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Saturday, February 5, 2011

Rules and Regulations

In our society we have plenty of rules designed to protect stupid people from themselves. We have found the lowest common denominator to abide by. Should the NEC follow suit?

There is another website, a forum for electricians, that I recently joined (a very good website). There have been numerous discussions on multi-wire branch circuits (MWBC). Sharing a single neutral with 2 or 3 phase conductors is perfectly safe if installed properly and maintained by qualified electricians. But there are inherent possible problems. Lifting the neutral at the panel can cause voltage spikes on the phases, damaging connected equipment. Trained electricians know how to avoid this, but what about the guys that don't have a license or apprenticeship schooling. They learned on-the-job from other electricians. These other electricians may or may not have had any schooling either. They may have learned on-the-job too. This leads to a relaxed attitude toward licensing, the "I know what I'm doing, I've been doing it for 20 years" attitude. Doing it wrong for 20 years doesn't make one a qualified electrician. With the growing number of non-licensed electricians performing electrical work, should the code enact stricter rules to safeguard the public? I read numerous statements from opponents on this, "If I install it properly then I have done my job and I can sleep at night. What do I care if some idiot comes along after and screws things up?" I think the real question is how much do we owe the end user. If I install the electrical system per code and another electrician comes in to perform additional work and is either lazy or uneducated concerning the hazards of MWBC's, the end user may suffer equipment losses. This could be very expensive.

Others have stated that we just need to enforce the rules we already have. How do we do this? Is the answer stricter licensing requirements for electricians? Should apprenticeship training be mandatory? If we abolish the on-the-job training only approach we will develop better tradesmen. Requiring apprenticeship training would insure that knowledgeable persons perform electrical work. Those that don't make the grade would be weeded out. Electrical work is dangerous and should only be done by trained people, not homeowners, not plumbers, not A/C techs. If it is done improperly it can , at worst, cost lives or, at least, cause nuisance tripping of ocd's.

Let's hear your thoughts.