Coursework Key To Code Compliance

There's a reason Chicago-area homes, offices, and factories endure far fewer fires than buildings in other regions of the country. Electrical codes are tougher in Chicago.

The good news is that union contractors have ample resources to get it right the first time and every time. They also have ample reason. "They know that if an inspector comes in and red tags an installation, the work grinds to a halt until they fix whatever is wrong," says Harry Ohde, an instructor with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers/NECA Technical Institute in Chicago.

Time not only costs a contractor money, but also, potentially, its reputation and a customer.

That's why the institute offers programs such as "Train the Trainer," intensive two-week courses that keep union-shop supervisors abreast of new and emerging technologies, as well as modifications to the Chicago Electrical Code (CEC). The institute additionally offers three-month courses to union members on "everything from motors and conduits to transformers and photovoltaics. You name it, we teach it," says Ohde.

Classes are held once a week in the evening, so the coursework doesn't interfere with work in the field. Participants receive a certificate upon successful completion of a course.

Subjects of particular interest include emergency systems, grounding, and electrical services, according to Ohde. Health-care facilities, he adds, are especially challenging. "It's a special type of occupancy," says Ohde. "Among other challenges, back up is required to support surgery in the event of a power outage."

Students can rest assured their instructors know their stuff. Ohde not only teaches codes, but assists in the development of them. Every three years, reviews proposed modifications to the NFPA National Electrical Code.

The work requires a huge investment of time, but the results, he believes, speak for themselves — time and again.