The National Electrical Code keeps professionals and the public safe. Here are some costly electrical errors to steer clear of.
- The NEC book changes every three years
- NEC recommendations are enforced by many local and state authorities
- Failure to comply can endanger people and operations, leading to high fees, expensive refits, and injuries
Listen up, class. Today’s subject is electrical code violations. That may not sound exciting, but it can help people avoid all the wrong kinds of thrills, like coming into direct physical contact with lethal voltages. You’ll also sidestep steep fines and prevent burned-out equipment. Let’s review this year’s NEC book and how businesses and electrical contractors can avoid NEC violations!
An introduction to the NEC
The National Electrical Code comes from the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), a non-profit organization established in 1896. The first NECs were then published the following year. These codes are generally the go-to guide for all electrical services in the United States and are designed to keep people and property safe.
The codes are updated every three years, and 2023 introduced the latest edition of the NEC book. Here’s the thing: The NECs aren’t laws, nor are they directly enforceable by law, meaning there’s no federal mandate to follow them. This can give some people a cavalier attitude to the codes and efforts of the Electrical Code Coalition to standardize NEC compliance.
Here’s the other thing: There’s no federal mandate that outlaws sticking your tongue in the fan – it’s just common sense not to do it. The same goes for following the NEC – businesses and electricians ignore them at their peril.
The NEC book and the law do combine, however, with many (but not all) local and state authorities requiring electrical systems and electricians to conform to NEC standards. Not every code will apply to every building, though, so authorities and electricians must use their discretion case-by-case based on NEC recommendations.
What do NEC violations look like?
A large pair of clown shoes isn’t in every electrician’s toolbox, but an alarming number of “professionals” seem to like to wear them. And in keeping with the circus theme, some common code violations are things like not leaving clear working space around electrical equipment and outlets or placing circuit breakers so high that you’d need stilts to reach them.
Here are some other classic mistakes, all of which violate NEC recommendations:
- Cables left unprotected against foot traffic and other physical damage
- Lack of insulation and electrical grounding
- Overloaded panel boards jammed full of overcurrent devices
- Electrical receptacles that anybody could open
- Littering a site with extension cords and power strips rather than adding new code-compliant receptacles
The list goes on, even though all electrical contractors really should know better. It’s not hard to keep up with codes, thanks to the NEC book. Here’s a quick look at what’s shaking with the newest edition.
Code violations to avoid in 2023
You should avoid them all, of course, but the latest NEC book has some notable changes from 2020, making these the codes to really pay attention to if you want to dodge NEC violations this year. Some of the more generally impactful new sections are:
This all-new section screams common sense to prevent fried equipment and injured people. All electrical preventative maintenance and service work must now be performed only by qualified and trained professionals. Hard to believe this hasn’t been in there since 1897, right?
The section also states that all work must be carried out using identified replacement parts and in line with the rulings of the authority having jurisdiction – either this or as per the equipment’s manufacturer guide. Any non-qualified, corner-cutting person a business might call to save a few bucks will now be in direct violation of the NEC.
Doors to all electrical equipment must not present any barrier to entrance and exit from a workspace, nor can space in front of this equipment be obstructed. This means keeping that work site tidy or risking an NEC violation!
This is another new section, this one designed to protect electrical workers. Barriers must now be placed over the exposed energized components of switchgear, switchboards, motor control centers, and panel boards supplied by transformer secondary conductors or feeder taps. In short, this helps prevent unintentional and harmful physical contact for those working on or around these exposed components.
A new addition that keeps everyone else safe, this section requires external emergency disconnects for power used in all one- and two-family dwelling units. These disconnects greatly aid first responders and must be in clearly identified locations. Failure to comply here could result in loss of valuable response time, which may cause severe property damage or loss of life.
This is tied to a 2023 revision of the existing Section 440.11, which now requires that all residential disconnecting outlets that can be opened to expose live parts be locked or require tools to open. This will help prevent unqualified people from gaining access and getting hurt.
-Section 700.3(A) – Revised
Another commonsense code, if you ask us. This requires all emergency systems to now be tested and commissioned prior to active use. Electrical commissioning (also known as ECx) is a systematic process of documentation and verification for all retrofitted or newly installed systems and equipment to ensure they’re working well before people rely on them.
Electricians must complete a certain number of continuing education hours to keep their license, so there’s no excuse for violating the NEC. For example, here’s a class in Florida offering a comprehensive six-hour course on the 2023 NEC that makes it easy and affordable for law-abiding contractors to get up to speed.
There are two ways for owners of South Florida commercial and residential sites to comply with every NEC section. They could buy the latest NEC book and study all 912 pages while going to electrical school, or they could just give UES a call for expert advice and service (we’ve already done our homework!).
Contact UES to be code confident
You’ll never have to worry about meeting regulations when you work with our expert team. Decades of electrical experience make us the right choice to help any industry get wired well. Just contact us to stay code compliant or get a free quote!