A few days ago, I just celebrated another birthday. While I still feel young, there is no denying that, like many involved in the codes and standards profession, I am of the graying generation (although my hair is white, not gray). I was a young whipper snapper at age 24 when I attended my first code hearing in 1977.
There were a lot of up and coming young people at the code hearings. Also present were the old timers, most of whom were World War II veterans. They kept telling us youngsters that we must continue the good work and keep the country safe. The one thing I will always remember is the passion shown by the World War II veterans. They did save the world and they wanted to continue to save humanity.
Now, when I look behind me for the up and coming youngsters, I do not see anybody. Many of the new faces are older. Some are even older than me. Basically, there does not seem to be a youth movement in the codes and standards profession. But there needs to be.
When I have promoted codes and standards as a profession to young engineers, I often hear, “I do not want to travel as much as you,” or “I cannot get support to attend those meetings,” or “My travel budget prevents me from attending code or standard meetings.” As much as I hate to admit it, all are valid issues. That is, until COVID-19.
In response to the coronavirus pandemic, many codes and standards meetings have been cancelled. Let me rephrase that — all codes and standards meetings for the near future have been cancelled; most groups have switched to virtual meetings I have not traveled in the last four months. This has not happened in 43 years. I have not been on an airplane in four months. In my pre-COVID-19 life, I flew two to three times a week, every week..
Although I miss traveling, the new normal has made it that much easier to get involved in the codes and standards process. You can sit in your own home and participate on changes to documents you use on a regular basis.
Over the last two weeks, it has been the time of year when ASME/ICC/ASHRAE would usually hold conferences. ASHRAE canceled its semi-annual conference, which included many in-person standard committee meetings. The ASME/CSA joint meeting was also canceled. The standards committees that would have met at both of those meetings went virtual. In addition to ASME and ASHRAE, ICC has begun preparing for the next code change cycle, which begins in January 2021 for the 2024 International Codes. As a result, its Code Action Committees have started up with virtual meetings.
What does all of this mean? You can now sit in front of your computer and participate in many of these codes and standards meetings. There is no travel and no financial commitment to participate. All you need is a computer and an internet connection. Some even participate using their smartphones.
I will admit the first time involvement in any codes or standards process is scary. I recall siting at a code hearing listening to all these smart people testify. I felt completely inadequate. That was until I heard someone testify with a totally ridiculous point. Then it dawned on me that maybe I do have the smarts to be heard.. When I hit the microphone, I felt all eyes looking at me. I was shaking like a leaf. What I said made absolutely no sense. Basically, I blew it.
One of my colleagues came up to me, a gentlemen 35 years older, and said, “Next time you’ll be better. You learn from your screw ups.” Since that time, I’ve tried not to screw up.
Do those of us actively involved ever make mistakes? Yes, all the time. But we try to correct our mistakes and work for the good of the profession and the public. The purpose of codes and standards are to protect public health, safety and welfare. It is not for my benefit, your benefit, your client’s benefit nor your organization’s benefit. Everything revolves around protection of the public.
At the current time, I would highly recommend joining in on the conference calls currently set up by IAPMO or ICC. The ICC has regular PMGCAC conference calls. PMG is for plumbing, mechanical and fuel gas whileCAC is the code action committee. Hence, the committee is discussing issues of importance regarding the codes that may need updating. While there is a committee that has a vote, anyone can participate. By listening in to these calls, you can learn the process and eventually offer your comments.
Similarly, IAPMO has a number of task groups that are meeting, with the goal to prepare code changes on the given subject matter. Two of the most important IAPMO task groups are the Legionella and the A2L refrigerant group. Again, anyone can participate.
All you need to do is go to the organization’s website and request to be a participant. You don’t have to go through a formal approval process to be a member of the committee. However, once you get involved and start enjoying the process, you may want to apply to become a voting member of certain committees.
In addition to IAPMO and ICC, check out the standards published by ASME, ASPE, ASSE and ASHRAE. They are continuously being updated. There are many committees and subcommittees that hold regular online meetings for updating. Again, you can listen in and participate, or join a committee. Every organization is always putting out a call for members.
When I think back, I realize that I was a part of the 1960s generation. There were civil rights, voting rights and lowering of the voting age issues taking place. In my youth, we felt energized. We protested and got results. Plus, the older generation supported what we protested. The codes and standards profession gave me an opportunity to continue to make changes. It was a continuation of helping make the country a better place.
Looking around today, I applaud the involvement and peaceful protests of Black Lives Matter, LGTBQ Pride, DACA, immigrants (I married one) and womens’ rights. It is time for you to continue with the codes and standards movement. We need your voice and we need your involvement. Help make the world a better place by your participation in the process.
Note: The views expressed here are strictly those of the author and do not necessarily represent PM Engineer or BNP Media.