Despite protestations from the International Association of Electrical Inspectors (IAEI) Michigan Chapter, on Nov. 23, 2007, the 2005 Michigan Electrical Code went into effect minus the language in the rule that had previously required permits for the installation of telecommunications systems, R 408.30818 80.19 (Permits and Certificates). Although telecommunications installations no longer require permits, the change in the rule does not exempt telecommunications installations from inspections, based on requirements of the State of Michigan and comments contained in the Agency Report to the Joint Committee on Administrative Rules.

Mandated by Michigan Part 8 rules for Code conformity and authority, the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) is required to administer and enforce the Michigan Electrical Code (2005 NEC). According to the IAEI Michigan Chapter, however, it is difficult to gain inspection compliance when a permit for the work is not required.

“There are a lot of inspectors out there that get paid based on the permit fees and are going to overlook the installations because their municipality only pays them for what their permits are based on,” says David Williams, past president, IAEI Michigan Chapter; western section representative; and principal member of Code-making panel 5. “It compromises the electrical safety in the State of Michigan in the built environment.”

The Michigan State Office of Administrative Hearings and Rules determined that a legal conflict would result if the Electric Code Rules required permits for telephone and cable installations. The legal conflict refers to communications mandates that impose a time frame to establish service. But according to the IAEI Michigan Chapter, there are state laws that accommodate emergency installations by allowing for permitting after installation. In addition, telecommunications installations are covered by an exemption that allows the utility to run the communications service to the structure. “What we're hoping to regulate would be the installation of the wiring that is referenced in the NEC, because the Code already exempts utility wiring into the building for communications utilities,” Williams says.

Since the cessation of permits for telecommunications installations went into effect, common violations cited by Michigan inspectors are penetration of firewalls or fire-rated barriers, unsecured cables, and cables placed in troughs and raceways with power cables that don't have the same voltage classification. “Those are the biggest things that we see,” says Darrick Whitaker, secretary for the IAEI Michigan Chapter.

The chapter plans to pursue avenues to once again require permits for telecommunications installations through future Code adoptions. “It's something we strive for as an organization,” Williams says. “We want those requirements back in the electrical Code. Look for it in the next Code cycle.”

In the meantime, the IAEI Michigan Chapter advises owners, who (in the absence of permits) will be the ones to receive notice of violations, to hire licensed electrical contractors. “They're used to the permitting inspection process,” Whitaker says. “They can do the work.”