State Of The NFPA

mbrooke

Batteries Included
Location
United States
Occupation
Technician
I actually really do find the NFPA to be dysfunctional and incompetent. Obviously I can't speak to the inner workings of the organization, but judging by the NEC. just the continually poor wording they come out with, and hardly ever fixing older poor wording it just goes on and on without getting fixed. There are these ambiguous things in the code and poor wording that we've been talking about on this form for decades and they just never fix it. Then look at that debacle with SER ampacity that they fussed around with over several code cycles and then ended up just putting it back the way it was. Another thing is all these ridiculous things, that have been in the code forever with no scientific backing, like that 25 ohm ground rod requirement, and they never update or address that. it's just unbelievably to me how poor a job they do despite this standard being adopted almost everywhere in the United States and many places abroad.


93% of the world rejects NFPA-70. I think that should speak for itself.
 

Josh111

Senior Member
Location
USA
93% of the world rejects NFPA-70. I think that should speak for itself.
Well it’s a lot better than say Canada where I don’t think anyone outside of Canada has adopted their code! I’m not against the national code. It has been a standard that has promoted safety but I think there are some problems with the way it gets developed, especially these days.
 

Josh111

Senior Member
Location
USA
I’ve always found it interesting that in every iteration of the NEC handbook, NFPA has a page dedicated to telling everyone about an award that they came up with and gave to one of their own. In many organizations, if an award is given to an employee it is broadcast to the employee body and if an award is to be publicly broadcasted outside the employee body it is often for some universally honored value they wish to promote and they would usually pick someone who doesn’t work for them to give the award to.

Using your platform to praise others is way better for your company than using your platform to praise yourself.
 

xptpcrewx

Power System Engineer
Location
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Occupation
Licensed Electrical Engineer, Licensed Electrical Contractor, Certified Master Electrician
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.

Are you a licensed engineer?


Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk
 
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.
No disrespect intended: but if it is so bad, do something about it! Join a NFPA technical committee and take part in the NFPA code making process.
I think you will be amazed at the make up and the wisdom in these technical committees.
 

Josh111

Senior Member
Location
USA
No disrespect intended: but if it is so bad, do something about it! Join a NFPA technical committee and take part in the NFPA code making process.
I think you will be amazed at the make up and the wisdom in these technical committees.
Well sure but there’s many ways to try to do something about it including discussing amongst other professionals here. It would be unfortunate if the only way to do anything about it would be to be one of the few who would be selected or who could afford to be a committee member!
 

mbrooke

Batteries Included
Location
United States
Occupation
Technician
It does seem to need some rethinking and reorganizing even if most of article 250 goes by the wayside.

Agree. And the rules must change to reflect reality as well as giving engineers and electricians more discretion. Code should not cater to hack job labor.
 

petersonra

Senior Member
Location
Northern illinois
Occupation
engineer
Agree. And the rules must change to reflect reality as well as giving engineers and electricians more discretion. Code should not cater to hack job labor.
I'm not opposed to having a kind of a default way of doing things if you don't want to have to think about it. There's nothing really wrong with that. The problem is is the default solutions have gotten so convoluted that they don't make any sense anymore because even people that study the code as hard as some of the people here do can't understand big chunks of it. There are whole articles that should be thrown out entirely and started over with particularly articles 250 and 725. But they may not be the worst.
 

mbrooke

Batteries Included
Location
United States
Occupation
Technician
I'm not opposed to having a kind of a default way of doing things if you don't want to have to think about it. There's nothing really wrong with that. The problem is is the default solutions have gotten so convoluted that they don't make any sense anymore because even people that study the code as hard as some of the people here do can't understand big chunks of it. There are whole articles that should be thrown out entirely and started over with particularly articles 250 and 725. But they may not be the worst.

Not much more i can add other than I agree, and if you ask me, most of the code can be reduced to a few simple tables, a few equations, and few rules. Intent can be stated explicitly. Nothing more, everything else noise.
 
Well sure but there’s many ways to try to do something about it including discussing amongst other professionals here. It would be unfortunate if the only way to do anything about it would be to be one of the few who would be selected or who could afford to be a committee member!
Then the next time the NEC is open for Public Input, put your proposed changes in writing and submit them to NFPA. NFPA will respond publicly to your Public Input in the First Draft Report. It will cost you nothing but your time. By the way, I am not on any of the NEC Technical Committees. However, I have submitted Public Inputs on the NEC and had some them accepted. We can make a difference if we invest the time.
 

Josh111

Senior Member
Location
USA
Then the next time the NEC is open for Public Input, put your proposed changes in writing and submit them to NFPA. NFPA will respond publicly to your Public Input in the First Draft Report. It will cost you nothing but your time. By the way, I am not on any of the NEC Technical Committees. However, I have submitted Public Inputs on the NEC and had some them accepted. We can make a difference if we invest the time.
I do that. And I see things like this discussion as productive too.
 

don_resqcapt19

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Illinois
Occupation
retired electrician
What is really hurting the code making process is the way the the resolved (rejected PIs) are shown. You have to click on them to read them. In the past there were 3000 to 5000 comments, when you saw every proposal in the ROP.
I submitted a public comment with 12 days left in the comment period and it was number 745. I don't think they will get to 2000 comments this cycle. Comment closing it 8/19.
 

don_resqcapt19

Moderator
Staff member
Location
Illinois
Occupation
retired electrician
Right now they’re trying to add an article 512 to specifically cover marijuana production facilities. They’ve lost their mind.
Those can be very dangerous, with serious fire and safety hazards. The process uses a lot of flammables. There were a number of fire fighters seriously injured in LA from the results of a fire in one of these facilities a couple of years ago. . For the fire fighters, it is like approaching a mini-refinery in a commercial building.

Proper requirements enforcement may have prevented that incident, and that was one of the triggering reasons for the proposed new article.

 

xptpcrewx

Power System Engineer
Location
Las Vegas, Nevada, USA
Occupation
Licensed Electrical Engineer, Licensed Electrical Contractor, Certified Master Electrician
Those can be very dangerous, with serious fire and safety hazards. The process uses a lot of flammables. There were a number of fire fighters seriously injured in LA from the results of a fire in one of these facilities a couple of years ago. . For the fire fighters, it is like approaching a mini-refinery in a commercial building.

Proper requirements enforcement may have prevented that incident, and that was one of the triggering reasons for the proposed new article.

Wow. Never realized how dangerous that could be. There are many of these marijuana production facilities out where I'm at.
 

Josh111

Senior Member
Location
USA
Well unless you’re high, I don’t think it’s logical to require a special article just for that type of manufacturing because a number of the explosions have involved use of chemicals that are broadly used in factories. We don’t have a special article for every type of factory. There’s young kids that get a copy of the NEC. Do we want to have to consider whether the NEC should be a PG rated book?

We don’t talk about politics here so we won’t talk about whether it should or shouldn’t be but the fact is marijuana production is a federal crime at the time of this posting. Wouldn’t make sense to make a special article to cover it.
 
Top