Around here a school custodian isn't allowed do do any electrical repairs other than changing lamps and resetting circuit breakers. This especially in some of the newer schools as they most likely have 347V lighting circuits. They are not qualified and its simply too dangerous.
I suppose we can always play 'what if.' Let's face reality, though: the safety and convenience of a maintenance worker years later is WAY down on the list of design criteria. Sometimes I think we design lighting to make sure that the ballasts are changed 'hot.'
Economy is high on the list of priorities. Use 277 rather than 120, and you need far fewer circuits. You also make it lots easier to kill someone.
Central management is a high priority, where all lighting circuits get shuffled through a contactor, and a remote controller, in some inaccessible place. There goes the local light switch at every door!
Energy management ... ahh, yes ... now you often have TWO ways to fry when you change a ballast. Split fixtures might look nice, but you still are presenting the guy with a choice of either placing everyone in the dark, or working hot.
Emergency lighting ... ever try to turn one off? Now, there's some competition for the PoCo ... there's a battery that wants to zap you as well!
When I build my mansion up at Lake Tahoe, I think I'll just use keyless fixtures, with pull chains and CFL's
That is true BUT as qualified electricians we should know the safe way of doing electrical repairs and practice them on the job. There is no reason an electrician should get electrocuted.
A.D. I guarantee you highly qualified electricians have been killed on the job. Mistakes happen, sometime the mistake was made long ago and the qualified guy who comes along today gets bit buy the old mistake.
Bob Badger Construction & Maintenance Electrician Massachusetts
Iwire: I have to say I fully agree with mistakes in the past coming back to haunt us in the future.. Believe me I have seen some interesting things done by people in the past that could have been deadly.. I guess that is why I tend to lean towards electrical repairs only being done by qualified people as well. Yes we all can make a mistake as we are human but the qualified person is less likely to do something where it could be lethal to themselves or someone in the future, versus someone that hasn't a clue or a at best some general electrical knowledge and experience. God knows I could go on about one of the supers in the ex-girlfriends apartment complex taking it upon himself to do electrical repairs without any knowledge whatsoever and causing at minimum a "minor inconvience" all the way up to a full out blackout local to some areas of the buildings!
Reno: I also hear what you are saying in regards to almost being forced to change ballasts and such "hot".. Agreed I have done it, it was a 347V fixture, and I know I shouldn't have but it was an issue of " Do I black out the whole store to do this or do I take extra precautions".. On went the gloves and up I went on the fiberglass ladder... I will note that the code has changed here in Canada where all 347V+ fixtures are required to have "disconnects" wired into them and I did wire one into the fixture and each subsequent fixture I repaired, not so much for my safety but for the next guy down the road that may have to change out this ballast a decade from now. Agreed these little disconnects are pricey little things but better safe than sorry correct? The thing that really puzzles me is Canadian code requires them in all 347V+ fixtures ( yes there is the rare 600V fixture). I figure why not make them manditory for ALL fixtures regardless of voltage?!
Sorry for rambling on but 'ya know, just my $0.02 worth!
No, Rewired, you're not rambling. Not to my ears, anyway.
Nor should anyone get the idea that I was belittling the risks of 'working hot.' Quite the opposite. In case anyone was missing my point, I was being quite critical of poor design, which I believe creates (or encourages) unsafe situations.
It's long past time for ballasts to be made to "plug in," and not put us in the position of working with hot wires. Unfortunately (as discussed elsewhere) I believe the current version of this 'solution' is no improvement at all.
What's the real source of the problem? IMO, perception. It's natural to equate 'small' with 'harmless.' Ever notice just how careful we are with 'high' voltage, 'large' amps, and 'big wire?' Why, there just can't be any real danger in those tiny wires! WRONG!
When I saw a guy get electrocuted (he was revived), it was less than 20 amps of 120 on a #12 wire. Many of the 'light ballast electrocutions' involve 277 volts. It's those tiny wires that seem to get you every time!
I can vividly remember a similar instance when I was in 3rd grade in my own classroom. Funny how certain things stick with you. The fellow was not seriously hurt anyway. He was changing out a once of those synced clocks that went "ca-thunk" every minute. I dont know the specifics, but I recall the sparks shooting out of the box on the wall while he had his hand in there and him falling off his ladder. Startled us all pretty good, but he got back up and assured us he was OK before leaving the room.
I know that as a homeowner in this state I can legally change my own light fixtures and switches without having to call an electrician. But once it becomes your job or you do it for pay for other people I thought that a license or something was necessary. Shouldn't the school be held accountable for asking him to do something that should not legally have been part of his job?
I actually have a new ballast sitting downstairs right now waiting to go into a failing garage light. There is nothing dangerous about changing them as long as you turn the power off!
as far as plugs, yes, that would be great, but adding a few more pennies to the manufacturing cost of something wont happen unless it's required to happen unfortunately.