The Risks of Dangerous Wiring Practices: A Forensic Engineer’s Perspective

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Forensic electrical engineers witness many deficient and sub-standard electrical installations over the course of their career. In my 30 plus years of investigating electrical failures, I have learned that human ingenuity can take many forms, but it is usually a recipe for disaster when used to alter an electrical system. I have also learned not to be surprised by some of the crazy (dangerous) practices that I come across on almost a daily basis.

Improper use of hard wiring

Yes, there is a fair amount of off shore, non – certified electrical and electronic product that makes its way to general household use. Everything from solar panel equipment to electrical cords, should have “buyers beware” warnings, especially if it is purchased on-line or at a flea market.

Improper hard wiring installation

However, many issues arise when electrical equipment is abused or altered. Using extension cords in place of hard wiring is a common misuse of flexible wiring, so you can imagine my surprise when I recently investigated a fire scene where hard wiring was altered to include a receptacle outlet and plug cap.

Duplex receptacles can also be problematic when they are subjected to abuse. Make certain that any power cords plugged into the receptacle are fully inserted. Do not push beds, sofas, chairs, tables etc.… up against the power cord plugs. There are adapter’s available on the market if space is an issue. If the connection between the plug and receptacle is loose then it’s time to change the duplex receptacle.

Receptacle caused a fire

At the end of the day, saving money on an electrician or an uncertified product is not wise and could expose your family to disaster.

Authored by Vincent Rochon P.Eng, Consulting Engineer