I can usually rationalize a code issue by defining a hazard but my wife stumped me yesterday. She has an old panel that is installed over a 11 1/2" shelf. We both know that is a working space violation but I can't explain the hazard. There is plenty of elbow room around the panel itself and the height is OK. The 11 1/2" shelf still allows adequate approach and even provides a counter top to put your tools on. It is non-conductive (wood with polyurethane). After seeing it, I am thinking about putting a shelf under mine
Nobody is ever going to tag this. The fire inspector is fine with it and that is the closest to an electrical inspector they see. I was just curious. It is "working space" for the staff so there is not a "junk stored there" problem and the panel remains readily accessible. The "gotta be posted" documents are on the wall around the panel and they must keep it clear for a half dozen govt officials. (Fire, health, ADA, OSHA, labor, tax man, etc) I just thought it was an interesting idea that is unfortunately illegal.
I think the rule is in place because there is no telling what anybody is eventually going to put on the shelf. Even though, in your application, you are reasonably sure that nobody is going to start stacking a bunch of crap there, I think it's safe to assume that most people would. Give people a shelf, and they'll use it. As I'm sure we all know, people have little regard for electrical equipment, and often like to cover up that "ugly THING" on the wall.
Zapped: Yes, I (or anybody else) has no control over what would be put on the 'shelf'; hence, on a new install that would not fly.
Yes, I have seen electric 'rooms' in comm jobs that were perfect upon inspection, and two days later (on a follow-up inspection) were impossible to get into. Other jobs, the elec room is 100% clean as it was on inspection.
It sounds to me that Greg is talking about a job that could be classified under 'rehab' here in NJ, and as I sais above..I do a case-by-case judgement.
On a side note, I remember a few times hunting for panels that were 'hidden' behind art work, both resi and comm. Who want's to look at that ugly gray cover?
Lots of rules are written to cover the Worst case scenario and yet people always find a worse, worst case to base a new rule upon. How one person behaves is no guarantee the next person will as well. So working space rules are developed so emergency workers have ready access or the electrician is safe. I had an inspection based on a complaint that the meter reader could not get safe access to the meters. I went to the owner and ordered him to remove the boxes of beer bottles stored in the electrical room. The owner just moved them outside until I inspected and the meters were read. About 6 or 7 weeks later the utility again asked me to order the removal of materials from the electrical room. Instead of repeating our previous performance. Same beer bottles and some more to boot I ordered the power off the building. within and hour the tenants started complaining and by the next morning the power was on and the beer bottles went to the recycling store where the landlord managed enough money to pay the re-connection charge. The owner had no explanation as to why he put the bottles back and agreed that he should have moved them to the van he owns instead of just moving them 3 times. I have not gotten any more complaints from the meter reader.
This was really just an academic question. Nobody has ever complained, there are no permits open or expected and they keep the panel clear. My wife just asked me if it was legal and we went from there. She has heard me talk about Jim Pauley's "refrigerator box" many times.
well i don't always find stuff around a panel that much of a hassle gfretwell, it's just that i need my space, and what's asking 30"x36"? I mean , we gotta crawl through places in people's homes and places of work that are pretty bad, it smells, critter eyes are looking back at times, etc....then we gotta put up with every other trades baloney too....
the plumbers are always being prima donna's, the kitchen guy's all remind me of muppet escapees, i'm fairly sure they named capenters after ants and not the other way around, and i've yet to meet a tile guy who's not fuloughed for the job....
so you see, that 30x36 is where i retreat to, it's sparky's last stand (with appologies to Custer)when all those sorts are circling....