Over the years I have spent a considerable amount of my time fixing work that other trades people have done.
Often the lights worked for a while, or the power point was fine for a couple of years, but then they just stop working. Sometimes the lights or power points never worked properly from the installation date, but the client wasn’t able to resolve the issue and they ended up having to leave it as it was.
But this one is very serious
I recently came across some very serious faults that could have caused someone’s death. In my life as a tradesman, I have never seen anything so dangerous as what I am about to show you.
I got asked to change a light fitting to a modern, and more energy efficient fitting. It seemed simple enough, but when I pulled the fitting apart, I was immediately alarmed.
In the picture below you can see that there are some copper strands wrapped around the white cable (see the red circle). This is the earth, and is your protection against electric shock (and potential injury) or electrocution (death). It also protects you against fire, should a short occur.
As you can see it isn’t connected to anything. It certainly isn’t connected to the correct terminal on the light fitting.
Now if you look at the terminal block (where the cables are connected) and look at the blue circle. This is where the earth should be connected. (The green box shows a copy of the terminal configuration so you can see it more clearly – the middle terminal is where the earth should go – the other side of this middle pin is directly connected to the light fitting chassis.)
Oh my goodness
Alarmingly there is a red cable connected into the earth terminal, and on checking I found that this cable was the un-switched active (a live cable that doesn’t pass through the switch). It also meant that the metal chassis of the light fitting was also live.
It was a good thing that I was on a fibreglass ladder, and a wooden floor – less chance of me being electrocuted.
This light fitting was so dangerous, that just touching the metal of the light fitting could have caused someone’s death – perhaps even mine!!! If I had touched the fitting and made contact with the earth wire, I could easily have died. (For those more technically minded, there was no RCD on this circuit)
No-one knows who installed this light fitting. Unfortunately as it worked when it was switched on, the new owner had no idea that it was so dangerous and could have killed them.
I have since been asked to check every fitting in the house, to make sure that there are no other surprises…
… There is more to follow on that as I found more evil within this premises – to the owner’s horror!
The reason for telling this story.
When you ask a trades-person to install something for you, you often don’t know what you are getting. You can check their license and even phone previous customers to verify their quality. It still isn’t any guarantee.
Also, sometimes when you buy a new home, the previous owners may have done things themselves which the new buyer isn’t aware of (a possibility in this instance).
Sadly you can’t tell how good or bad things are until you pull every power point, light switch, and light fitting off the wall. Even then, you still may not know.
Building and pest inspections won’t pick this up either – even an electrical inspection might not, as it takes a significant amount of time to do. There could also be significant faults within the wall that can’t be seen or tested for. If you find lots of serious faults, it is probably time to replace it all.
When you have any electrical work carried out on your home, always ask for:
- License details – so you can check their license beforehand on the DFT website (Department of Fair Trading regulates all trade work). Previous non-compliance issues are permanently recorded by the DFT.
- A Compliance Certificate (CCEW) – A CCEW is mandatory under DFT Home Building Legislation for all new work, modifications or alterations to electrical work.
- A receipt
Always keep your receipts and if you ever have any concerns, phone the DFT for advice. They can then investigate the trades person and offer advice, follow up for you, or prosecute them where necessary.
Bye for now,
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