Communications Cable Avalanche
If there ever was a job that needed a “do-over,” this might be it. The installers were obviously in a rush to get off this job and move onto the next unsuspecting customer. They certainly took no time to be neat and workmanlike with this installation, as required by Sec. 800.24. The coaxial cables are draped over pipes, secured to raceways, and are spilling out of the boxes that are supposed to contain all of the connections. Many cables are dangling or protruding out at eye level and could easily scratch an unsuspecting worker’s eye if he or she was not wearing eye protection. Section 820.133(B) prohibits these coaxial cables from being secured or attached to the exterior of any raceway or conduit as a means of support. On the ceiling, you may notice there are also other communication circuits secured to raceways as a means of support. This is in violation of Sec. 800.133(B). If any of these coaxial cables are abandoned, then they should be removed in accordance with Sec. 820.25. With this mess, I’m not sure how anyone could determine what’s active and what’s been abandoned.
Construction Site Calamity
Generally speaking, when splices are made in wiring methods such as MC cable, AC cable, and NM cables (among others), Sec. 300.15 requires a box to be installed to protect and contain the splices. When it comes to temporary wiring, Art. 590 can amend or modify this general rule. Section 590.4(G) provides some modifications to this box requirement. Unfortunately, this installer did not quite understand the revisions made to that section of the Code. Please be aware that a Tentative Interim Amendment (TIA) was issued for this Code Section on April 5, 2017. The original wording in 590.4(G) of the 2017 NEC allowed splices to be made without being installed in a box for temporary wiring in all locations, if the continuity of the equipment grounding conductor (EGC) was properly maintained. TIA 17-4 revised the rule into the form of an exception that applies only to splices made on construction sites. The exception in the TIA cannot be used for the construction site splices in the photo since the MC cable is not terminated in a fitting to “mechanically secure the cable sheath to maintain effective electrical continuity.” Using two metal cables terminated in a duplex connector would be one way to maintain effective electrical continuity for metal cables without the use of a box. For the situation shown in this photo, the splices need to be in a box.
Russ spotted this mess on the ceiling, which appears to be some temporary wiring abandoned in place. Thankfully, none of this was energized. As specified in Sec. 90.2(A), temporary wiring installations are supposed to follow the same rules for permanent wiring unless Art. 590 modifies the rules. Ironically, there are no rules in Chapters 1 through 4 for permanent installations that state equipment-like boxes or wiring like NM cables must be removed when the circuit has been discontinued. However, if we look at Sec. 22.214.171.124 of NFPA 1 Fire Code, it states, “Permanent wiring abandoned in place shall be tagged or otherwise identified at its termination and junction points as ‘Abandoned in Place’ or removed from all accessible areas and insulated from contact with other live electrical wiring or devices.” For temporary wiring, NEC Sec. 590.3(D) requires temporary wiring to be immediately removed upon completion of construction or other purpose for which the temporary wiring was installed. For practical purposes, abandoned wiring or equipment should be removed. Just imagine what would happen if old circuits and equipment were simply abandoned in place repeatedly. Eventually, there wouldn’t be room for us to install new wiring.
Danger in Plain Sight
Oh boy! This is pretty scary looking. Someone thought wrapping cardboard around the base of this pole would be an acceptable means to provide protection for the wires and to protect the general public from making contact with the energized conductors in the base of this pole. Neither was accomplished. The wires are now exposed to the elements and present a real shock hazard to any passersby. Metal poles used to support luminaires must have a handhole cover that is “suitable for use in wet locations” as specified in Sec. 410.30(B)(1). It’s pretty obvious that cardboard isn’t suitable for this purpose, especially once it gets wet. As evidenced in the photo, the cardboard has deteriorated to the point where it is almost gone. I suppose we could also say the rules in Sec. 110.12(B) have been violated since the broken or missing cover adversely affects the safe operation of the equipment. I bet that Sec. 310.10(D) is also now being violated because these conductors and the wire connectors are exposed to the sun, but are probably not sunlight resistant. Unfortunately, I see cardboard used quite often as a means to provide protection. While it may prevent dust and paint spray from contaminating some equipment, it should not be used to protect people from shock hazards. Shoving stripped back conductors directly into a receptacle is certainly no way to provide power to an attic fan. The loose connections could easily lead to arcing and sparking. This is a clear violation of Sec. 110.3(B). Using an attachment plug (plug cap) is the correct way to draw power from a receptacle. It also appears as though the NM cable is not secured as required by Sec. 334.30.
Speaking of one-of-a-kind installations, let’s hope there aren’t any more of these hanging around out there. Don Tuley, a professional engineer with Tuley Engineering Professionals, PC in Phoenix, spotted this installation in an engineering office. He says, “This work was performed by an electrical engineer. It feeds an attic fan.” The Code does not care whether you are an electrician, an electrical engineer, or a maintenance man. The rules are there to keep us all safe, but they only work if they are followed. I think you might agree that several rules were not followed here. Look at that giant hole in the wall! Obviously, the installer ignored the firestopping rules found in Sec. 300.21. Smoke and fire could easily pass through this opening, causing toxic smoke to fill other areas of the building and allow the fire to grow quickly and cause even more damage.
Alaskan Airport Ailments
Unfortunately, this is not a one-of-a-kind installation. Alan Fetters, a project manager with Alaska Energy Authority, said there are several of these “electrical pedestals” installed at the airport in a small town in rural Alaska. There are no roads going in or out of town, and it’s only accessible by boat or plane. These “pedestals” are used for supplying power to portable heaters for small planes during very cold weather. There are a lot of violations here, but I will start with the lack of physical protection for the single insulated conductors. Section 300.3(A) generally requires single insulated conductors to be installed where part of a Chapter 3 wiring method. Section 300.5(D)(1) requires direct-buried conductors emerging from grade to be protected by enclosures or raceways extending from the minimum depth required by Sec. 300.5(A) to a height of at least 8 ft above grade. The floppy meter socket enclosure violates Sec. 300.11(A) because it is not securely fastened in place. The metal pipe straps that were used to secure the conductors to the post would violate Sec. 110.3(B) since they are not designed for this purpose and could pose a shock hazard if they were to damage the insulation of the ungrounded conductors.
I discovered this gem while troubleshooting the power and control systems for some air conditioning units. First, I will point out the misuse of the PVC junction box as a panelboard enclosure. This is a violation of Sec. 110.3(B). On the upper left side, the lack of bending space for the 6 AWG wires exiting the circuit breaker terminals violates the intent of Sec. 312.6(B)(1) and Table 312.6(A), which requires at least 1½ in. of bending space for these copper wires. On the bottom of the enclosure there are low-voltage Class 2 control circuit cables and conductors mixed in with the power conductors. Section 725.136(A) does not permit Class 2 circuits to be in any enclosure, device box, outlet box, raceway or similar fitting with power conductors unless permitted by Sec. 725.136(B) through (I). There are no barriers to separate the circuits as required by Sec. 725.136(B). In addition, the Class 2 circuits were not installed inside a raceway within the enclosure as permitted by Sec. 725.136(C). Section 725.136(D) allows the circuits to be installed in the same enclosure where separated by 0.25 in. or greater, but this section is not applicable, since the Class 2 circuits are not connected to any associated equipment in the enclosure — they simply pass through this enclosure. None of the other rules in Sec. 725.136(E) through (I) are applicable to this installation.
How in the World Does This Happen?
This install has a lot of problems, but I’ll start with the missing panel cover. This missing cover increases the shock hazard because any energized parts could be more easily contacted. It generally violates the rules of Sec. 110.27(A). The next concern I have is the lack of grounding/bonding for the MC cable at the bottom left of the panel. This cable is just dangling there with no connection to the cabinet, which creates a violation of Sec. 300.10, since it is not mechanically secured and joined “so as to provide effective electrical continuity.” The next problem I notice relates to the handle ties used for the breakers on the left side of the panel. Instead of using 3-pole breakers or single-pole breakers with handle ties “identified” for the purpose as permitted in Sec. 240.15(B)(1), (B)(2), (B)(3), and (B)(4), the installer simply jammed a piece of wire through the handles of the breakers in an effort to make handle ties. Unfortunately, I encounter this common violation all too often. Even if this wiring is temporary, which some of it may be, it still needs to be Code compliant.
Take a Bow
Where did all of the conduit supports go? That’s the great mystery of this installation. The only thing supporting this conduit is a piece of rope tied around the tree just below the box. The box itself is not secured to anything and is also just flopping around when the wind blows. Installing a PVC raceway on a tree is not a Code violation; however, one needs to take particular care when doing so. In fact, Sec. 410.36(G) specifically permits using trees to support luminaires and associated equipment. Section 352.10(F) allows PVC to be used exposed, but “PVC conduit used exposed in areas of physical damage shall be identified for the use.” In other words, Schedule 80 PVC conduit should be used. Table 352.30 requires ½-in. through 1-in. PVC to be secured every 3 ft. Apparently, the installer didn’t read this Section of the Code. Perhaps an expansion-deflection fitting, as required in Sec. 300.7(B), installed near the base of the tree may have helped prevent the conduit from bowing and bending. Lastly, Sec. 314.23(A) requires boxes mounted on a building or other surface to be “rigidly and securely fastened in place.”
Believe it or not, I actually found this while walking along a pier. Yes, that’s NM type cable feeding the motor. According to Sec. 334.12(B)(4), NM cable cannot be used in wet locations. Yet this installer thought it would be just fine to use it to wire this motor, which is located outside. Wrong! The NM cable is just stuffed into the box through the remnants of a liquidtight connector with no means of secure support. This violates Sec. 314.17(B), which requires the NM cable to be secured to the metal box. The installer also paid no attention to covering the box either. Not installing a cover on the box leaves the splices exposed to the elements, and now this box could easily fill with water during a rainstorm. That would greatly increase an already dangerous shock hazard. The missing cover is a violation of Sec. 315.25, which requires covers, canopies, faceplates, luminaires, or lampholders to be installed on boxes in order to complete the installation. To make matters worse, I could not find a disconnecting means for this motor. Lack of a disconnect at the motor location would generally be a violation of Sec. 430.102(B)(1).