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A Moral Dilemma of Sorts

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  • A Moral Dilemma of Sorts

    I've been reviewing some of the threads and it's my first post here and I'm also hoping I posted my dilemma in the appropriate place?

    Iíve been doing handyman work for time and materials on an as needed basis for a business for some time. Anyway a tenant that rents a room their by the month reported that his hotel style in wall heating and air conditioning unit had died a sudden death and as maintenance I was asked to look at the unit. Well the unit appeared decrepit visually so I suspected a bad unit initially and proceeded to then switch it out with a known good unit. Well I still had failed results.

    Now here's where I come to my moral dilemma on the situation. I then figured the only other possibility would be a failed breaker in the box. Since there was no replacement ones on the site I had to drive thirty miles round trip to acquire a new one. Upon returning I proceeded to open this breaker panel for the first time and then stood there looking in total amazement at the most nightmarish conglomerate of hoggedpoddged wiring I've ever seen.

    Anyway I quickly ascertained what the real problem actually was or should I say is. The units in question are 220 units and there are several in this box. Well some moron ran number 12 wire to the physical units from the breaker box and protected the wire with 30 amp breakers. What I encountered was thermal breakdown of the wire due to the lack of protection which would have been provided by the required 20 amp breaker per code. There was evidence of previous occurrences with other units for the same thing by the evidence of numerous wire nuts and splices inside the panel.

    I hate to admit to get it up and running without another extensive trip I spliced the wiring back together again myself. But I especially determined to get things right "real soon". But as a mare disposable employee of sorts just how far I should actually push the issue... And the owners will simply look at it as it's always been that way so it's good enough as a way of not spending the capitol to fix it and "cheep" is always foremost in everything they do.

    The building itself is one huge code violation in general as far as electrical codes are concerned. In most everything I do after I leave for the day with everything up and running assuming temporarily. I'll come in the next day and they'll have everything shuffled around with the extension cords that I had utilized to patch power buried behind the coolers and such denying me access to finish any of the work in a safe appropriate and proper way.

    They now have practically everything on the first floor now running on extension cords. This also bothers the heck out of me and I'd like the opportunity to straighten that situation out right also. But they're up and running so they've disallowed it saying its "good enough". I'm aware it's both illegal and unsafe but at least in that public area everyone is awake and aware and should something happen I'm sure they'd get the building cleared but it still needs done right. I'm well aware of that.....

    But in the area panel box in question is out of public access near the tenants room in the back corner where if it would get a fire started there is plenty of fuel to burn and it's likely it could go unnoticed long enough to get a good burn started with potentially sleeping tenants in the adjacent area. I see it as a potential death trap as they are on the second floor with un-opening windows in the rooms even if they cared to jump out or get some ventilation.

    My repair isn't the only one in question breaker in that box there are several. There is also an adjacent breaker box that I haven't opened as of yet.. But God only knows whatís to be found in that one also. I know they're been a bunch of jack-legs doing work in this place over the years but I can't grasp why anyone would deliberately leave the wiring unprotected with over amperage breakers? It's not as if they saved anything for the effort they're all the same price on the shelf.. It just doesn't make any sense....

    I feel it needs safety prevails now that I'm aware of it and would feel somehow attached or responsible should an electrical fire occur. I haft to admit the extra money comes in handy, but should I risk it to force the issue for the safety of the tenants.... and should an electrical occurrence fire, shock, or whatever happen can I somehow also be held financially liable in any way shape or form for any incurred damages?

    Any Thoughts..

  • #2
    I hate to admit to get it up and running without another extensive trip I spliced the wiring back together again myself.
    Not good. You could be liable if there is a fire. I'd report it to the city, myself. How would you feel if the place caught fire and people died, because you did nothing?
    I am not an attorney, and don't play one on TV. Any information given is a description only and should be verified by your attorney.

    Comment


    • #3
      Originally posted by Houseboat View Post
      I feel it needs safety prevails now that I'm aware of it and would feel somehow attached or responsible should an electrical fire occur. I haft to admit the extra money comes in handy, but should I risk it to force the issue for the safety of the tenants.... and should an electrical occurrence fire, shock, or whatever happen can I somehow also be held financially liable in any way shape or form for any incurred damages?
      The information in your post sounds scary. You need to report these violations that you are aware of.

      You might be held liable if a fire or other type of accident happens due to an electrical problem & you didn't report the violations.
      Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around. Leo Buscaglia

      Live in peace with animals. Animals bring love to our hearts and warmth to our souls.

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      • #4
        It seems you all pretty much seem to think I actually could or may be held accountable and liable at least to some extent.... sort of what I was thinking also but I'm not familiar with any actual laws that specifically point me that direction. But in a since bring the situation here seeking advise expresses guilt to a certain extent.

        They fired me a short while back for no real cause when I stood my ground and bucked them on a safety concern they didn't want to spend the money on to address only to start annoying me about a week later to come back to work. I did let them stew a few weeks before agreeing to going back to work for them and still regret in this economy I pretty much "had to" to pay my bills. One thing I found during my habeas was that their is seeming no way to report violations to any kind of authority or agency without personally attaching my name to the complaint somehow. I don't want the wrath of a stool pidgin coming down on me for somehow attempting to get issues fixed in a safe, appropriate and approved manner. I'm aware of how the system actually works, and it ain't to my best interest to say the least, the wrath, blame and manhelm will ultimately fall on my shoulders, probably exclusively.

        It is sort of like this:

        OSHA we got a complaint from "Houseboat" stating several specific code violations at your site. We're now going to come and inspect your site in two weeks to satisfy the complainant and you've better have everything addressed by then.

        Others have involved OSHA before at this site and the pattern is always prevalent.....

        Does anyone have suggestions on how to get involved without personally attaching my name to the complaint.....

        Comment


        • #5
          Have you actually brought this concern about a potential fire hazard to their attention? If not, start there. Leave out all the technical jargon as their eyes will just glaze over if they are not electricians. Point out that the current system is the reason you keep needing to be called back to fix things. Why you didn't tell them that in order to fix it originally you needed to do XYZ, I have no idea. If you were willing to take the easy way out, why be surprised that they don't know about this issue or see the danger? After all, they hired you and it sounds like numerous others who have done a quick fix and nothing more.

          If something should happen, they are not going to be liable as they knew nothing about it. You however, did know and failed to speak up and even added to the problem.
          I post with the full knowledge and support of my employer, though the opinions rendered are my own and not necessarily representative of their position. In other words, I'm a free agent.

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          • #6
            I'm not clear as to whether you have notified the proper person that you work for that this is a health and safety issue. If they don't IMMEDIATELY fix the issue, (within a few days), then you need to report it to the proper authorities. As for reporting it outside of the company, I wouldn't start with OSHA, I'd start with the fire department, and then the city's building code enforcement. BTW, by having worked on the problem yourself, YOU might have violated the code, if it rose to the level of requiring a licensed electrician, if you aren't licensed.

            One thing to keep in mind, is that if you report this to the authorities, you are likely covered by a whistleblower's law. I don't know for sure, but you are more covered when reporting to the authorities than you are just for reporting it to the higher ups at the company. It would also depend on whether you are an independent contractor or an employee.

            Regardless, you have a moral obligation to report this to the fire department AND the building code department. For my own purposes, I'd be sure to take photos of that electric box as well. I can almost guarantee the fire department would be out there pretty quickly to inspect the box. They LOVE this kind of stuff, especially when it's a residential building.

            All this is general comments, I dont' know your state laws.
            I am not an attorney, and don't play one on TV. Any information given is a description only and should be verified by your attorney.

            Comment


            • #7
              Call local building inspection department. Tell them about the dangerous wiring.
              They will bully their way in, and shut the place down if they see dangerous situations.

              You can also call the local fire department. Either one will do more than any large federal agency in terms of immediate results in a dangerous situation.

              Comment


              • #8
                I agree with GotSmart. Contact the local agency that handles building code violations and speak to the chief at the local fire station. Ask if you can report these hazards without being identified to the building owners/management. Chances are that's possible but even if it's not, what you have to ask yourself is that if these code violations resulted in a fire and tenants were burned or died, could you live with yourself? I seriously doubt it - you sound like a very decent guy.

                Sometimes, you just have to do what you know is the right thing.

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                • #9
                  There is no dilemma. If you knowingly do work that has the potential of being dangerous, (Even if ordered) you can be jailed if someone gets killed. There are a lot of different laws that can be used to throw the maintenance man under the bus.

                  I have walked off of job sites that were dangerous. (440V, duct tape, and leaking pipes do not mix!) as well as called the fire department. That call almost cost me a $100K a year job. Until I explained the companies liability if I had not called, and someone died as a result of our inaction.

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