The Best of the Worst: 2017’s Most Interesting What’s Wrong Here Photos

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It's that time again — when some of the most popular and bizarre Code violations are presented. Thanks to NEC Consultant Russ LeBlanc, who continues to amaze us with a seemingly unlimited supply of electrical blunders from the field, we present (in no particular order) the "best of the worst" What's Wrong Here photos from 2017.

1 2017WWHBWBelow1 0

Look Out Below!

These unsuspecting pedestrians have no idea they’re walking over some temporary feeder cables installed to provide power for the street fair. For the most part, these cables are protected by the mats that have been placed over them, which helps minimize tripping hazards and provide some degree of separation from unqualified people. Unfortunately, the installers did not stagger the matt connectors. The result is the exposure of unguarded cables. This is a violation of Sec. 525.20(E). Laying these single conductor cables on the ground may seem like a violation of Sec. 590.4(J), which prohibits temporary feeder cables or cords from being installed in this manner. However, because this wiring is for a fair, Sec. 525.3(A) clarifies that where the Code rules for other Articles differ from the rules in Art. 525, the requirements found in Art. 525 shall apply to portable wiring. For the most part, these accessible cables comply with Sec. 525.20(G) since the protective matting does not constitute a greater tripping hazard than the cables themselves. The exposed connectors do need to be addressed though.

2 2017WWHBWCampground2

Campground Chaos

These UF cables are providing 120V power for receptacles and lights at several tent sites in this campground. While Sec. 340.10(3) permits UF cable to be used outside in wet locations, and Sec. 340.12(10) allows UF to be used where exposed to the direct rays of the sun if the cable is identified as being sunlight resistant, Sec. 225.26 specifically prohibits trees from being used for supporting overhead conductor spans. The swaying and movement of the trees can cause the cables to be damaged, resulting in shock or fire hazards. UF cable is not permitted to be used as overhead cable except where installed as messenger-supported wiring in accordance with Sec. 340.12(11). Another violation you may be able to spot in the photo relates to the splices made in the UF cable without the use of any box or enclosure. Section 300.15 requires splices to be placed in a box or enclosure. However, a box is not required when the UF is spliced underground in accordance with Sec. 300.15(G).

3 2017WWHBWDock2 0

Help Support Our Cause

Looking closely, you may notice that there is only one clip for this vertical PVC conduit run, and it’s broken. The lack of a secure supporting means has caused the conduit to slip down and out of the luminaire mounted at the top of the post. This resulted in the individual conductors being exposed. According to Sec. 352.30, ¾-in. PVC is required to be secured within 3 ft of each conduit termination and supported again every 3 ft. The exposed conductors are a violation of Sec. 300.3(A), since they are no longer installed in a Chapter 3 wiring method as required. It also appears as though there is no box installed for the luminaire. The installer simply secured the fixture canopy directly to a piece of plywood screwed to the wooden post. Not installing a box for the conductor splices is a violation of Sec. 300.15.

4 2017WWHBWConduit2

Conduit Calamity

Believe it or not, this isn’t a flexible cord or cable. This is a group of PVC runs that have “self-destructed” due to the lack of proper supports and failure to use expansion fittings. Table 352.30 establishes the maximum spacing between PVC conduit supports. For sizes ½ in. through 1 in., conduit supports must be spaced no farther than 3 ft apart. For sizes 1¼ in. through 2 in., conduit supports must be spaced no farther than 5 ft apart — so on and so forth. However, even if the conduit supports are spaced correctly, failure to install an expansion fitting as required by Sec. 352.44 can result in bending and warping of the conduit and eventual failure. That appears to have been the case for this installation. The extra strain on the conduit supports from the pipe warping and bending can cause one clip to come loose or break. Over time, another clip fails, and then another and another until the pipe eventually looks like the one in this picture.

5 2017WWHBWExtension5

A New Class of Extension Cords

Is that an extension cord made of PVC and EMT? It appears as though this installer could not figure out a way to get the wiring inside the wall or to put an extension box on the double-duplex receptacle enclosure. There are a few Code violations here including the improper supporting of the switch box. According to Sec. 352.12(B), PVC cannot be used to support boxes. The specific requirements for supporting boxes found in Sec. 314.23(F) will reaffirm the fact that this box installation is incorrect. Using the attachment plug to support the box is not a recognized use for this device, and it violates the requirements of Sec. 110.3(B). Can you imagine how the installer connected the attachment plug into the wiring inside the box and raceway? Is the metal box connected to the equipment ground wire? Based on the workmanship that is visible, it probably isn’t. Metal boxes are required to be grounded and bonded in accordance with Sec. 314.4.

6 2017WWHBWFan2

I’m Not a Member of This Fan Club

Sec. 352.30(A), which requires this PVC conduit to be securely fastened within 3 ft of each outlet or junction box and at 3-ft intervals thereafter. The fan is being used as a junction box here, and I am sure connecting a PVC conduit to it in this manner would violate Sec. 110.3(B) since it is definitely not designed for this purpose. Lastly, I strongly doubt the receptacle installed at the end of the PVC was provided with GFCI protection as required by Sec. 210.8(B)(2).

7 2017WWHBWKneeBend2

This Gives New Meaning to Deep Knee Bends

There are definitely some concerns with the bending methods used on this PVC conduit. Section 352.24 requires field-made bends in PVC conduit to be made with identified bending equipment, such as heating blankets, heater boxes, and other equipment specifically made for the purpose. This PVC looks as though the installer tried to bend the conduit by simply folding it around his knee. The conduit is now kinked and damaged, and its internal diameter has most likely been reduced. A closer look reveals that the conduit has no connector, and it is not even secured to the box. It is partially pushed into the threaded box hole but not secured to the box, as required by Sec. 314.17(B). It may be tough to tell from this angle, but there was no gasket between the weatherproof box and the cover. For this outdoor wet location, Sec. 314.15 requires boxes to be placed or equipped to prevent moisture from entering them. With the gasket missing, moisture may be able to enter the box and damage any splices or connections inside.

8 2017WWHBWSqueeze2

Squeeze Play

At one point in time, this UF cable was buried. Unfortunately, a seed landed at the concrete base of this light pole and over time it grew into a tree, which eventually swallowed the cable and pulled it right out of the ground. Since that time, this cable has gotten stepped on and damaged to the point where it shorted out and tripped the breaker. Thankfully, the breaker did its job. Otherwise this damaged cable would have continued to present a real shock hazard. Column 1 of Table 300.5 in the 2017 NEC requires UF cable to be buried with at least 24 in. of cover for this location. Sec. 340.12(10) prohibits this UF cable from being used in areas where subject to physical damage. It’s obvious from the photo that this cable has suffered some severe physical damage. I was able to cut the cable away from this tree base and use some listed underground splice kits — in accordance with Sec. 110.14(B) — to extend and re-route this cable away from this pole to a safe and properly buried location.

9 2017WWHBWParkingLot2

Parking Lot Panelboard Problems

The panelboard is certainly not very weatherproof with the cover wide open and flapping in the breeze. This open cover defeats the requirements outlined in Sec. 312.2, which states that surface-type enclosures in wet locations must be placed or equipped to prevent water and moisture from entering and accumulating in the cabinet. Enclosures in wet locations are required to be weatherproof. That won’t happen with the cover wide open. In addition, a couple of circuit breaker blanks are missing from the internal cover, exposing energized bus bars and breaker terminals. This is a violation of Sec. 408.7, which requires these unused openings to be closed up using identified closures or other approved means. The missing breaker blanks could also be considered a violation of Sec. 110.27 because the live parts are exposed and are no longer effectively guarded against accidental contact. Small fingers like those of a child could easily reach inside the panelboard and receive a dangerous shock. On another note, the rusted metal raceways coming up out of the ground may be in need of some additional approved corrosion protection as specified in Sec. 300.6(A)(3).

10 2017WWHBWTap2

A Terrible Tap

This was a terrible attempt to tap power from this 800A circuit breaker. The installer simply took a 12 AWG wire and shoved it into the same terminal with the 350kcmil conductor. This created a very poor connection, which resulted in some arcing and sparking. The heat from this arcing ultimately damaged this 800A breaker to the point where it needed to be replaced because the terminals were so badly damaged. The conductors were also damaged. Thankfully, this did not start a fire. Jamming two conductors into a terminal designed for only one is a violation of Sec. 110.14(A) and can result in damaged equipment, or even worse. There is one open terminal remaining for each pole of the breaker, but the terminal is much too big to accommodate the 12 AWG wire. If this installer was trying to make a feeder tap, there are splicing devices that could have been used to make a connection directly onto the conductors instead of jamming wires into the terminals. Of course, the installer could have put the 12 AWG wires on their own breaker too.

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