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Where is the hazard?

Posted By: gfretwell

Where is the hazard? - 11/08/08 06:58 PM

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 wink
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/08/08 07:22 PM

??! Perhaps it what you may put on the shelf?
Logic seems to agree with you, but 'logic' is not within the NEC definitions.

Posted By: harold endean

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/09/08 05:26 PM

Here in NJ, you might be able to get away with in under our "Rehab" code. What do you think John?
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/09/08 09:16 PM

I treat 'rehab' on a case by case basis. It's difficult to have a one-size-fits-all, flat answer.

A 'panel-change' may fly, but a service upgrade may not.

Then again, as I said elsewhere on this Forum...what happens after I leave is between that person and whatever higher being they believe in.

Posted By: gfretwell

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/09/08 11:15 PM

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.
Posted By: Zapped

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/13/08 03:33 PM

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.
Posted By: HotLine1

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/14/08 01:38 AM

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?
Posted By: mikesh

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/17/08 10:42 PM

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.
Posted By: gfretwell

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/18/08 12:07 AM

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.
Posted By: sparky

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/18/08 01:35 AM

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....
[Linked Image from]
just mho....


Posted By: gfretwell

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/18/08 01:39 AM

I stood in front of this panel and tried to imagine what I would be doing in there. I thought the shelf was a handy place to set my tools and didn't seem to keep me from reaching anything but I am pretty tall.
I found out it is really 9 1/2" not 11 1/2 (1x10 vs 1x12)
Posted By: George Little

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/18/08 03:43 AM

Right along those lines, I have had a couple of times where I had to crawl on my hands and knees to get through an access to get to the Service equipment. There was a light in the area, there was a "refrigerator" space once I got in there but I've often wondered if I wrote this up what code reference I'd use. Was it accessible? Yes. Was it readily accessible? Maybe.

I've wondered about the guy who is shall we say well fed, what does he do? I also had a job where the access was about 16 inches wide and some of us would not have access to that space:)
Posted By: gfretwell

Re: Where is the hazard? - 11/18/08 07:02 AM

I had a similar situation in the attic of the Ringling Museum in Sarasota Fl. I told them that was not readily accessible. You had to "climb over" and around ductwork etc and it was in such a place that you couldn't be "reached quickly". They ended up cutting in another access right next to the panel with a permanent ladder. It was actually quite a nice ladder for a "pull down". Not your daddy's attic ladder.
The mechanical inspector and the maintenance people thanked me for being a jerk about this since a lot of the maintenance items they expected to be easier to get at were now accessible too.
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