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How NEMA Standards Are Developed


A NEMA standard defines a product, process, or procedure with reference to one or more of the following: nomenclature, composition, construction, dimensions, tolerances, safety, operating characteristics, performance, rating, testing, and the service for which the product(s) are designed.

Each standard is identified by number and date; for more information on the naming conventions, see Reading NEMA standards.

The Standards Development Process

There are five basic steps taken to create a new standard, which are explained here.

1. Project initiation

Before any significant work is done on a project, the NEMA section or duly authorized committee of the section must give their approval (by a simple majority). The section records project initiation on a Project Initiation Request (PIR) form. The Engineering department adds an entry into its standards database and begins tracking progress on the standard.

2. Developing the draft

The section typically delegates development of a draft standard to a technical committee, subcommittee, or task force. For new standards, a new subcommittee or task force may be established. The section or technical committee designates the chair, who holds a meeting to develop a plan for completing the work. An outline of the standard may be developed and the work divided among the members.

Most of the work involved in developing a standard is completed between meetings by one or more members. Completed sections of the draft standard are prepared and distributed to the entire group for review and comment. Comments are addressed by the group as a whole.

Once the comments are resolved, the draft standard is revised and distributed again. The draft standard may go through several iterations until there is consensus in the group that the draft is ready to move on. It is now forwarded to the full technical committee for review and comment. Comments are compiled and addressed by the group that developed the draft. Once the technical committee’s comments have been satisfied, its members will decide if the draft is ready to ballot to the section (or voting classification).

3. Balloting (gathering comments)

All proposed standards publications are provided in a uniform format, as defined in NEMA NS 1-2005. Prior to issuing, the letter ballot must be reviewed by NEMA Counsel.

Votes from a section or voting class for a standards bulletin is generally taken by letter ballot with a 30-day window for response. All letter ballots allow member’s votes to be cast in the affirmative, in the negative, or as “not voting.” A NEMA member who manufactures the product is eligible to vote on standards pertaining to that product.

Any member may change a vote within the voting period unless they waived the right to do so on the letter ballot, but no member may change a vote given by letter ballot after the voting period expires.

A standard, when presented to any section or voting class for approval, requires the affirmative vote of at least two thirds of the votes cast in the affirmative or negative. In lieu of a letter ballot, a standard proposal may be approved at a section or voting class meeting, provided 100 percent of the section or voting class membership is present.

Where there are votes accompanied by comments, the proposed standard and result of the letter ballot are referred to the technical committee or its delegated subcommittee within 30 days following completion of the letter ballot. If after due consideration the technical committee cannot resolve all negative comments of a successful ballot, the technical committee chairman submits the proposed standard to the Codes and Standards Committee (C&S), which may request written comments or oral presentations from both sides to assist in its review. A comment may be withdrawn or, at the option of the member, changed to an affirmative vote in writing. If there are no comments or the comments accompanying all negative votes on the letter ballot are withdrawn, the proposed standard is submitted to C&S.

4. Codes and Standards Committee approval

All actions of sections and voting classes in approving, revising, reaffirming, or rescinding standards of the association are subject to the approval of C&S. In approving, disapproving, or reviewing NEMA standards, C&S acts only by the concurrent vote of a majority of its members given either at a meeting or by letter ballot.

In its review of a proposed standard, C&S determines whether:

  • The standard is in harmony with the policies of NEMA standardization activities and has been developed according to the procedures contained in the NEMA constitution and bylaws;
  • the interests of all affected NEMA subdivisions have been considered;
  • the standard is technically sound and accurately drawn;
  • any recommendations should be made to NEMA Counsel concern­ing compliance of the standard with NEMA’s policies and procedures;
  • and, the record presented by the subdivision proposing the standard shows that adequate consideration has been given to both safety and user needs.

C&S may determine that a proposed standard is of potential concern to other sections or voting classes and refer it to them before approval. When a proposed standard is referred, they are given a period of 45 days to reply. If no reply is received, C&S may assume that there is no interest or no objection to the proposed standard.

If referral to other subdivisions is not necessary and the standard also complies with the criteria above, C&S will approve the proposal for publication as a NEMA standard. This becomes the standard’s effective date.

5. Editing and publication

Once C&S approves the proposed standard, it is submitted to NEMA’s Communications department, which edits the document in compliance the NEMA Style Manual.

When completed, the proposed standard is returned to the responsible staff member for final review and approval by the appropriate section representative. Generally, an editorial committee conducts the final editorial review. Any changes requested by the editorial committee are implemented by the Communications department, and the document is then forwarded to the publisher, Global Engineering, for printing and distribution.