Many Code users may just becoming familiar with the 1999 National Electrical Code (NEC), but the process that will result in the 2002 NEC is well underway.
About 4,300 proposals were received. The 20 Code-Making Panels plan to review those proposals in January 2000. The proposals and the actions of the Code-Making Panels will be compiled in the Report on Proposals (ROP), which will be available in July 2000 after the Technical Correlating Committee (TCC) reviews the Code Panel actions. (The TCC oversees the activities of the Panels.)
The ROP will be available again on NFPA's Web site and on CD-ROM, as well as in the traditional printed format. Once the ROP is available, public comments will be accepted for about three months. The deadline for public comments on the proposals and the actions of the code panels will be Oct. 27, 2000. These actions will be followed by another round of panel meetings in December 2000 and another meeting of the Technical Correlating Committee. The Report on Comments (ROC) will then be available in March 2001. The NFPA general membership can vote on the 2002 NEC at the NFPA Annual Meeting in May of 2001.
Information about the schedule and the various steps in the code-making process can be found in the back of the 1999 NEC. The last few pages in the 1999 National Electrical Code are devoted to explaining the NFPA development process, which includes the schedule for the development of the 2002 NEC. NFPA also makes this information available on its Web site.
NFPA's home page NFPA's home page at www.nfpa.org has an NEC page, which includes links to the schedule, information about the Usability Task Group, and to the proposals and public comments. The proposals and comments from the 1996 cycle have been removed from this site and the proposals for the 2002 NEC are being added. For the first time, all the proposals are available to the general public even before the Code panels meet.
Many of the significant changes in the 1999 NEC were the result of the efforts of the Usability Task Group (UTG). As its name implies, the UTG is charged generally with the job of identifying ways to make the NEC more "user-friendly." The UTG continues this work for the 2002 Code, which includes work on certain specific issues. "Sub-Task Groups" were formed to address four particular areas of the Code: raceway, wire and cable, load calculations and the arrangement and num-bering of the NEC regulations. The raceway articles were to have been combined in the 1999 NEC as a new Article 344. However, after public comments, the new article was held for additional study. Although many people liked the form of the new article, the combined article was no shorter than the multiple articles it replaced, and not everyone agreed that it was easier to use. Some of the wire and cable articles may be similarly combined if it will make them easier to use. Article 220 was revised in the 1999 cycle to make it cover calculations ex-clusively, but additional simplification or clar-ification is possible. Renumbering or rear-ranging other articles may produce a more logical outline for the Code. All of these efforts are subject to approval of the Code Panels and the Technical Correlating Committee, and are also open to public comments.
The UTG has already completed a revision of the NEC Style Manual. The revised manual has been approved and adopted by NFPA and is available on the NFPA Web site. The new manual contains a number of recommendations to improve usability by modifying and standardizing the numbering of sections and parts. The manual recommends organizing articles in a similar manner if they cover similar subjects, simplifying sentence structure, identifying and attempting to eliminate vague and unenforceable terms, and providing a list of standard terms. Numbering will change only slightly, by eliminating the "dash" numbering of sections and replacing it with a "dot" numbering scheme. For example: Section 250-121 becomes Section 250.121, but letters would be retained for subsections, and lists will be numbered. Thus, Section 250-119(a)(1) might become 250.119(A)(1). Parts will be re-identified with Roman numerals to create a more consistent format for the Articles.
As with all NFPA codes and standards, the process is open to the public. This includes the UTG's activities. Comments or recommendations on usability can be made via the NFPA Web site. Although NFPA's Code development process has always been very open, the process has become even more open and accessible to users of the NEC with the addition of its Web site.
Along with the changes that originate with the UTG, there will be many changes that come from inspectors, electricians, manufacturers, engineers, and other users of the NEC. Many may be completely new issues or related to new methods and technologies. Other changes will be related to issues that have been visited in the past. The rewriting of Article 250 in the 1999 NEC produced a need for a few corrections and clarifications. More than 75 proposals have been made to modify Section 90-2, the scope of the NEC. Some of the ongoing controversies about wiring methods used as equipment-grounding conductors will likely come up again. Proposals to expand the application of AFCIs might be expected. Someone will likely try again to get the NEC to legitimize the widely accepted practice of using the color gray to identify ungrounded conductors. The dedicated space for panelboards has been widely discussed and new proposals have been made to address this. The placement of receptacles at island and peninsula countertops is still controversial in many jurisdictions. And issues related to communications and new broadband technologies are likely to be revisited. We will discuss some of these developments in future issues.