Open electrical panels are dangerous (C) Daniel Friedman Electrical Panel Inspection Safety Hazards and Safety Procedures for Electrical Inspectors & Home Inspectors

  • ELECTRICAL PANEL INSPECTION SAFETY - CONTENTS: Safety suggestions for use before and during inspection of the electrical panel in homes. Standards for Electrical System Inspections - at the electrical panel. How to use test equipment at the electrical panel during electrical. inspections in order to improve safety
  • POST a QUESTION or READ FAQs about how to inspect the condition of electrical systems: servicen entry, meter, electrical panels, breakers, fuses, wiring, grounding - using safe procedures to avoid shock, injury, or death
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Procedures for inspecting the fuse panel or electrical panel:

This article discusses safety hazards during inspection of the electrical panel at residential properties and suggests safety procedures for the electrical inspector, home inspector, or other professionals who examine residential electrical systems.

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Safety Suggestions for Inspecting the Electrical Panel Interior

Rust at knockouts on electrical panel face (C) Daniel FriedmanFatal Shock Hazard Warning: Inspecting electrical components and systems risks death by electrocution as well as serious burns or other injuries to the inspector or to others. Do not attempt these tasks unless you are properly trained and equipped.

[Click to enlarge any image]

Homeowner advice for electrical panel safety: These safety suggestions are for professional inspectors and are not a guide for homeowners. Homeowners should not remove the cover from an electrical panel - it is unsafe to do so.

Homeowners should look at their electrical equipment for signs of trouble and should contact a licensed electrician to address any concerns that arise.

Without removing the electrical panel cover, but by opening the hinged electrical panel access door, homeowners can access the main circuit breaker or fuse, as well as individual circuit breakers and fuses. These devices may be turned on or off by the homeowner as safety or other needs require.

8.3.C. [The inspector is NOT required to] dismantle any electrical device or control other than to remove the covers of the main and auxiliary distribution panels.

How might the astute inspector spot trouble in an electrical panel cover before opening it?

At least three deaths have been reported to have occurred during the inspection of an electrical panel.

Atlanta GA, a licensed electrician was opening the panel for inspection.] Apparently there was an incipient problem with the spring-loaded bus-bar assembly. When the cover was removed the bus assembly moved, an arc caused an electrical explosion, killing the inspector. -- J. Aronstein to D. Friedman, personal communication, 12/1991.

The Assistant [Fire] Chief accompanied a contract electrician, the Assistant Building Engineer, and the Loss Control Manager to the engineering room on the first floor which houses electrical panels for the store. During testing of one of the panels, a fault occurred, resulting in the formation of a fireball, killing the Assistant Chief and the electrician. The Assistant Building Engineer received serious burns. - NFPA - 06/11/1999

The following photos and text provide examples of external evidence that may let the inspector avoid trouble or a nasty surprise when inspecting electrical equipment.

Before touching the electrical panel the inspector should look for these conditions:

Water dripping into an electrical panel (C) Daniel Friedman

This photo shows a common way that water may enter an electrical panel as well as drip on its exterior.

A cold water pipe produces condensation which drips on the panel top. This pipe is too close and is in a poor location over this electrical service box.

Is there:

The pair of photographs below show two clear warnings that water has been entering an electrical panel - watch out for rust, and for circuit breakers that may not trip in response to an overcurrent, due to internal corrosion.

This defect is not one for which a home inspector (nor most electricians) can reliably test in a home, but the warning remains appropriate. Replace such breakers, and if the electrical panel is badly corroded the entire panel needs replacement.

Rusty electric panel face (C) Daniel Friedman Rust at knockouts on electrical panel face (C) Daniel Friedman

See RUST in ELECTRICAL PANELS for a detailed account of the sources of water and rust in electrical panels and the frequency of observation of rust and water damage in that equipment.

Safety Procedures for Removing Electric Panel Covers: for Electrical Inspectors & Home Inspectors

ASHI Standards 8.1.B [The inspector shall observe] service equipment, grounding equipment, main overcurrent device, main and distribution panels.

QO Load center (C) Daniel Friedman


Continue reading at ELECTRICAL PANEL INTERIOR HAZARDS or select a topic from closely-related articles below, or see our complete INDEX to RELATED ARTICLES below.

Or see ELECTRICAL INSPECTOR SAFETY PROCEDURES important basic safety procedures, clothing, and equipment for home inspectors and electrical inspectors.

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