Approach Codes, Standards and Regulations with Caution

by Greg Fynan – Senior Engineer, Engineering Services

When investigating a code, standard or regulation, it’s tempting to jump right into the fine details in hopes of finding a quick answer. While this sometimes results in the desired outcome, it more often produces an answer that is either incorrect or not the best solution to the problem at hand.

While there could be other reasons for this, a common explanation is that the code or standard does not apply – even though it contains details that seem to point in the right direction. It’s therefore important to confirm the applicability of the document in question before you delve into the details.

The best way to do this is by turning to the preface, introduction, scope or other similar section located near the front of the document. It’s there you’ll find the wording that addresses general applicability, retroactive applicability and whether or not use of the document is mandatory. Once you’ve determined that it does indeed apply to your situation, you can then proceed to hunt down the detailed answer you’re looking for, knowing that you’re not just wasting your time.

When someone else cites a code, standard or regulation by way of answering your query, you’re perfectly within your rights to ask for the citation information and to question the applicability of the cited document. You can then make appropriate decisions regarding acceptance and use of the answer.

The NAES Engineering Services group has access to a subscription service that provides such answers to questions about codes and standards. While not every code and standard are covered by the subscription, most of them are. Feel free to email me or any other member of the Engineering Services group your code or standard question.