emt fittings we never needed till they came on the market? In use covers for outdoor recpts? These got introduced into the code because contractors and electricians saw the need for them was being ignored??
 

don_resqcapt19

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Illinois
Occupation
retired electrician
...
The first is that we have manufacturers sitting on committees voting on whether or not a new product is a good idea. Almost by definition they shouldn’t even be allowed to vote. ...
The NEC is an ANSI standard and the ANSI rules for such standards specifically require that the manufactures have a seat at the table.
 

Josh111

Senior Member
Location
USA
This has been a great discussion. Personally, I don’t think the NEC can be free. I understand the argument about public law not being eligible to be copyrighted. Don’t know how to argue against that. However, if it were free we’d be paying taxes to fund the development of standards, and many of us don’t want that. Maybe though I’ll post a different thread for us to chat on this topic though.

I’m not arguing against paying for standards. I’m trying to point out what I think are some issues with the development of the standard most of us here have to pay for. Namely, the 3 issues I mentioned.
 

jim dungar

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Wisconsin
Occupation
Retired Electrical Engineer - Power Systems
... trying to point out what I think are some issues with the development of the standard most of us here have to pay for...
Honestly, these issues have been around for most of the 5 decades I have been in the industry just the participants have changed.
 
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