Basic Electrical Safety Equipment & Procedures for Electrical Inspectors & Home Inspectors
ELECTRICAL INSPECTOR SAFETY PROCEDURES - CONTENTS: Checklist of safety procedure steps for home inspectors & electrical inspectors. Safety equipment, clothing, procedures - suggestions from an expert - Rex Caudwell
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Safety tips for electrical inspectors: this electrical safety procedures article lists the critical equipment and procedures for the electrical inspector, home inspector, or other professionals who examine residential electrical systems. These electrical inspection safety suggestions are not a complete inventory of all electrical safety procedures.
General Safety Suggestions for Electrical Inspectors
Electric shocks are responsible for about 1,000 deaths in the United States each year, or about 1% of all accidental deaths.- Refs.
Fatal 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.
Reports of deaths during home inspections: ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors, has reported (to DF) a single death of an inspector while at work. A Canadian home inspector fell from an improperly installed steel ladder "affixed"
to a multi-story building. That tragic death which was reported (by NY Metro ASHI News) in 1990.
Inspectors climbing in, on, around buildings
should guard against becoming complacent, overconfident, or careless. ASHI Standards of Practice provide that an inspector may refuse to
enter, inspect, access any component based on concern for safety. In our photo the inspector is pointing out how easily an inspector might touch live electrical components while also becoming grounded by a gas pipe.
High-tension current generally causes the most serious injuries, although fatal electrocutions may occur with household current (e.g., 110 V in the United States and Canada and 220 V in Europe, Australia, and Asia).
Contact with alternating current at 60 cycles per second (the frequency used in most US household and commercial sources of electricity) may cause tetanic skeletal muscle contractions, preventing self-release from the source of the electricity and thereby leading to prolonged exposure.
The repetitive frequency of alternating current also increases the likelihood of current flow through the heart during the relative refractory period (the "vulnerable period") of the cardiac cycle.
This exposure can precipitate ventricular fibrillation (VF), which is analogous to the R-on-T phenomenon.-- circ.ahajournals.org - September 2008
Pay attention, look carefully, move slowly before opening or exploring electrical equipment. Learn to recognize indications of a problem, such as but not limited to the examples in this article.
Do not assume anything when performing dangerous tasks such as inspecting electrical equipment.
Do not assume that electrical power is "off" without confirming that using proper test equipment and methods
Do not assume that system grounding is complete and correct
Do not assume that all circuit breakers and GFCI's and AFCI's will work
Do not assume that bystanders or clients won't move suddenly into the path of danger, or push you into it.
Do not touch live wires or connections. Watch your hands and other body parts. Handling live electrical wires without special training and equipment
is highly questionable and often fatal.
December 12, 1988 - Madison, WI - Michael E. Hammes, 26, died in an
apparent electrocution while working in Madison. Hammes had been hired
by CUNA Mutual Insurance Society to change ballasts on fluorescent
lights. Authorities said he was replacing a fixture in a fourth floor
bathroom while standing on a stepladder when he slumped to the floor.
Hammes apparently was electrocuted when he touched live wire with
one hand and a metal partition with his body or other hand, according
to Dana County Coroner Ray Wosepka.
Hammes was a first-year electronics
student. Wosepka said his investigation showed the light fixture had
been properly wired. Hammes apparently replaced a ballast, a [transformer]
that controls the electrical flow to the light bulbs, and was attaching
the live wire when it electrocuted him, Wosepka said. -- Ibid.
If in your opinion unsafe conditions exist at a property you are inspecting
you should notify all parties concerned, including building occupants/management/owners,
realtors involved, and other appropriate authorities.
December 18, 1988 - Smyrna, GA - A Smyrna family's troubles with a
faulty circuit breaker in their mobile home ended in tragedy when
a fire broke out and killed 18-year-old Jeffrey Scott Auton. Auton's
family, experiencing problems with the main circuit breaker, went
to a home products store to buy a new one for their trailer, said
Fire Investigator David Herndon.
The store did not have a circuit
breaker to fit the family's needs and a new one had to be ordered.
.... Herndon said the fire was started when the circuit breaker shut
down completely as three space heaters were running. The family had
a history of problems with the breaker, particularly from a load put
on it by a large heating unit. Herndon stated that after the fire
there was not a trace left of the circuit breaker; it was completely
the panel. -- Ibid.
For example, what if the case above had happened the day after the
property described had been examined by an ASHI inspector? Were there
perhaps clues which telegraph a developing problem? What about anecdotal
reports from the occupants of recurrent breaker tripping, visible
signs of overheating in the panel, widespread and unusual use of electric
heaters, or evidence of work in the panel by untrained people? These
risks to occupants are also a hazard to the inspector on several
How much electrical energy would it take to kill a home inspector?
Wet skin (standing in water, sweaty) has a resistance of about 1000 ohms. (Dry skin will have a higher resistance, and of course an inspector wearing protective gear such as rubber gloves, rubber-soled shoes, standing on an insulated mat, will have still higher electrical resistance, and safety.)
At this skin resistance, a current of only 0.1 to 0.3 amps at 100 Volts is sufficient to cause potentially fatal ventricular fibrillation. -- Wikipedia September 2008.
Protect yourself and your client from injury using but not limited to the suggestions we provide here and just below.
Electrical Inspection Safety Suggestions from Rex Cauldwell, a Master Electrician
OPINION-RC: "As a master electrician, here is how I teach opening a service panel in my seminars: "The lucky 7""
Eye protection: Wear safety glasses--electrical panels have been know to explode upon opening.
Insulating gloves: Wear rubber dishwashing gloves--panels have been known to become electrically hot as a screw falls when cover is removed.
Look before touching: Don't approach the panel until you give an overall look of the surrounding area to see if
anything looks wrong--such as water on the floor under the panel.
Avoid Shock Pathways: Don't have any part of your body touching items adjacent to the panel.
Insulating floor pad: On a concrete or dirt floor, lay down a thick rubber Welcome mat and stand on it as you
open the panel (wear rubber-soled shoes).
Insulating tools: Use insulated handle tools--I use a Milwaukee electric screwdriver.
Panel Door & Screws: Once door is open (in a Federal Pacific panel (and some other models) beware of falling trim and breakers that pop out),
set door aside and don't lose the screws
Further Safety Warning --DF: these are helpful electrical safety suggestions from an experienced electrician.
No list of suggestions is complete and these presume that they are being
followed by an experienced, licensed electrician. [Thanks to reader Mike D. for careful editing.]
For example, there are almost certainly
gloves and/or boots specifically recommended for this application; there are specific safety details
to look at and for before touching an electrical panel, and procedures for using electrical test
equipment to test or examine a suspect electrical panel.
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Electrical shock injury statistics: www.healthatoz.com - September 2008;
Mark Cramer Inspection Services Mark Cramer, Tampa Florida, Mr. Cramer is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors and is a Florida home inspector and home inspection educator. Mr. Cramer serves on the ASHI Home Inspection Standards. Contact Mark Cramer at: 727-595-4211 mark@BestTampaInspector.com
John Cranor is an ASHI member and a home inspector (The House Whisperer) is located in Glen Allen, VA 23060. He is also a contributor to InspectApedia.com in several technical areas such as plumbing and appliances (dryer vents). Contact Mr. Cranor at 804-747-7747 or by Email: firstname.lastname@example.org
"Frequency of Occurrence and Sources of Rust and Corrosion in Electrical Panels," Daniel Friedman, IEEE HOLM Conference, Philadelphia PA, 1992 - see ELECTRIC PANEL RUST for an online version of this article.
Jim Simmons: Personal communication, J. Simmons to Daniel Friedman, 9/19/2008. Photographs contributed to this website by Jim P. Simmons, Licensed Electrician, 360-705-4225 Mr. Electric, Licensed Master Electrician, Olympia, Washington Contact Jim P. Simmons, Licensed Master Electrician, Mr. Electric, 1320 Dayton Street SE
Olympia, WA 98501, Ph 360-705-4225, Fx 360-705-0130 email@example.com
Kenneth Kruger: Original author of the sidebar on testing VOM DMM condition: Kenneth Kruger, R.A., P.E. AIA ASCE, is an ASHI
Member and ASHI Director in Cambridge, MA. He provided basis for this article penned by DJ Friedman.
"How to Use DMM's Safely," Leonard Ogden, CEE News, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10106, Dec 1990 p.10.
Dr. Jess Aronstein, consulting engineer, Poughkeepsie NY, 1991 firstname.lastname@example.org
Rex Cauldwell, master electrician and contributor to the Journal of Light Construction on electrical topics
New York State Central Hudson Gas and Electric Company, G&E/1-2/85 consumer safety pamphlet
American Society of Home Inspectors, ASHI Training Manual, Al Alk -[obsolete, and includes unsafe practices-DF]
Books & Articles on Building & Environmental Inspection, Testing, Diagnosis, & Repair
Recommended books on electrical inspection, electrical wiring, electrical problem diagnosis, and electrical repair can be found in the Electrical Books section of the InspectAPedia Bookstore. (courtesy of Amazon.com)
Aluminum Wiring Information WebsiteAluminum Electrical Wiring Hazards and Repairs: in-depth authoritative info, photos, documents including selection of proper vs. ineffective repair methods. E.g.: Ideal 65 "Twister" purple connector fails in field and lab testing with aluminum wire.
Electrical Panels, How to Inspect in buildings, safety for electrical inspectors, electrical panel, fusing, wiring defects, defective products. Inspection Class Presentation
Federal Pacific Electric (FPE) Stab-Lok Circuit Breaker Panel Hazards Website - Latent fire hazards, in-depth authoritative research, documents, advice on Stab-Lok electric panel and circuit breaker failures and what to do when this equipment is found in buildings.
"Electrical System Inspection Basics," Richard C. Wolcott, ASHI 8th Annual Education Conference, Boston 1985.
"Simplified Electrical Wiring," Sears, Roebuck and Co., 15705 (F5428) Rev. 4-77 1977 [Lots of sketches of older-type service panels.]
"How to plan and install electric wiring for homes, farms, garages, shops," Montgomery Ward Co., 83-850.
"Simplified Electrical Wiring," Sears, Roebuck and Co., 15705 (F5428) Rev. 4-77 1977 [Lots of sketches of older-type service panels.]
"Home Wiring Inspection," Roswell W. Ard, Rodale's New Shelter, July/August, 1985 p. 35-40.
"Evaluating Wiring in Older Minnesota Homes," Agricultural Extension Service, University of Minnesota, St. Paul, Minnesota 55108.
"Electrical Systems," A Training Manual for Home Inspectors, Alfred L. Alk, American Society of Home Inspectors (ASHI), 1987, available from ASHI. [DF NOTE: I do NOT recommend this obsolete publication, though it was cited in the original Journal article as it contains unsafe inaccuracies]
"Basic Housing Inspection," US DHEW, S352.75 U48, p.144, out of print, but is available in most state libraries.
Carson, Dunlop & Associates Ltd., 120 Carlton Street Suite 407, Toronto ON M5A 4K2. Tel: (416) 964-9415 1-800-268-7070 Email: email@example.com. The firm provides professional home inspection services & home inspection education & publications. Alan Carson is a past president of ASHI, the American Society of Home Inspectors. Thanks to Alan Carson and Bob Dunlop, for permission for InspectAPedia to use text excerpts from The Home Reference Book & illustrations from The Illustrated Home. Carson Dunlop Associates' provides extensive home inspection education and report writing material.
The Illustrated Home illustrates construction details and building components, a reference for owners & inspectors. Special Offer: For a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Illustrated Home purchased as a single order Enter INSPECTAILL in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
TECHNICAL REFERENCE GUIDE to manufacturer's model and serial number information for heating and cooling equipment, useful for determining the age of heating boilers, furnaces, water heaters is provided by Carson Dunlop, Associates, Toronto - Carson Dunlop Weldon & Associates Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on any number of copies of the Technical Reference Guide purchased as a single order. Just enter INSPECTATRG in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space.
The Home Reference Book - the Encyclopedia of Homes, Carson Dunlop & Associates, Toronto, Ontario, 25th Ed., 2012, is a bound volume of more than 450 illustrated pages that assist home inspectors and home owners in the inspection and detection of problems on buildings. The text is intended as a reference guide to help building owners operate and maintain their home effectively. Field inspection worksheets are included at the back of the volume.
Special Offer: For a 10% discount on any number of copies of the Home Reference Book purchased as a single order. Enter INSPECTAHRB in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
Special Offer: Carson Dunlop Associates offers InspectAPedia readers in the U.S.A. a 5% discount on these courses: Enter INSPECTAHITP in the order payment page "Promo/Redemption" space. InspectAPedia.com editor Daniel Friedman is a contributing author.
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