All jurisdictions have Building Codes. Additionally, certain agencies and end-users will be subject to specific regulations relevant to their industry. Contracts often set forth compliance as a requirement in order for the project to be initially bid and then to be deemed successfully completed and payment to be made.
Electronic equipment carries UL Listings. Installation instructions will advise that in order for warranties to be honored, for the equipment comply, and for the equipment to perform as described, certain codes and standards must be observed.
For locksmiths, there is the question of liability, and the preservation of the company’s positive reputation. Business and liability insurance is a major expense, and required in many states.
For the technicians who actually perform the installation, there are issues of professionalism and ethics since most technicians are left to work under an honor system.
Many readers of the Locksmith Ledger started in the business before all these codes and standards even existed. Although it may seem otherwise, the old saying that “Ignorance is nine tenths of the law” will not hold up in court.
So I wanted to begin our discussion of codes and standards with some free advice from the Security Industry’s most knowledgeable legal authority, Ken Kirschenbaum. Following are Ledger’s questions and Kirschenbaum’s answers.
LL: Many jurisdictions may have building codes which refer to these codes and standards, very often obtaining an alarm installer’s license or other (credential required by the locality to install) does not require an applicant be able to demonstrate proficiency or knowledge of these codes. For example, in my state of Virginia, mandated training for electronic security and locksmiths, the two categories which cover alarms cameras and access controls, does not really cover these in depth. The DCJS (Department of Criminal Justice Services) laws are basically to protect the consumers’ privacy, and try to suppress unscrupulous individuals from victimizing end-user with over charging, identify theft and shoddy work. Network cabling is not subject to DCJS regulation, although more and more security infrastructure uses network infrastructure.
I do believe that the necessity of having a contractor’s license is governed by the dollar value of the work to be performed.
Also in Virginia, regulation of fire alarm installers is not state-level, and subject to policies determined by the LAHJ.
KK: You should not confuse having a license and actually having the expertise to install or service alarm systems or perform the licensed work. If a license is required, then the licensing agency, typically the state or local municipality, generally comes up with minimum standards, educational or vocational requirements and of course fees. Civil and criminal consequences may result if there is unlicensed activity. When the licensing statutes govern residential consumer customers, the failure to have the required license may prohibit an unlicensed contractor from suing for unpaid money, even if the work is satisfactorily completed.
Building codes, on the other hand, establish a minimum standard for performance. Referencing recognized industry companies or laboratories that set and monitoring these standards permits flexibility in the law, since the standards are easier to change than the legislation, and in any event the companies setting these standards have the expertise, not the legislature.
LL: How does the installers’ adherence to these codes indemnify the installer?
KK: Code requirements set minimum standards that are supposed to be customary trade practices, and by adhering to these standards, and executing the performance of the work in accordance with the standards, the contractor avoids claims of negligence. The contractor is not likely to be challenged on how or why work was performed in the way that it was when the performance met the standards in place at the time of performance.
The most-asked question is: “Where does it say I can’t drill a hole in a fire door?”