Friday, March 26, 2010

Temporary Wiring Dangers

This temporary wiring setup by registered electricians could have gotten someone killed!

By Nick Markowitz Jr.
Fire Investigator

I was listening on my scanner the other day when I heard the local Fire Marshal (FM) call dispatch and request a Police Officer on scene to deal with a worker who refused to identify himself. The FM was checking out a citizen complaint over how a large tent was set up in a shopping center.

After requesting PD response, the worker all of a sudden found his wallet and identified himself as working for an electrical contractor. The FM canceled the Police response right away. Just another interesting day in the life of a Fire Marshal, or so it seemed.

The Rotarian 4-Way TestThe next day I received a call from the FM who said he had some electrical questions, plus a story to go with it. It seems that one of the local merchants was getting ready for a 3-day tent sale and got permission and permits to put up the tent in the shopping center's large parking lot. They had hired a registered electrical contractor (EC) to provide 120 volt outlets and data lines for cash registers out to the tent. The tent was a properly erected, fire resistant tent, however the electricians who came on site decided to run the temporary wiring out through the store lobby by clipping it to the wall and then drilling a hole in an outside Fire emergency exit door. They then ran the wire across the sidewalk and roadway by means of a small conduit pipe with a wooden 2x4 on each side to protect it from cars that would run over it.

Needless to say the FM got on site, saw the way the wire was run and had them remove it immediately. So then the next day they ran the wire from the roof along with the low voltage wires over top a temporary pole which was not fastened properly as the low and high voltage wires were tied to each other, which is not right.

The FM asked the electrician about it. They told him that this is the way they always do it. So needless to say he called me and a couple other electrical experts on what should be done to make things safe. Each of us visited the site and gave our suggestions. An electrical inspector is due the morning of the sale to make sure things are right. If not, the sale will be canceled or they will run it with no power.

This brings up the issue, these are registered, insured electricians doing work they knew was improper. They did it any way they wanted without regard to safety and code simply because they were not in the City of Pittsburgh. They figured they could get away with it because it's out in the suburbs.

So once again we prove even though laws, licensing and registration, and everything else under the sun is in place, a contractor can, and often does ignore the law, except this time around the EC did not get away with it. In reaponse, this particular EC does nothing more than squeal like a stuck pig saying he is losing all kinds of money.

My response to his response is this: "You would not be losing money if you were properly designing and installing your jobs correctly, according to the principle of doing it right the first time."

Because this contractor thought he had a bunch of suckers on the line, he tried to pull the wool over everyone's eyes. He slopped the wiring and has been caught in the act. Needless to say, any time in the future his company's name comes up in this community, they'll be taking extra time to look at his work because he has proven that he cannot be trusted.

Now, I'm sure the other excuse he will try to use to the FM is "everyone else is doing it this way so he could not put the system in properly because the store in question would not pay the price for a properly installed job."

In this case, I would have declined to do the work, even to give a bid. I would have then called the code-enforcement office to advise them to keep an eye on things, which is what appears to have happened. The store manager did everything right and followed what she was told to do. In the final analysis, it's the electrician's fault for what happened, not the store's fault.


  1. Thanks for sharing ! Really a useful information !

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