Codes and Standards — What’s the Real Difference?

Codes and standards aren’t the same thing, but you can’t have one without the other.

This new ongoing series of posts on the GFS Booth Blog will talk about the most frequently asked questions that our experts receive on the topic of code compliance and standards.

Our first question tackles the basics of the terminology used, and explains how ‘codes’ and ‘standards’ are not the same thing, but are highly dependent upon each other.

Q: What is the difference between a code and a standard?

A: A code tells you WHAT you need to do and a standard tells you HOW to do it.

A Code, such as the IFC (International Fire Code) or NFPA 1 (Fire Code), is the main regulatory documentation that sets minimum requirements. Codes are not necessarily authored by technical experts, they need not achieve a consensus prior to finalization, and they may incorporate all or part of a Standard. A Code is not a law, but can be adopted into law.

A Standard is authored by an organization that has expertise on a particular subject, such as NFPA. It serves as a model or set of rules that knowledgeable people recommend for others to follow. Standards also should be considered minimum requirements. Simply “meeting the standard” may not imply the “best” since the standard may have had to be reduced to some level in order to achieve the consensus.

In the paint finishing industry we have several codes and standards that apply to the design, construction, performance, and use of the equipment. They are the set of codes published by the International Code Council (ICC) and the set of codes and standards published by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA).

Paint finishing equipment manufactured by Global Finishing Solutions (GFS) is designed to meet or exceed the applicable requirements of the national codes and standards. GFS makes every attempt to supply equipment that complies with the intent of these documents as well as locally adopted versions. Where specific language in the various codes and standards appear to conflict with each other, it becomes necessary to use sound engineering judgment and experience to demonstrate compliance with the intent and provide an equivalently safe solution.

Codes and standards can change from year to year. It is ultimately up to the State or local jurisdiction to adopt a certain Code or Code Revision. Although your State or local jurisdiction may be at a lower code adoption level, you may still want to comply and build to the latest suggested code or standard, especially if requirements have become more restrictive

We all should recognize the value of the codes and standards as a means to protect our lives and our livelihood.

Geoff Raifsnider
GFS Engineer, Member of NFPA 33 Technical Committee

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