Outdoor Electrical Safety Hazards for Electrical Inspectors & Home Inspectors
OUTDOOR ELECTRICAL INSPECTION SAFETY - CONTENTS: Safety procedures during inspection of outdoor electrical components. Standards for Electrical System Inspections. How to use test equipment during electrical inspections - Using DMMs and VOMs Safely
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This electrical safety procedures article discusses outdoor safety hazards at residential properties and suggests safety procedures for the electrical inspector, home inspector, or other professionals who examine residential electrical systems.
The Electrical Panel Inspection for Water & Rust Begins Outside
ASHI Home Inspector Educational Seminar Proceedings: ASHI-NE Chapter Annual conference,
September 22-23, 2008, Randolph, MA. -- by Daniel Friedman.
8. System: Electrical Inspection Standards for Home Inspectors (ASHI and other Associations & State Regulations) 8.1.C. [The inspector shall observe] amperage and voltage ratings of the service
Keep in mind that this determination is required by ASHI Standards
and is to be derived based on visual inspection of the wiring and
equipment. It is not required to use test equipment for this purpose. Sketch courtesy of Carson Dunlop Associates.
Safe electrical inspection procedures and safe use of
volt meters, DMMs, multimeters, and similar electrical test equipment
is discussed at the end of the article.
These electrical inspection suggestions are not a complete inventory of all electrical safety procedures nor of all electrical components that should be inspected; these notes focus on identification of conditions that may present special electrical hazards for the electrical inspector.
Contact Us by email to suggest changes, corrections, and additions to this material.
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.
See AMPS& VOLTS DETERMINATION for determining the ampacity of an electrical service: How to determine the electrical Ampacity and Voltage provided to a building
discusses in detail how to determine the service amps and voltage by visual inspection.
Observe does not mean touch except where removing access covers or operating certain devices is explicitly required.
8.1.A. Electrical service entrance conductors Inspection Procedure
When new service entry cables are installed don't assume that those
exposed bare ends of old SEC you see are "dead." Non-contact voltage sensing devices can determine if any questionable wiring is
Watch the location of overhead lines when moving ladders to access
roof and if the roof is walked, watch for the location of power lines,
antennas, guy-wires, and masts when getting to, walking on, and getting
off the roof.
November 10, 1988 - Marshall, TX - Donald Cleveland Jones, 45, was
electrocuted when equipment he was moving came into contact with electrical
wires, according to deputies. -- Same source as previous news report.
If you see fallen wires do not go near them. Notify the utility company
and appropriate others promptly.
Also watch out for TV antennas which
can be pushed into or fall onto electric wires. -- advice
from NY Central Hudson Gas and Electric Company, G&E/1-2/85 consumer
Use extreme caution in crawl spaces and wet crawl or basement areas - avoid contacting electrical components.
We advise against entering
wet or flooded sub areas at all. we have an unsubstantiated report
of an inspector [or contractor] death by electrocution while inspecting
a damp crawl space using a light plugged into an extension cord.
Use battery-powered lighting or if an extension cord is required,
inspectors should provide their own portable GFCI protected receptacle.
Do Not Assume that "Old Wires" are "Dead"
The Tiff Tic TracerTM [Figure 2, page 11 in the original article, and shown
in the next text section below] will not make a quantitative measurement of voltage.
But this instrument is very helpful
in checking for live 120/240V voltage at wires and devices.
Without physical contact, the instrument will indicate the presence of a nearby
live AC voltage field.
We found a property at which the old service entry cable (SEC) at the building corner
was left in place, cut with a hacksaw about 6' from the ground, bare wire ends exposed, electrically live - it had been left connected
in an old main panel which was used by the installer as a "sub panel" when the new larger main was installed.
Advice For Handling Immediate Threats to Life and Safety at a Building Inspection
If in the inspector's judgment equipment is an immediate threat to life and property, such as a boiler whose flue connection has fallen off, we recommend that dangerous equipment be shut down and the appropriate people notified. See Shutting Down Unsafe Equipment. In some cases "appropriate people" includes not only the client and building owner, but also building occupants.
In some instances such as sparking electrical panels, gas leaks, or evidence of a fire, the inspector and everyone else should leave the building immediately and from outside, call the fire department and as appropriate, the gas company, police, or rescue personnel.
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2779 Mcallister San Francisco California has exterior light outside 2779 cottage that had white vertical waving cloud pop sound and smelled bad. this resulted said electrican of destroying 2779 outdoor light connected to 2781 mcallister which destroyed 2781 mcallister garage indoor lights.
The disconnect labeled 2779 did not turn off the short circuit so I turn off the main circuit breaker panel for 2779.
2779 disconnect and 2781 and 2783 mcallister san Francisco CA are Murray and Westinghouse brands.
What facts tell me what is a good electrican. I am physically disabled and old. outdoor wood doors over outdoor 2779 disconnect and 2781 and 2783 circuit breaker panels do not cover completely.
The open air gap spaces allow rainwater and fog to touch 2779 disconnect that has a horizontal switch that looks like a indoor light switch that has no metal cover over 2779 disconnect. moisture touches he circuit breaker panels with metal doors covering circuit breakers. - L.L. 4/2/2014
L.L. I recall that we have discussed your electrical safety worries previously, at we discussed electrical issues before - see report #3 at FPE FAILURE FIELD REPORTS though now I see you are reporting two other electrical panel brands, Murray & Westinghouse.
I agree that electrical codes will require outdoor electrical panels to be weather-tight, rated for outdoor use, and properly installed.
Electricians are licensed by your state and often local municipality; beyond that we're in trouble trying to evaluate them by email. It's a tougher question to ask how to evaluate electricians as eductaion, experience, skill and importantly, attitude vary among inviduals all of whom may have obtained a license.
Perhaps your local building department can make a suggestion, particularly as you cite unsafe conditions in the homes and addresses in your email.
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Questions & answers or comments about how to safely conduct the inspection of outside electrical components at buildings.
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Electrical shock injury statistics: www.healthatoz.com - September 2008;
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
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)
"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.
The Horizon Software System manages business operations,scheduling, & inspection report writing using Carson Dunlop's knowledge base & color images. The Horizon system runs on always-available cloud-based software for office computers, laptops, tablets, iPad, Android, & other smartphones