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rewiring ethics - general concept

Discussion in 'Lighting and Electrics' started by ship, Mar 19, 2008.

  1. ship

    ship Senior Team Emeritus Premium Member

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    So I was given what turned out to be a bit more work than I was told to do today, or had sufficient time to fit into my schedule. Just two 24" square drummer platforms that for some reason had a light and a Edison receptacle, but no means of powering them up. Band is low budget as normal in not our show persay, just something to work on as proposed in me doing only what is necessary to get a flange mount surface mount plug on the platforms to power them up. Song with the Little Rascals starting it really annoys me but it’s a project to do as economically as possible in normal for such 70's early 80's bands.

    Got the platforms and found out on inspection that there was a single 20A Edison receptacle flush mounted to the platform and tapped off it was a 35w PAR 16 lamp housing remote to it also flush mounted on the platform. These both in standard household 1900 type boxes to mount or protect that were flush mounted to the platform. Standard stock carpenter trade type wiring of such things and not persay code but sufficient overall to protect hands from the terminals. A few other specific code and in general safety violations done on the other platforms I was not to work on these would interconnect to by way of on surface of the platform jumpers jumping between them. Not the best way to do it but my task was to do the power for the two end platforms for this assembly. Not hard to add a flange mount Edison to the face of the platform on the surface in accepting the task on the surface at least.

    Than I opened up the outlets and noted a very specific lack of grounding by way of grounding wire instead of terminated to electrical box just cut off. Already noted the wire passed thru some sharp cut in steel support type wire ways without bushings and lack of strain relief in any way by way of sufficient to the size of cable drilled hole in electrical box so as to not do a strain relief for it. Just shove the cable thru the hole in the box and not even bushing it, or shove thru the cable thru the sharp edges of the fraiming and call it a day.

    Project was mine now and could be simple enough in wiring up a plug that in someway fed the receptacle which than fed the lighting fixture. Could have simply grounded the first thing in line, but than I considered say some drink spilled on the platform and that water as if drain outlet collected up in that of the un-grounded - ground wire cut lamp socket as a life safety type thing. Also considered cable fed thru box steel that has sharp edges which while not showing damage now, could at some point. Considered the knife blade that stripped the outer jacket of the cable feeding the outlets in stripping it to far and causing serious cuts in the inner conductors at a place it was feeding thru the un-bushed or strain relief conduit boxes.

    At some point the project turned into not just that of providing power to the platform assembly, but doing it properly or at least as safely as given what I was presented wiring it safely sufficient. Added an extra 2.5 hours to the project in doing so at my skill/pay rate. Decided that now that I’m working on the platform, the companies liability and or mine for doing the work was not worth risking someones life in doing it as simple as asked. Also that the rest of the platforms were to be on record in observing what was done, that they should come see me for proper wiring given the system in use with the rest of the platforms was un-grounded and any water on the stage would make the screens to the flush mounted light fixtures potential shocking type stuff in killing someone. On record for this in hoped for proposal to the band in more work to do on the platforms and my work is safe given what it is plugged into might be ungrounded and defeat the purpose of what I did.

    Big question than comes up in that not that I will be fired or yelled at for doing a proper job when asked to only do a hack job for me doing it properly, but how could I do less? What amount of job to do of what is requested by those that don’t know, verses those that do know but are tasked with doing what is specific to the project?

    Certainly I with the driver/rep. for the tour was ticking off code violations on the surface of other stuff I saw on these platforms and willing to let the driver for the tour do simple stuff within the bounds of what was requested by him in general in me just giving him parts. Sorry thing a truck driver doing the tour wiring but within bounds as long as he stuck with me in ensuring he was sufficient to install what was requested and what was requested not sufficient that I was concerned with him doing the work. On the other hand, once given the platforms to do the work on, I could not accept what was done. Budget or not, someone gets electrocuted and it is me and the company held liable no matter if at fault or not. Yea, I wanna be liable for the drummer for some 70's band being electricuted....

    Strain reliefs and grounding of all electrical elements and the platform itself is what I did but it took a bit of time to do the work required and make it safe in fitting with the hack already done. Might have even been more cost effective to just scrap and start from scratch in some instances. Still grounded and done properly is what the work was sent to me for and I did it to the platforms I was sent. Had to seriously modify some boxes to work with what I was given and even bend the concept of the code in getting it done safely but it was both professionally done and done within the spirit of the code.

    But to what worth given the rest of the platforms these connect to probably also have the grounding conductor cut beyond warning that hopefully makes it to the band in paying for it? What I did was sufficient and withing what I could do very safe but what the rest of it indicates negates what I did. Given this, why bother? This in fairly understanding what system it was plugged into was also unsafe and now negates my extra work?

    To what extent does one do what is asked, what beyond this is safe and professional, yet stand back for a what one is not asked to do and is very unsafe given what was done is probably negated by what others this connects to is negating this? Beyond doing what is best and safe, when faced with what you cannot get done in still being unsafe, either why bother even making a warning that won’t go anywhere and living with what is known as opposed to just playing it simple and doing what specifically is requested? What I did is safe and as proper as I can make it given what I had to work with, what it is plugged into is not thus what I did is not as a known concept that does not sit well.
  2. derekleffew

    derekleffew Resident Curmudgeon Senior Team Premium Member

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    Las Vegas, NV, USA
    A moral conundrum indeed, [user]ship[/user]. I suspect I would have done the same as you, "do it right or don't do it at all," but I would share your concerns about the others untouched.
  3. porkchop

    porkchop Well-Known Member

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    I have never run into this problem doing electrical work, but when I was installing appliances I ran into it all the time and what I decided on was a policy of "if I;m gonna be here I'm gonna do it right." I ran into a lot of issues with grandfather claused things that were against code. It sounds as if that is less likely in your situation but still. You can't be held accountable for someone else's work, but if you're hired as a professional to do a job you are required to do that job to code. Basically I came to think of it as believing that what was done was up to code at the time (probably lying to myself I realize) and now that I'm modifying it I need to bring what I modify up to code. My boss would complain about this a lot. "How did it take you 8 hours to install 4 appliances..." but given the fact that almost none of my installs had warranty work done on them because of my work, I left on my own terms and have been invited back to the company to continue work. Theres no reason to half ***** work ever.
  4. lightbyfire

    lightbyfire Member

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    Northern Virginia
    Certainly an interesting problem. I have also run into similar requests. A few years ago somone asked me to replace the P6-20L on a large format toaster, I came over to the facility, only to figure out that what had actually happened was that the On/Off switch had broken and they had pulled wires out ahead of it and wanted me to put a plug on that. I walked off that job.

    And that has happened in a few other cases from time to time, generally similar circumstances, people who don't understand the rules theyve broken, or want to break, and don't see the value in the rules to begin with. I sometimes get nagged about how slowly I work, but the final product is always far and above safer, and of better quality than others around me. I am a big believer in doing it right or not at all. My job isn't worth someone elses injury.
  5. SteveB

    SteveB Well-Known Member

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    Brooklyn, NY
    I think anyone that works in area's that are covered and governed by codes faces this issue frequently - How much to fix. Certainly every trade electrician that walks into someones home to install an outlet sees code violations all the time.

    The answer always is: Fix what you've been asked to fix and are being paid for, bringing it up to code in the process. No more no less, but making the work you do code compliant is important.

    Then write a quick report that you've observed what "may be" other issues that indicate a "potentially" dangerous situation that needs to be inspected and corrected by a licensed electrician, noting that you are not that person (unless you are - at which point say so).

    I know this sounds like a CYA, but that's exactly what it is and what you have to do. Who knows, they (the end users/owner) may well be totally ignorant of the situation and will pay you to make it right. Maybe you prevent another Rhode Island nightclub disaster in the process.

  6. midgetgreen11

    midgetgreen11 Active Member

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    Rhode Island
    being from rhode island, i find it interesting that you guys even heard about that... not that i think it was okay, i was not aware that it was that widely known... pyrotechnics + foam = a bad equation

    sorry for getting off topic, i just had to comment on it
  7. avkid

    avkid Not a New User Fight Leukemia

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    Stagehand/ Production Company Owner
    Howell, NJ
    You have no idea.
    The effects of what has been dubbed "the Great White Fire" have had a huge effect on the live entertainment industry.
    Repercussions are still being felt today.
    It was in a way, a wake up called that needed to happen years before it did.
    (please understand that I do not in any way advocate death or burning down buildings)
  8. Van

    Van CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    Project Manager, Stagecraft Industries, Inc.
    Portland, Or.
    Ship I was actually in a similar situation a few years ago. I was asked to "go over" some display pieces that were going to be installed in a very large upscale well known Portland mall. These were Christmas holiday displays, one of which was a large platform covered in fake garland, intertwined with Christmas lights. From what I understand these displays were originally built somewhere back east, N.J. I believe, and had been "in stock" at the mall for several years. When I started "Going over" these two platforms I found several problems that were similar to what you described on the drum platform; home style quad boxes with no covers on them, 14 ga SO running through the knock-outs, no screw down type cable clamps, the ground wires cut-off, stranded wires sort of wrapped around the screw posts of the Edison plugs terminals and of course half the strands had been cut off when the wire had been stripped, oh and the wonderful twisting together of strands of the wire and E-taped together with no wire nuts in place, and again no strain reliefs. To say I was horrified would be an understatement. I pulled everything apart, re-wired, added spades and rings where necessary, wire nuts, strain reliefs, covers, etc., etc.,etc. Then I started looking at the top of the platforms. The garland and the Christmas lights had been stapled down to the top of this green painted platform, with regular old T-50 3/8" staples. Now I think we all know what a standard hand staple gun is capable of doing to a Christmas light string, and yes when the staples hadn't been shot through one or the other of the conductors, the insulation had been either cut or worn away by the pressure of the staple impeller. Now fake garland has a large gauge twisted wire down the middle of it, when you staple down a piece of garland and that staple also goes through one of the conductors of the Christmas lights you have an energized piece of garland. These were display pieces that were going into a public place, they were about 16" tall, the perfect height for kids, heck even adults might want to sit on the edge of them. I stripped the entire platform, bought new Christmas lights, re-installed all the lights and the garland. Oh yeah and I re-did the plugging of the light as there had been as many as 5 strings of lights daisy chained together.
    Total cost for all the stuff I bought, probably around 100-150 bucks total # hours? well it took me two days so let's call that 16 man hours @ $15 dollars per hour. So for a total of around $400.00 I was able get this to what I considered an acceptable condition. What did I get for my trouble? A ration of S**T for spending too much time and money on a "check up" of some equipment.
    " Well, it's worked for the last four years, what makes you think you needed to do all that?"
    But honestly I couldn't have done anything less with a good conscience and when I finally explained all the issues and the safety concerns I had had I think I was understood. I was given the, " Well next time just check with us first" speech.
    So I don't know, should we clear these things with the pencil pushers first? Are we going to Abdicate our ethics in favor of economics ? Do they pay us for Our expertise and experience or to shut up and do our job?
    I agree with what you did and will stand behind you 100%.
  9. gafftapegreenia

    gafftapegreenia CBMod CB Mods Premium Member

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    [QUOTE=Van;85013So I don't know, should we clear these things with the pencil pushers first? Are we going to Abdicate our ethics in favor of economics ? Do they pay us for Our expertise and experience or to shut up and do our job?
    I agree with what you did and will stand behind you 100%.[/QUOTE]

    Of course not, because if something goes wrong its YOUR head.

    You know I support you guys; we all deal with crap wiring jobs.
  10. TimMiller

    TimMiller Well-Known Member

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    Houston, Tx
    I just mention, its a whole lot less than if you get sued by someone if their kid ends up touching it and gets hurt or dies. Now days parents are looking to sue anyone and everyone. Right now i'm working with a dance group who is getting sued because a kid stepped over the safety lights and off the stage. They were all told that the safety lights define the edges of the stage. There were also glow arrows pointing to the stairs.

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