Politics + Electricity = Death

From the perspective of those involved in electrical safety, interference with the resolution of hazards and potential hazards should never be tolerated. There is a simple reason for this: Many of us have seen the countless ways electricity has been misused.

We have heard every excuse in the book for why an installation or a product ended up this way, or even have had to listen to arguments from people who are completely or partially ignorant about electrical safety.

Usually they are just in a hurry and don’t want to be faced with the fact that they (or somebody else) cut corners, and now they have to show proof that hazards have been addressed, corrections have been made, questions answered.

Qualified personnel are available

Inspectors (electrical, building, mechanical, plumbing, fire), contractors (electrical and general), hospital biomed and engineering, PE’s, architects, and others are all involved with electrical safety.

Some of these individuals don’t always realize their role in electrical safety, but they are part of the big picture. For example, an architect may specify a particular product for a building, but may not ask if the product has NRTL electrical certification (UL, MET, ETL, TUV, CSA, etc). A PE may be an expert in design of an overall electrical system, but may not have the knowledge of all the product standards that apply to the individual electrical products in an installation.

In smaller jurisdictions, it may be the building inspector who is the only one that ever gets a chance to identity potentially hazardous equipment.

“Kangaroo Court.”

Recently, in North Carolina, the state legislature and the governor were pressured into exempting “manufacturing equipment” or “industrial machinery” from third-party certification and electrical safety inspections.

A group of NC inspectors, contractors and testing laboratory electrical safety specialists witnessed the whole debacle, and the entire story is too long to tell in twenty postings, (we will revisit different aspects of this story in the near future).

To introduce this story, it can be put this way. In a series of summits and hearings, there were two distinct sides. On one side were electrical safety experts; on the other side, were people ignorant about electrical safety.

The experts included professional engineers, electrical inspectors /NEC Codeexperts, electrical contractors, testing laboratory engineers and other knowledgeable individuals.

The ignorant-about-electrical-safety side included Chamber of Commerce spokespeople, a manufacturer facility manager, and an economic development director. Their “Code expert” was a man who invented a way to get cat urine out of carpet.

When the electrical safety experts stood up to testify, the attorney for the manufacturing facility could only try to sidetrack the discussion with attempts to suppress important technical information.

It was fascinating and disgusting to see the amoral tactics used by the attorney, to see the “end justifying the means.”

The final decision was made by a man who builds homes; a man obviously ignorant about the meaning and implications of the decision made.

Numerous letters, e-mails, phone calls from our electrical experts failed to sway the state legislators or the governor. It is interesting to note that this (now) former governor is being investigated for corruption. Some of the legislators are now in prison for corruption. Something to think about….

Read more by Greg Smith

Greg Smith
Greg Smith is a nationally certified product safety engineer (NCE) for TUV Rheinland of North America, formerly with MET Laboratories, with over 20 years of experience in product evaluations. Greg can be reached at 919-348-7481 (Cell), or via e-mail gsmith@us.tuv.com