The Relationship Between Codes and Standards
December 8, 2022
The following provides an overview of the relationship between codes and standards (C&S) in Canada, Mexico, and the United States developed by UL Standards & Engagement C&S Task Force (2022). The task group includes Laura Werner, Randi Myers, and Dave Mercier.
Codes include minimum installation requirements and will typically rely on referenced standards for specific product details not included in the code. These referenced safety standards then can be used to certify a product. The following provides a general overview of codes, standards, and the people that develop and enforce them to aid stakeholders in determining if a proposal should be submitted to a code or standard for addressing a specific safety issue.
Committees comprised of stakeholders representing users, producers, regulators, general interests, and consumer groups develop safety codes and standards to help define the minimum safety requirements for installations and equipment. To help ensure an open, balanced, and multisectoral process with participation from relevant interest categories and stakeholders, the American National Standards Institute (ANSI), Mexico’s Direccion General de Normas (DGN), and the Standards Council of Canada (SCC) provide guidelines for technical committees as they develop codes and standards. Through this process, stakeholders can provide insights into the relationship between a code requirement and its referenced standard.
Codes are minimum requirements for installation and construction consisting of rules, suggested practices, or recommendations. Codes are not law, but they can become law when adopted by local, state, provincial, or national governments, and are enforceable with consequences for non-compliance. Codes are sometimes amended locally to meet regional needs before they are adopted into law as part of that jurisdiction's official building, energy, electrical, or fire code.
Standards set expert, detailed procedures for a specialized item's construction, materials, manufacture, testing, or installation instructions. Standards referenced in codes provide a direct link to the requirements for product features and testing requirements. When an adopted code references a standard, that standard becomes enforceable by law.
The local authority having jurisdiction (AHJ) acts as the enforcement arm of adopted codes and their referenced standards. The AHJ may be a federal, state/provincial/territorial, local, or other regional department or individual such as fire chief; fire marshal; chief of a fire prevention bureau, labor department, or health department; building official; electrical inspector; or other person having statutory authority. The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) codes classify the AHJ as "an organization, office, or individual responsible for enforcing the requirements of a code or standard, or for approving equipment, materials, an installation, or a procedure."
Codes establish a means for regulation for safe buildings and equipment installations. A code cannot readily address the precise details for construction methods and materials, resulting in the complementary need for standards. With a basic understanding of the relationship between codes and standards, a stakeholder can better understand if a proposal should be submitted to a code or standard to address a specific safety issue.
• NFPA About Codes and Standards
• NFPA Fact Sheet Referenced Standards
• CODES AND STANDARDS: American Society for Nondestructive Testing
• Building Codes and Standards 101: Rockwool
• US Building Code – ICC Standards Guide
• "Engineering Progress, The Inspiring Story of Underwriters Laboratories"