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National Electrical Code (NEC)

Last updated: September 3, 2019

What Does National Electrical Code (NEC) Mean?

The National Electrical Code (NEC), also known as NFPA 70, is a safety code published by the National Fire Protection Association, an American safety association. The NEC acts as a set of model standards for the safe installation of electrical wiring, overcurrent protection, grounding, and equipment installation in residential, commercial, and industrial buildings.

The NFPA is not a governmental organization, and thus the NEC has no inherent legal weight. However, every edition of the NEC is written in legal language so that its provisions may be easily adopted into law. The NEC has been adopted in all 50 states at either the state or regional level, and it has also been adopted into law by many Latin American nations.

Safeopedia Explains National Electrical Code (NEC)

The NEC (NFPA 70) is part of a family of electrical safety codes, along with NFPA 70B, NFPA 70E, NFPA 110, and NFPA 111. The NEC is the most foundational of these codes, as it addresses the initial-installation electrical wiring and pertains to both occupational and non-occupational contexts. The other standards deal with subsequent work, specifically the maintenance of electrical equipment (70B), workplace electrical safety (70E), and the use of emergency power systems (110 and 111).

The NEC contains several provisions designed to increase the safety of electrical workers, as well as others working in and around electrical equipment. These include labeling requirements such as mandatory use of arc-flash hazard warnings, as well as minimum-space clearances for the installation of electrical equipment. Additionally, several OSHA standards that relate to electrical installation (e.g., standard 1910.307(c)(2)(i)) reference the NEC as an appropriate guide for how to meet the performance requirements of the standard.

Because the NEC does not automatically hold legal weight—but must instead be adopted at the discretion of individual jurisdictions with authority over electrical installation—not all U.S. states follow the same version of the NFPA. For example, as of July 2019, 30 states have adopted the most-recent 2017 revision of the NEC, while other jurisdictions rely on an earlier version. This situation provides workplaces with an obligation to ensure they follow the specific version of the NEC that is enforced within their jurisdiction.




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