back to article You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right? Trust... but verify

Welcome to an electrifying edition of The Register's regular Who, Me? feature in which a reader rues the day he decided to trust the electrician. "Harry" (no, not his name) was toiling away in his first IT job back in the late 1990s. "I was working on a Y2K remediation project," he told us, "for a large law firm." The US- …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

    No. I would not. Not after some of the experiences I've had.

    1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

      Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

      AMEN to that. I may not be officially qualified, but I trust my own work on wiring a building (my home) a lot more as it may mean the life of me and mine.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

        If you actually know what you are doing, then yes, some people do not, but believe they do. I hope I am not one of them :p

        I have done the electrics on my house, been thinking about getting it checked over at some point (to be certified). Its basic wiring, read up on the regulations to ensure its done as required etc.

        Have had plumbers do work, god, I wish I hadn't, having to fix their mistakes, after calling them back multiple times, providing exact info, still not doing it correctly, using wrong fittings, putting in the wrong places, forgetting to put in outlets, breaking existing piping and refusing to fix it. Costing 5-6 times what it would have been if I had just done it myself.

        The problem is, I trust myself more with electricity than water / sewage.

        1. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          (overheard on a building site) When electricity leaks, it doesn't make as much mess as when water leaks.

          electicity < water < gas

          1. MiguelC Silver badge

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            When I bought my house I swapped the gas cooker for electric appliances, so the builder's pseudo-electrician prepared the wall sockets (or so I though) and plugged my new electric oven and induction hob. I had then a certified gas technician come to check on the gas pipes and close the one that fed the original gas cooker. Fortunately, he was also a certified electric inspector because, when looking at the hob's installation, he shuddered in disbelief. Apparently, the 7200W hob was connected to the wall socket using a poundland kind of plug, instead of being directly connected to a junction box. He told me the plug would have probably burnt and might have caused a major incident. So I asked him to properly redo the wiring and never had a problem since. Close call...

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              I would also (very politely) have requested him to provide an inspection report together with a separate invoice for redoing the wiring correctly, to submit to the builder as a clear warning in black on white his "electrician" was endangering other people.

              1. anothercynic Silver badge

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                I'd second that!!

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                ON top of that I would have notified my insurance company what had happened - most of them will dig further into cowboy operators when notified of them, as getting them shut down is cheaper than paying out on the damage they cause

            2. juice Silver badge

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              I spent about a decade living in a house; it used to be the landlord's family home, so had been decorated and maintained via a combination of DIY and what I assume to be "mates rates/cash-in-hand" from people he knew, given that all tradesmen tended to appear at weekends only.

              At one point, the boiler got to the point where the insurance company refused to repair it any more. I had a friend who'd just qualified as a gas technician, and he came round, looked at what was needed, and put together a relatively low-ball quote - partly to assist me, and partly because he was looking for experience and work.

              However, the landlord got a cheaper quote from his mate who did the annual boiler checks. Despite the fact that said mate didn't even do any inspections to verify the amount of work needed, instead relying on his memory of how things looked when he did his last inspection.

              And that's how I ended up with the kitchen completely out of service for a full bank holiday weekend while an increasingly irate "mate" and his support crew bashed about on a job which was much bigger than they'd assumed.. With the added bonus that large chunks of the ground floorboards had to be ripped up, since it turned out that all the pipework needed upgrading. Which also meant that you gingerly had to balance on the beams to get to the stairs if you wanted to go up to the bathroom or bedroom...

              Still, we did get to discover that the regulator (or somesuch) on the gas cooker was actually one that'd been pinched/repurposed from an old gas fire...

              After years of being promised that "we'll replace $everything Real Soon Now", I eventually tired of the "benign neglect" after the third time water started dripping on my bed due to a badly patched roof and moved out to somewhere nearby[*].

              Which meant that I was able to indulge in a little schadenfreude, since I was able to watch what happened afterwards - it was essentially a full gut and rebuild, including replacing all the doors, windows and the roof and a full replaster inside, which left the house out of commission for a full year.

              I.e. they lost a full year's rent and had to spend many thousands of pounds on getting it back up to spec.

              It was certainly a prime example of how important preventative maintenance is!

              [*] And even after I'd lived there for a decade, they still tried to claim back half the deposit for "damage" to the carpets. Still, I wrote a letter pointing out that the carpets were old when I arrived, and that the maximum recommended depreciation period for even a high-end carpet is only ten years. And that there were issues caused by the damp from the failing roof. And that they'd promised to replace the roof and windows five years earlier. And that they'd have to replace it anyway, since they'd knocked out the partition wall between the two downstairs rooms. And that they'd already started to strip the plaster from the walls on the final weekend I was moving out, with no effort made to protect the carpets. And...

              Oddly, they relented after this ;)

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                > maintained via a combination of DIY and what I assume to be "mates rates/cash-in-hand" from people he knew,

                Oh good grief, been there. At one place we rented the annual boiler maintenance, seemed worryingly slapdash. I happened to be home for the event, one year, and matey put the cover back on. But I could smell gas by this stage, so I asked "Are you sure the pilot light is on?"

                "Yes," he said.

                "Would you check, please?" ever so reasonably.

                "Oh it isn't. No problem. You just press this and this."

                "You wouldn't mind doing that since you're here, would you?"

                "Oh alright"

                Well, he clicked the button and a sheet of flame shot out half way across the room, with him in the middle.

                "Oh," says matey, trying to make it sound like no big deal, "maybe I'd better check I tightened up the connections..."

                "Yes. I'd like that."

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: sheet of flame shot out half way across the room

                  Good point to say never EVER put combustible items close to a gas burning appliance.

                  My brother and I noticed the house was cold after we got home from school. So after our Dad got home he checked and saw the pilot light was out. He lit it and all was well for the first minute or so until the furnace warmed up and the blower turned on.

                  Then the "sheet of flame shot out". Turns out the heat ex-changer had come loose so air was blowing down past the burners forcing the flames out the front. My Dad then shut it off real quick.

                2. ICPurvis47
                  Mushroom

                  Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                  My brother in law had a maintenance contract with a national gas company. One December, just before Christmas, they sent a fitter (note, not an "Engineer") to do his yearly maintenance. When I went to visit my BIL on Christmas day, I was struck by the strong odour of gas in their flat, and asked if they'd had any work done recently. When told that they had had the visit from BG, I immediately told them to open all the windows and doors, even though it was snowing outside. I removed the front cover of the gas fire, and the smell was overpowering. I touched the main incoming gas pipe, and could hear a slight hissing sound, so I tightened the union nut by hand until the hissing stopped. The fitter had reconnected the fire finger tight, and not used a spanner ti fully tighten it. I went to my car and returned with an adjustable spanner, which I used to fully tighten the nut. Later on we closed the doors and windows to let the CH do its stuff and warm the flat up again. I asked whether they had noticed the smell, and theyreplied, yes, they had, but thought it was coming from the cement works about half a mile away up wind, so had ignored it.

                  1. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                    " When told that they had had the visit from BG, I immediately told them to open all the windows and doors, even though it was snowing outside"

                    You should have called the gas emergcny line too, even after making it safe (assuming you're not legally qualified to do so) Any fuurther problems could drop in YOUR liability lap

                    1. TechHeadToo

                      Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                      Oh no, not the lads employed to prove that they need the job. No chance of getting heat back if you do that.

                      My daughter. disabled, was well brought up, and so understands many of the potential hazards around the place, though she cannot fix things herself.

                      So when there was a cause for concern at her flat, the lads were called, they visited as a gang, agreed there wasn't any immediate danger, and insisted on the main supply being turned off until the head honcho could come and sign it off. Not the same day.

                      .

              2. KBeee Bronze badge

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                "after the third time water started dripping on my bed due to a badly patched roof.."

                After the Great Storm of 1987, a mate of mine got a knock on the door by a couple of diddys. They said they'd noticed he'd lost a couple of tiles from his roof at the front of the house, and for £50 they could fix it there and now. He said OK. It only took them about half an hour to fix and my mate was more than happy.

                The next time it rained he got water dripping into his bedroom. Checking out the back he saw they'd taken tiles from the back to replace the missing ones at the front.

                1. juice Silver badge

                  Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                  Ouch!

                  To be fair to the (ex) landlord, the people he got in to do stuff were generally competent.

                  Including the roofers; they'd turn up, look at the state of things, cluck their tongues and tell the landlord that it needed replacing. And then he'd pay for them to patch it.

                  I do half wonder if maybe the landlord had simply decided to wait until the deteriorating conditions forced me to move. If so, then given how much work was needed and how long it took to it fit for purpose, the joke was arguably on them :)

                  It's a shame - I'd almost certainly still be living there if they'd spent even a tiny fraction of my rent money on maintaining the property. I did check how much they bought the house for, back in the mid-90s; after ten years, my rent payments had comfortably paid down the mortage and then some...

                  1. anothercynic Silver badge

                    Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                    Same story here (landlord buying in the 90's and me effectively paying off the mortgage in the last 4 years). Of course, when I ended up buying the property, I low-balled the offer to the bare minimum they would accept, purely because I knew what needed fixing pronto (hence the heating a few years later).

                    I could've moved, but I got to like the place, I couldn't be arsed to move, and given the shoddy build quality of new-builds in the UK, I'll take the cowboy-builder builds of the late sixties/early seventies over them any day of the week. At least they used proper mortar and bricks, none of this breeze-block+cheap mortar that's more sand than concrete rubbish that needs ripping down after 15 years, even if they didn't clad their plumbing in lagging before embedding it in the concrete floors.

                    1. juice Silver badge

                      Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                      > Same story here (landlord buying in the 90's and me effectively paying off the mortgage in the last 4 years). Of course, when I ended up buying the property, I low-balled the offer to the bare minimum they would accept, purely because I knew what needed fixing pronto (hence the heating a few years later).

                      I did debate similar - part of the reason I stuck there for so long was that the rent was relatively cheap - they only increased it once in ten years - and it was in a perfect location (aka: walking distance into town for work and play, while also offering very easy access to the M1 and the train station).

                      On the other hand, I also knew exactly how much work the place needed ;) And I didn't really feel like several months of living in a building site while burning all my spare cash and still having to do my dayjob, to boot.

                      Then too, I moved out back at the end of 2019, so just a few months before Coronavirus disrupted everything, which would have made getting contractors in even more complicated than usual - and which is probably also part of the reason why it took the landlord 12 months to renovate it.

                      So, yeah. Think I dodged a bullet there!

                    2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                      Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                      " given the shoddy build quality of new-builds in the UK"

                      It's not JUST the poor quality of them, but that they're being built below minimum habitation standards for floorspace and natural light (enforceability in planning permission requerements on private dwellings was done away with in the 1990s, but it still applies to rental properties)

                      These places are legal to sell and for buyers to live in, but NOT legal to rent out as you can't contract out of legal minimums in a rental agreement (a numbe of buy-to-let landlords have been prosecuted over this ands there's the classic story of one of the "homebuilders" trying to sell partially built houses to councils in the wake of the 2011 crash only for the councils to discover they were "unfit for social housing purposes")

                      Believe it or not, average floorspace per house has decreased since these issues were publicised

                  2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                    Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                    "Including the roofers; they'd turn up, look at the state of things, cluck their tongues and tell the landlord that it needed replacing. And then he'd pay for them to patch it."

                    My landlord did that twise and it still leaked. He then went with a "Cheap" firm operated by a friend of his who "repaired" the roof and took the best past of 6 weeks to do so (scaffolding everywhere)

                    18 months later it was leaking again. This time a more professional outfit was called in and they retiled the entire roof (plus repointed the dangerously decaying chimney) for less than the previous cheap outfit, in about 2 weeks, complete with insulation replacement, etc

            3. ICPurvis47
              FAIL

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              When I installed storage heaters in the old cottage we bought, I had to get an electrician from the power company to check my work, certify it, and then connect it to the incomer. First electrician comes along and says "You must have a separate Earth Leakage Trip (ELT) for the heater circuit, as well as the original one for the rest of the house", and leaves. I obtain and fit said ELT. Second electrician turns up, OKs my work, but insists that the Protective Multiple Earth (PME) must be connected directly to the earth rod outside the house. He will not listen to my plea that such a connection would render the ELT inoperative, as any fault current would bypass it down the thick earth cable. He waits while I run an extra earth wire, then presses the yellow test button to prove that the new ELT is working. He then signs it off and leaves. I then whipped out the wire cutters and removed the offending earth wire, before checking that the ELT was working by connecting a resistor from Live to earth in a spare plug to inject 30mA down the earth wire.

              1. Jaap Aap

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                Not per se, protective earth and earth leakage detection are seperate protections. I'm not up to spec, but I think the second sparky is right.

              2. Alan Brown Silver badge

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                > ...second electrician turns up, OKs my work, but insists that....

                "If you want it done that way, that's find,, but for legal and insurance cover, I want you to put that demand in writing along with your reasons for doing so"

                And then call in he local safety inspector later

            4. Michael H.F. Wilkinson

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              Ever since I found a green and yellow wire carrying mains current, I have very little faith in wiring installed anywhere. I ALWAYS check everything myself

              1. Rtbcomp

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                I had a house where a two-way light was wired with twin & earth instead of triple & earth, the earth wire being used to carry mains.

                The gas boiler put out more fumes than heat.

                The guy I bought it off was a fireman! I'm surprised he didn't have the chance to bring his work home with him.

              2. pirxhh

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                Same here - when my parents had their home built in 1978, the sparky did that "as the 4-wire cable is too expensive". Wide-eyed and all keen to learn, I asked if the relevant code (VDE0100) had been revised (happened all the times but rarely in the really fundamental areas).

                Shamefaced, he pulled out the offending cable, fitted the correct one, and had the wall replastered.

                I was twelve at the time.

          2. Aus Tech

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            "When electricity leaks, it doesn't make as much mess as when water leaks". True, true, but when electricity leaks, you are in danger of receiving shocking news, as in it being FATAL.

            1. Medical Cynic

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              But with gas leaks, it wipes out the rest of the family, too!

            2. Alan Brown Silver badge

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              That's because electricty doesn't know how to conduct itself and it doesn't like well-grounded people

        2. Admiral Grace Hopper

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          The problem is, I trust myself more with electricity than water / sewage.

          Absolutely. I can usually work out how stuff that comes down wires behaves. Stuff that comes in pipes is outside my competence.

          1. The commentard formerly known as Mister_C Bronze badge
            Boffin

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            It's all down to the delivery medium.

            Pipes have an inside and an outside. The stuff that comes in pipes lives inside and wants to get outside.

            Wires don't have an inside. The stuff that comes down wires doesn't know that there's an outside and therefore is happy to stay inside.

            Kind of a "reverse smoke" if you will. Steam or diesel powered ("proper") machines produce smoke to show that they're working. Elastic Tricky machines produce smoke to show that they won't work anymore.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              But the electrickery comes in 'pipes' and, like water and gas, that electrickery wants to get outside

        3. hoola Silver badge

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          The issue is that there is this constant battle from the various trade bodies to attempt to force certification of any work. Of course this can only be done be approved people with varying bits of funky (or basic) equipment. Building Control are pretty much forced down this route because of the "safety" aspect. Safety is touted as the reason why it is so important to use regulated tradespeople and then get the magic certificate at the end. A few well publicised catastrophic house fires or collapses with allegations of DIY are all it needs to start the certified tradesperson drum banging again.

          Like many on here I have either directly, or indirectly seen the results of the work some of these so called tradespeople have done and they can be a liability. If you do report them to some sort of trade body it goes nowhere as they are not interested.

          The requirements for all sorts of certificates when you come to sell a house pretty much dictate what you can do in these days of more frequent moves.

          One of the pieces of total lunacy when I was building a large extension a few years ago:

          For the electrical work as long as the sockets were on an existing loop you could do it yourself but woe betide if there was a bathroom anywhere. At that point you are completely screwed because you simply will never get the work signed off for Building Control without the electrical certificate.

        4. Nick London
          Headmaster

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          If you are in UK Building Regulationss require all electrical work to be signed off by a qualified electrician.

          I have met a Chartered Electrical Engineer who rails at this. "I am qualified to design power stations but not to extend a domestic circuit."

          I believe like for like replacement of sockets and switches is excluded.

          1. Caver_Dave Silver badge
            Coat

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            And on the opposite side...

            You can write software for the power station WITHOUT any software qualifications.

            Coat because the crowd on here hate any suggestion that they should be regulated, qualified or checked for competency.

            1. katrinab Silver badge
              Mushroom

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              Well an MCSE or whatever it is called these days isn't going to make things any better, is it?

              1. DustyP

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                MCSE

                Stands for Must Consult Someone Experienced

                1. AlbertH

                  Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                  MCSE

                  Stands for Must Consult Someone Experienced

                  I thought it was "Minesweeper Consultant and Solitaire Expert"

          2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            >. "I am qualified to design power stations but not to extend a domestic circuit."

            Oh the wailing and nashing of teeth when PATT testing met the university engineering dept.

            1. Norman Nescio

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              Oh the wailing and nashing of teeth when PATT testing met the university engineering dept.

              Testing portable appliances three times would be enough to give me paranoid schizophrenia as well (or testing the procedures that test the procedures that test portable appliances). The to and fro of regulations is just a game which will come an equilibrium, even if people don't co-operate; which is a beautiful outcome to my mind.

              NN

          3. John Robson Silver badge

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            Well - there is some use to it.

            I wired up my loft using a 'not listed' circuit, talked through it with a sparky who agreed that what I had designed and implemented was reasonable and within spec.

            He came round to test and we found a break in the live ring - something I'd not have spotted.

            Ok, it then took my skills to find it and fix it (a cable which was seeming clamped into the back of a socket just needed taking out and putting back in again).

            But that test process was useful.

            (Not listed: There are various listed circuit designs, the lollipop is not one of them - 6mm spur up the house to a 2.5mm ring at the top, though that is appropriately rated at all points)

          4. MJB7

            Re: Building Regulationss require all electrical work to be signed off by a qualified electrician

            That's not true. You *either* need it signed off by a member of the appropriate trade body (which is not the same as "qualified") *or* you need Building Control approval. It is usually easier to hire an electrician to do the work and sign it off, but I have a friend who rebuilt his entire house (for which he needed building control approval anyway), and did all the wiring himself.

            1. SImon Hobson Silver badge

              Re: Building Regulationss require all electrical work to be signed off by a qualified electrician

              Sorry, that's not right either.

              For NOTIFIABLE work you have to either use a member of a scamscheme who can self notify, or you can notify directly through BC and pay their exorbitant fees.

              For non-notifiable work, well you just don't have to notify it at all.

              Anyone who is competent to do the work is allowed to do electrical work, including issuing a certificate for it (either an Electrical Installation Certificate or a Minor Works Certificate). It's only notifiable work that needs notifying.

              NOTE: The rules differ across the UK. In England, the only notifiable works are replacing a consumer unit, adding a circuit, or works within the zones of a bathroom - nothing else (this was relaxed in 2013). Wales still works to the older (more restrictive and complicated) notification rules introduced in 2005. Scotland has something completely different - more restrictions on who can do works. Dunno about NI.

          5. John Miles
        5. anothercynic Silver badge
          Mushroom

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          Well, had similar with heating engineers... I discovered a veritable treasure trove of copper piping hidden behind a board in one of my cupboards that connected the old gas-fired back boiler (you know, the old gas-fire-in-front-boiler-in-back type) to the heating piping, and asked for that to be removed and straightened out during a heating system renovation (which included getting rid of the back boiler and a new boiler installed in the kitchen).

          The heating guy and his two assistants *nearly* got away with leaving all that cruft and simply re-connecting things, if I hadn't noticed in the nick of time and reminded them that I wanted the stuff cleared and the piping exposed along the living room wall (would *you* like to dig around in tight spaces to find a leak in a heating system, or rather a wet patch on the living room carpet alerting you to a problem). They also tried to leave an obsolete thermostat and its wiring heading to a cupboard where an immersion tank had been. Told them to rip it out and isolate the wiring given it was to the thermostat. I suspect they were not too impressed with me pointing out the things they weren't doing that I had specifically asked they would.

          At least things are... reasonable now. The next thing is to get an electrician to look at the wiring in the building when the kitchen gets renovated because I *know* there will be horrors that lurk behind the stud walls that clad the kitchen... The fusebox is from the seventies, which in itself is... great fun!

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            An exchange reported to me by an architect at a client - builder progress meeting:

            Client rep: "Speaking as an engineer ..."

            Construction engineer (Ove Arups*) rep: (Surprised) "You're an engineer?"

            Client rep: "I'm a heating engineer."

            Construction engineer: "Oh, how vulgar."

            *Arups**, I'm informed, don't do 'bog standard'. Their bridges leap elegantly across chasms, their towers are soaring pinnacles, etc. etc. They are the creme de la creme of construction.

            **Please don't sue me, I was told this a long time ago and if coerced will cringingly reveal the name of the source and blame him entirely. Look, he's not even a practicing architect any more, OK? And he could have been exaggerating for effect, you know. So it probably never actually happened.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Anonymous Coward

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              'The design of the bridge was the subject of a competition organised in 1996 by Southwark council and RIBA Competitions. The winning entry was an innovative "blade of light" effort from Arup Group, Foster and Partners, and Sir Anthony Caro.'

              That's the infamous Millennium Bridge in London, now better known as the 'Wobbly Bridge' because they hadn't factored in resonance

              1. H in The Hague Silver badge

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                "That's the infamous Millennium Bridge in London, now better known as the 'Wobbly Bridge' because they hadn't factored in resonance"

                They had ... for vertical movement which is usually the problem with these bridges. (E.g. Galloping Gertie - I've actually got a cute little hand-held film viewer of that.) But this was the first bridge to develop significant horizontal resonance. Now fixed with some dampers.

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            I had a heating engineer come out to check my fire + back-boiler after I did some non-related renovation. He cleaned some crud out caused by the work and checked it was all working and left. A few days later I noticed a burn mark on the bottom of the fire and took a closer look. The front of the fire was loose and there was a flame coming out of the gas feed to the fire - not the fire itself. Basically he'd forced the front of the fire back on and caused the feed pipe to fracture at an olive. I ended up sourcing a replacement feed pipe and refitted it myself. Rather a dangerous situation and scary at the time.

            1. WorsleyNick

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              When the gas main outside my house was replaced the feed to my house was replaced. A very muddy young 'engineer' disconnected the old feed and connected the new feed to the meter. He checked that my pipework etc was gas tight using a manometer. When he had finished and was about to go I told him that I could smell gas. He airily told me that it was only the gas that had escaped during the change and would soon disperse. An hour later still a strong smell of gas,but no gas men left in the area.

              A quick look and at the meter and voila the cap on the manometer had not been tightened, even finger tight. So much for professionals.

      2. Imhotep Silver badge

        Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

        Yes, after moving in to my new home, I had to do a lot of rewiring.

        1. pirxhh

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          I now tag-out the breaker, lock the fuse box with my own lock, measure the circuit and then plug in a handy plug with a direct bridge between all three prongs (and a "remove before flight" tag attached).

          So if any kind of... helpful person... tries to power the circuit, the breaker will trip immediately.

          Paranoid? Maybe. But I have had narrow escapes of exactly that kind, so hopefully I'm paranoid enough.

      3. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge
        Facepalm

        Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

        Unfortunately your can't anymore. In many areas of the US you need a permit and a licensed electrician to so any electrical work outside replacing a socket. My father rewired our house many times and I learned from him, so no I do not trust electricians.

        2 cases, to brand new homes next to each other.

        Me: Hanging Christmas lights in y new home outside (LED) finish handing and plug in. The lights are very dim. I take down one string and bring inside and plug in, works fine. Go to the outside plug and open it up and as I pull the socket out the neutral wires slides right out of the socket. Was not even screwed down. fixed that and proceed to check every plug in the house and find quite a few with the same problems.

        My neighbor: Nice young man in his 20s. Comes over asking if I have a multi-meter. Sure I say, what's the problem. He says there is a light in the kitchen that is very dim. I go over and look and sure, he is right, I look at the connections and they are fine. I ask to see his breaker box. We open the breaker box and finer multiple breakers where the screws that pin down the neutral wires are missing. They are just lying on the metal. We move some unused screws from else ware in the box to these connections. Problem fixed.

        Both these houses had to pass building inspections One is specific to Electical.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          Quite possibly true in many places, but where I live a homeowner (who is planning on staying there for a few more years) can do their own electrical work. It does still require inspection for bigger stuff.

          I wired my own garage except for the breaker panel and its power feed, then had the electrician who did that part double-check my work. No issues from him or the official inspector. And unlike the house (when I bought it used), I actually hooked up the GFCIs correctly...

    2. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
      Unhappy

      Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

      Speaking as a qualified (apprenticeship plus various City and Guilds) electrician, I must sadly agree (+1).

      There are too many "one day course" and "I bought this neon screwdriver" electricians, who claim to be qualified.

      Perhaps I'm just getting old and ranty - And don't get me started on the so-called professional bodies ...

      1. big_D Silver badge

        Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

        Or those good ones who "zone out" once in a while. In our office, the sparky had wired up over 50 plugs in my area, but crossed live (phase?) and earth on one plug... Just happened to be the one where I touched the earthing prong (German socket with exposed earthing prongs, to well, you know, earth things, before the hit the current), very useful for earthing yourself when working on delicate electronics - assuming the pulg is properly wired!

        1. Jon 37 Silver badge

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          Everyone makes mistakes, although that's a doozy.

          The unforgivable thing is he didn't test his work. It's not hard - get a twenty quid socket tester, plug it into the first socket, check the 3 lights on the tester are all lit, pull it out and move to the next socket, repeat until all sockets have been tested. Takes a few seconds per socket.

          1. Mike 16 Silver badge

            Re: Socket Tester Plugs

            Well, maybe. What about when the tester has a 3-bit combo of lights that the handy code-sheet does not include? I found by experience that the missing code means "There is a ground wire from the socket, along some 4 meters of cable, _almost_ to the breaker box, but not to earth ground anywhere. Makes sense when you consider the strike voltage of a typical NE-2, but I'll leave that to my fellow nerds.

            More serious was how loud my mother's doorbell was after a pretty complete rewire and service upgrade, wherein the professional electricians had connected the 110V transformer to 220V.

            Yet more serious was when I turned off the breaker for a retiring motor-generator, tagged it with "Man on Line", then went down to the basement to disconnect for removal. Being a paranoid sort I double checked the power as soon as I removed the cover plate, and found it "live" (did I mention this building had a history of "not entirely truthful" documentation?). Back up to the 3rd-floor breaker box I found the breaker on, and my tag missing. Turned it back off and locked the panel with my own lock. Problem solved.

            1. Jon 37 Silver badge

              Re: Socket Tester Plugs

              If you're testing an installation you just did, there's only one code that matters. The "everything good" code, which is usually "all lights on". If you see anything else, then your installation was wrong, and you need to fix it.

              If the code helps you diagnose the problem, great. That's a handy extra feature that those testers have. But the most important information they give is "good" or "not good".

              1. Mike 16 Silver badge

                Re: Socket Tester Plugs

                "only one code that matters. "

                Totally agree, that's why I said "maybe" and detailed a case where "can't happen" did.

                I generally test as much as I can before doing much of anything on any building. The 3-light testers are the first step, not the last. Visual inspection of every junction on any branch that shows up even mildly hinky is definitely needed. That and a sense of the gap between "legal by the electrical code" and "acceptable to the building inspector", in both directions. Somehow, different rules apply to the local contractors who lunch with the inspectors. "Trust, but Verify" all the way down.

              2. pirxhh

                Re: Socket Tester Plugs

                German sockets ("Schuko" aka CEE 7/3) are not polarized and there is no standard nor universal consensus if the right or left connector shall be live.

                Therefore the tester can show "live/neutral swapped" on a correctly wired socket; turning it by 180 degrees should show "all good" - if not you'll need to debug.

            2. Niall Mac Caughey

              Re: Socket Tester Plugs

              Chap I knew was a sparks working on a large farm. There was an issue with one of the cattle feeding systems in a slatted shed, so he took out the fuses and got to work. A while later he went to lunch.

              On his return he carried on working for about half an hour before he reached for a spanner which slipped slightly and fell across two busbars. As you have guessed, someone had replaced the fuses over lunch hour.

              The resulting explosion blew him across the shed and stripped the skin almost entirely from his right hand. Oddly enough they were able to patch him up at the local hospital and let him out the same day. The hand wasn't as painful as one might expect and he had no loss of movement or sensation, but he looked like Freddy Krueger. Later that evening he went to the pub. When he was served he reached out to pick up his pint... and the barman fainted

      2. TonyJ Silver badge

        Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

        You're spot on. I did an OND, HNC and Degree in electrical and electronics engineering.

        I am more than capable of doing the odd bit of wiring, though were it something bigger like an full rewire, or when I had my garden and garden office wired in, just so that it could be certified for insurance purposes, I happily paid for someone else to do it.

        One of the things that staggers me is how people who are not qualified a) fail to comprehend the potential (no pun intended) danger in mains electricity (UK here) and then failing that, "just have a go".

        My ex-mother in law's partner called me once to say he was struggling to change a light. My heart fell when he uttered the words "there are just too many red wires up there". He'd taken out the entire ceiling rose without thinking to note where the wires went or to try to mark them in some way.

        Luckily the outer sheath was grey for the loop and white for the switch so it was easy enough to troubleshoot visually but it beggars belief to me that having apparently looked at it, and having failed to understand what he was looking at, he proceeded to take it apart anyway and "just have a go and hope for the best" (I assume, anyway).

        And don't get me started on things like instructables with Jacob's Ladders and Tesla Coils!

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          Please God don't let the UK go back to the old pre European membership wiring convention of Red for live, and Black etc. now we're out. It would be a nightmare.

          (Do we need a 'Praying for Divine Intervention' icon?)

          1. John Sager

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            Well it would now, sadly. Also the modern 3 phase colours are rubbish. Try distinguishing them in anywhere not lit with a portable sun!

            1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              There's a good reason we don't use red=live and green=earth any more, and that reason is the most common form of colour-blindness on the planet, which affects around 1 in 24 people (one in 12 men, and one in 200 women).

              1. Jon 37 Silver badge

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                I don't think we've used green=earth for a long time? I've only ever seen green/yellow stripes for earth. I would hope that red/green colour-blind people could at least see the stripes, even if they can't tell what color they are.

                1. Giles C Silver badge

                  Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                  As someone who is very colour blind (I see in colour and that is as far as accuracy goes. Traffic lights are orange, red, white. Grass is orange), yes the colours can be distinguished as even with no colour vision the red and blue look different, and if you can’t tell the striped earth then you have a bigger problem with colours.

                  Anyway an old Electrican joke

                  How does someone colourblind wire a plug?

                  Green to brown

                  Brown to blue

                  Blue to bits

                  1. pirxhh

                    Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                    Red is black

                    plus is minus

                    earth goes into the flowerpot

                    ...

                    what?

              2. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                Years ago, Mum needed an extra power socket for her new twin-tub washer. Brother was in the REME and brought a mate home with him on leave, as said mate was an army qualified sparks. A while later I happened to touch the washer when it was plugged in and I could feel a tingling that turned out to be enough to light a neon screwdriver!

                Unscrewed the socket to discover that live and earth had been swapped! The only thing that had saved us was that he'd also swapped live and neutral at the fuse box end! (the days before breakers)

                (who qualifies someone colour-blind as a sparks... even for low voltage stuff!)

                1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

                  Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                  This is why in the US we have, Black=live (hot), white=neutral, and ground (Earth) = bare.

                  (Why have insulation on the ground wire?)

                  4 lead 220 the extra wire is usually yellow! (though I have seen it red.)

                  1. Mark #255

                    Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                    Fixed domestic wiring in the UK is generally "twin & earth", so there isn't a second layer of insulation on the ground wire, just the (usually grey, sometimes white, with white latterly signifying low smoke insulation) outer layer.

                    When you get to a socket or switch (or ...) the earth conductor must be sleeved with a green/yellow stripe. According to wikipedia, a green sleeve for earth wiring was required prior to 1977.

                    (When we moved into our house in 2003, most of the sockets had green earth sleeves.)

                  2. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                    "(Why have insulation on the ground wire?)"

                    An insulated grounding conductor ("ground wire" to everyone but the NEC) will ensure that the circuit only connects to the system grounding point once (instead of intermittent ground points in a conduit, for instance). It's pretty rare to need this. I know it's used for noise sensitive circuits. If you see an orange receptacle with a green triangle by the ground pin, that's what's happening.

                  3. Grinning Bandicoot

                    Test first burn not

                    In a single phase system sometimes.However if three phase is in the structure ORANGE (preferably) or YELLOW is the 208Vac stinger leg. My father who in his career was an investigator for a large municipal utility. The building he and his partner were checking was an apartment structure large enough to be fed by a three phase transformer bank and the 208 circuit was pulled out for house motors and circuits. Unfortunately a different set electricians came to wire the units. Not knowing at that time about stingers they preceded to wire the 208 leg as 120. The building had been partially occupied when this came to light. LESSON: 1)Test and retest with someone other then the installer and carry a check list! 2) Paranoia is not a fault when betting lives!

          2. KBeee Bronze badge

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            I actually prefer Red = Danger = Live, Black = Not Really A Colour so sorta Neutral = Neutral, and Green for Earth. Plus Yellow and Blue for other phases.

            But it's never going to go back to the old colours Thank Goodness, already lived through one "where's the logic in these colours" moments in time.

          3. SkippyBing

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            Can we go back to saying mains voltage is 240 VAC?

          4. Graham Dawson Silver badge

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            That's not an EU reg, but was created and adopted by the International Electrotechnical Commission. As an IEC member we would have implemented it regardless of our membership of the EU.

            1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              Thanks, I remember the change many years ago when I was 'nowt but a nipper'.

              I must say that I've read a lot of these stories and am impressed with both the technical competence and knowledge of the el Reg readership, and also the lengths some people will go to to do a bad, and possibly life-threatening job in the electrical connection industry.

              1. Graham Dawson Silver badge
                Pint

                Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

                The daft thing is, the regs aren't even that complicated. The on-site guide puts them in near layman's terms, but the wiring regulations book itself is only about an inch thick and is written in big type with pictures, so it's not as if it's difficult to understand or takes too long to read.

                I suspect the problem is its definition of "competent person". It means "someone who has read the current regs and has a fancy certificate to say so", when everyone else would think it means "someone who knows what the hell they're doing".

                I have that certificate, incidentally. 17th edition though, so I'm not competent any more.

          5. Jaap Aap

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            A looong time ago we had the following in the Netherlands: green is phase, red is neutral and earth? uhh, I'm not sure it was around then at all. Using green for phase was not the wisest thing to do.

            1. H in The Hague Silver badge

              Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

              "A looong time ago we had the following in the Netherlands: green is phase, red is neutral and earth?"

              I was told the reasoning behind that was:

              green = go = live (phase)

              red = stop = neutral

              But rather counter-intuitive to most other folk who would assume red = hot = live.

    3. big_D Silver badge

      Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

      Yes, in my old office, the electrician had wired up one socket "wrong", phase to earth. That was literally hair-raising, when I touched Earth prong! I had a pain in my arm and shoulder for an hour or two afterwards, but was very lucky!

      The techs in the production area wouldn't believe me, until they turned up with a multimeter. They promptly cut power to the wing and checked all the remaining sockets. From around 50 sockets in the area, the electrician had messed up on only one... But it only takes one to cause an accident.

      Somehow, over 15 years in the building, nobody had ever stuck anything into that socket, until I did.

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

        A North American teacher I met on holiday had been accused by a pupil's mother of attempting to strangle her 'little angel'.

        At the preliminary investigation, where she accused him of this foul act he asked:

        "Would this be the incident when, despite repeated requests NOT to poke scissors into the live power socket, he had done so, and I grabbed him by his hoodie and yanked him away from the potentially lethal electric shock he was about to receive?"

        She mumbled that "it might have been."

        1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          If you keep doing that - how will they ever learn ?

          If you stop Darwin putting a little chlorine in the gene pool then look what we ended up with ...

          1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

            Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

            I think he was legally 'in loco parentis', and there is an awful lot of paperwork involved in the death or even mild electrocution of a child during school time.

        2. Rich 11 Silver badge

          Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

          I don't think she has anything to complain about anyway. Successfully strangling her little angel would also have enabled the fulfilment of his angel potential.

    4. heyrick Silver badge

      Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

      My first job when I was much younger was doing part time cleaning of new build homes. Our boss supplied us with one of those little plug tester things and said we had to use it every single time we wanted to plug in the vacuum cleaner (a Henry!). I did so, and it didn't take long to discover a socket with live wired to the top pin.

      As if that wasn't bad enough, when it was reported up to the site manager, he just shrugged and said he doesn't have time for stuff like that, especially since we'd already made four reports that day... FFS...

      1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

        Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

        As if that wasn't bad enough, when it was reported up to the site manager, he just shrugged and said he doesn't have time for stuff like that, especially since we'd already made four reports that day... FFS...

        One hopes (but probably in vain), the reason that he didn't want to make another report would be that, due to the previous four, all those circuits were going to get rechecked and the sparky who did them fired.

      2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

        The correct way to handle such a response is a FYI to the major insurance companies. Once one of them gets involved after an accident, you might be inclined to feel pity for the builder if you didn't know the circumstances.

    5. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

      When I had the wiring in a house I was about to let out checked, I discovered that three double sockets on the ground floor were all being fed through a length of 1mm^2 flex as a spur from the cellar lighting circuit. This abomination had been fitted and certified by another electrician four years earlier.

      1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

        Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

        Inform the relevant body and the relevant insurance companies.

    6. NetBlackOps Bronze badge

      Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

      Multimeter and a tester for each socket type due to all the times I've found the wires reversed in the socket or the breaker box.

    7. Alan Brown Silver badge

      Re: You would expect a qualified electrician to wire a building to spec, right?

      Yup - especially because mundane stuff like wiring gets shunted to the least qualified apprentice

      It's a bit like oil changes in franchise dealers - Several Mercedes Benz UK drivers have experienced cars losing their sump plugs 2 miles out of the shop (after warranty service work) then been shafted when MB UK and the stealerships have closed ranks to shaft customers rather than admit their service staff might have screwed up)

  2. Lee D Silver badge

    Anecdote time:

    Needed an outside "commando" connector, but not the standard one, but a 32A (about twice the size of the connector you normally see on caravan sites, building sites, etc.).

    I wasn't going to wire it in, but I found a guy online who agreed to it. I made sure he was qualified. I wanted a big huge waterproof box outside, wired into the house electrics, to power an electric kiln and/or car out in the garden, and I wasn't going to have some fly-by-night set light to my house.

    He fitted it all, but my 32A commando cables hadn't arrived, all I had was a short extension lead on the end of a single commando connector. We plugged it in, it lit up, I plugged a lamp into it, it worked. As that was as far as I could test, I paid him.

    When my cables arrived a few days later, I tried kitting up the electric kiln that my girlfriend had bought cheap from an old potter down in Somerset (a 300 mile round trip). Power light indicated, but it wouldn't do anything. Bugger. So I took it apart, tested everything I could find, even got the schematic from the creators (which wasn't easy given the age of it). Nothing. It was like there was no power inside the kiln but there was in the cable.

    Frustrated, and working through my usual diagnosis process of "It CAN'T be that, but I've tried everything else", I started testing continuity of the cable, the commando plugs, and got back to the box on the way. Put the old extension lead back on it, the light on the lead lit up, and the lamp worked. Tested voltage on lamp... 22v. What? I'm expecting another 0 on that! Sod it. I had no choice. Cut the house power, took off the cover of the external box.

    And discovered this:

    Live in, to big turny switch. Good.

    Big turny switch output to internal terminal. Good.

    Internal terminal to live out. Good.

    Neutral in, to big turny switch. Good.

    Neutral out from internal terminal... no... hold on... what? The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

    I presume he MEANT to install a small piece of cable between the switch and the terminal for it, but never did. So the cable was basically floating live, with no neutral to return. Apparently it was just enough to illuminate power lights on the lead, the lamp I used to test, and on the kiln, but not enough to power anything.

    Double-checked bloody everything - most especially the earth - and wired it as it should be with the right grade cable.

    Went back to kiln... turned on first time. Worked flawlessly for years.

    Just because you hire the experts does not mean you get a good job done.

    1. Paul Crawford Silver badge

      The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

      A dangerous practice you occasionally see is a 5-pin three-phase socket that lacks the neutral because whoever wired it assumed the load was always a delta-connected one. Then someone plugs in a star-connected load that has some imbalance and one leg get most of the 400V and the others tens of volts, with predictable damage following.

      If the socket has a neutral pin it must be wired up, no matter what the original plans for it are. If you don't need the neutral use a 4-pin socket (L1/L2/L3 & E) and that way no one can plug in something that needs the neutral.

      1. John Sager

        Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

        A bit related. The fan in the bathroom failed, and in investigating I discovered that the original installers used delta 3-phase cable - 3 phases and earth - to wire it. So they used brown as the live but grey for the neutral and black for the switched live! Not very professional since there is proper 4-wire with brown, blue, earth & the 4th (red?) available.

        I suppose, since I'm not a 'qualified elecrician' that I shouldn't have been working on the bathroom circuit. Naughty boy!

        1. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge

          Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

          "... brown as the live but grey for the neutral and black for the switched live ..."

          In the UK at least, there is nothing wrong with this, assuming that the grey wire had a blue sleeve on it. Black is a "live" phase colour. Standard four core flex usually has brown, blue, green/yellow and black cores.

          Presumably the protective earth wire had green/yellow identification or sleeving.

          1. katrinab Silver badge
            Alert

            Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

            Unless of course you have wiring from before 2006, in which case black is neutral and red (+ yellow + blue for 3 phase) is live.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Holmes

          Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

          I suppose, since I'm not a 'qualified elecrician' that I shouldn't have been working on the bathroom circuit. Naughty boy!

          I really don't understand what "special risk" is associated with bathrooms, kitchens and the big outside if there are consumer unit RCDs.

          According to this table, there were just seven deaths registered in 2017 in England where the underlying cause was exposure to electric current at home.

          1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

            Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

            I really don't understand what "special risk" is associated with bathrooms, kitchens and the big outside if there are consumer unit RCDs.

            The combination of electricity and water/high humidity is rather unfortunate if the electricity isn't done right. If you don't understand that, please be so kind as to electrocute yourself before you electrocute somebody else IF you need to meddle with electric connections. If you decide to leave it to (hopefully competent) professionals, even better.

            1. Anonymous Coward
              Megaphone

              Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

              The combination of electricity and water/high humidity is rather unfortunate if the electricity isn't done right.

              You do know what an RCD is?

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

                >You do know what an RCD is?

                Yes it's a thing that does fsck-all to protect you if it hasn't been wired up right

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

                  Upvote for that - I found mine were wired with the load and line sides switched. On a 20-year-old house. After the house inspector had said everything was ok with the electrical.

                  Trust but verify, indeed!

            2. Roland6 Silver badge

              Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

              >The combination of electricity and water/high humidity is rather unfortunate if the electricity isn't done right.

              With bathrooms, its the earthing that must be done right...

              20+ years back I rewired a house to the then wiring standards. It was quite shocking to discover the difference between 1975'ish earthing requirements and 2000'ish earthing requirements - the 2000 requirements required heavier gauge earthing cable and more of it along with clamps on taps, radiator, etc., in addition to the RCD in the fuse box...

              What amused me was that it was now okay to use a standard light switch - as long as its outside the "wet area" whereas before it had to be a pull cord; given the average teenager doesn't dry their hands...

              1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

                With bathrooms, its the earthing that must be done right...

                As far as I am concerned, earthing is a part of electricity and yes, that must be done right.

                What amused me was that it was now okay to use a standard light switch - as long as its outside the "wet area" whereas before it had to be a pull cord; given the average teenager doesn't dry their hands...

                Outside switches for bathrooms are pretty common world wide and about standard in hotel rooms. It is a bit of a safety issue as those pull cords can be abused as strangulation cords.

              2. Rich 11 Silver badge

                Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

                Ditto, between 1985 and 1999. Clamps on everything in the kitchen and bathroom. I had to stop one girlfriend from trying to remove the one on the bathroom radiator when she gave me a hand redecorating that year. "It's ugly," she said.

                1. H in The Hague Silver badge

                  Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

                  ""It's ugly," she said."

                  Yes, they are. Which is why they should really be fitted with those tags reading "Safety Electrical Connection - do not remove", making them even uglier. :)

                  1. Down not across Silver badge

                    Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

                    Amusingly having those fitted to internal copper piping seems to get you a passing certificate even if the house (70s) has non-metal (yeah those brittle things) water supply pipe. I thought NEC 250.50 specifies it needs to be metal undergound for 10ft or more.

          2. Norman Nescio

            Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

            According to this table, there were just seven deaths registered in 2017 in England where the underlying cause was exposure to electric current at home.

            You need to add domestic fire fatalities where the fire was caused by faulty electrical installations. Electrocution is not the only way to die when the electrical installation is faulty.

            FIRE0602: Primary fires fatalities and non-fatal casualties by source of ignition, from GOV.UK: Fire statistics data tables

            That said, there is an ongoing debate over whether the Part 'P' regulations, by making things more difficult for D-I-Y electrical work, encouraged people to overload and misuse trailing multi-way extension sockets and thereby make overheating problems more likely.

      2. Blofeld's Cat Silver badge
        Mushroom

        Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

        Speaking as a qualified electrician and electrical inspector, I can confirm your findings. I have seen red three-phase sockets without neutral, without protective earth, and just plain wired incorrectly.

        A common abuse of 60309 connectors is using a "red" (or "yellow") connector on 230 V to prevent unauthorised equipment being plugged in. Generally these applications use arbitrary pins on the connector, often L1, L2 and L3 (see icon).

        Tip: If you are in the UK and need a 230 V socket that can't have anything unexpected plugged in, use something like the MK ones with the 'T' shaped earth pin.

        1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

          Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

          "Tip: If you are in the UK and need a 230 V socket that can't have anything unexpected plugged in, use something like the MK ones with the 'T' shaped earth pin."

          What you usually want to ensure is that you don't want whatever you plugged in to get unplugged and by the time the cleaner's discovered your incompatible socket it's too late. The better version would be to ensure the cleaners are equipped with the T plug so that nothing important gets plugged into the sockets they want.

          On the topic of cleaner-mediated outages there was a report the other day that in the US a cleaner unplugged one of the ultra-low temperature freezers with sever thousand Pfizer doses in it.

          1. Roland6 Silver badge

            Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

            > The better version would be to ensure the cleaners are equipped with the T plug so that nothing important gets plugged into the sockets they want.

            Several companies I work with, used round pin sockets for the cleaners sockets, which were located in visually obvious places eg. along corridors.

      3. KLane

        Re: The neutral doesn't join up with anything on the switch!

        Had something similar at a golf course I worked for. The sub-panel did not have the neutral wire to the distribution panel connected, or it was loose. In any case, lights (incandescent) would be at various brightness levels, or burn out, motors would run fast or slow, or overheat, depending on how balanced the load was on each side of the 110/220 sub-panel. Think of a see-saw board that must be balanced.

      4. DS999 Silver badge

        Watch out for generator cords

        In my experience, in the US many 30 amp twist lock cords were built for connecting equipment that's assuming it is using a generator, which has no neutral. So you will have a four pole connector on either end, but only three wires between them.

        It is worth the time to remove the connector and verify the wiring. You can also take that time to fix the wiring if it isn't secure with the bottom set screw tight against insulation - I've found a lot of people making those cables think you should strip off enough insulation so that both set screws are against the wire. That's wrong! There isn't enough friction between the set screws and wire to hold the cable in if it gets stressed like being stepped on while being moved. It will partially pull out, and you'll see intermittent failures that will drive you crazy!

        Not only will you not have neutral which may or may not work in a 220v connection that expects it, it is also completely useless for three phase (which when used with a four pole plug/receptacle cannot have neutral, i.e. 208Y)

    2. chivo243 Silver badge
      Windows

      Just because you hire the experts does not mean you get a good job done.

      or

      Just because you hire the Professionals does not mean you get a good job done.

      Just because they're paid to do it doesn't mean they ARE good!

    3. J.G.Harston Silver badge

      In my flat a decade ago the suppliers put a new supply in, and neglected to put the earth link in from the supply head to the three flats' consumer points.

      1. Cliffwilliams44 Bronze badge

        In older parts of the US there are entire buildings where there is absolutely no earth (ground) connections or just partial earth connections. Back in the 80s when I was a practicing musician I found out what happens when your electric guitar and amp are not grounded and the PA system is. All that residual electromagnetic energy building up in your guitar (and you) finds a convenient path to ground through your wet lips into the microphone. We called it "the blue flash", hurts like hell and your lips go numb.

        I built an electrical board with my own fuses and a long cable that I used to bypass most clubs electrical panel as they could not be trusted.

  3. Paul Crawford Silver badge

    The USA has quite a strange set of "standard" voltages. While its mentions 110V the spec is actually 120V and most homes have a "split phase" supply that is 120-0-120V so you can wire in both 120V or 240V loads depending on how much power you need, etc. And of course you get all sorts of risks as the article describes, made worse by the relatively small differences in the plug/socket types used.

    But wait, it gets better! For 3-phase you can have 120V to neutral giving you 208V phase-phase, or you can have 277V to neutral giving you 480V phase to phase. Or potentially your 120-0-120 is ones side of a 138V/240V set from a "high-leg delta" 3-phase transformer connection.

    Here in the UK/EU it is simpler, with a nominal 230V single phase to neutral, and 400V 3-phase (also 230V L-N) being fairly universal and almost always using the colour coded "commando" plugs and sockets (blue=230V, red=400V). the exception being building sites where the supply is usually 110V on a yellow connector but as 55-0-55V split-phase for safety, a bit like the USA system except it is unheard of to have loads taking a a half feed of 55V. The centre tap is there just for a safety earth point.

    1. Cuddles Silver badge

      "While its mentions 110V the spec is actually 120V... Here in the UK/EU it is simpler, with a nominal 230V"

      To be fair, that nominal 230V is only because the UK already used 240V while most of the EU used 220V, so they just split the difference and called it close enough. I assume the US has a similar reason related to their federal system for having the nominal differ from the spec.

      1. LDS Silver badge

        The voltage was unified to 230/400V in most EU countries, those using 220/380 moved to 230/400. My UPS in the basement, that closer to the line ingress, usually reports around 230V, although many people still talk about "the 220".

        1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

          although many people still talk about "the 220".

          Ingrained habit, in my youth it really was 220V.

          1. Antron Argaiv Silver badge
            Flame

            Likewise, the US used to be 110/115/117 in the distant past. Now standardised at 120. There was also the Edison/Westinghouse tiff about AC and DC.

            I've just been through an exhausting (and exhaustive) study of world mains supplies for a client. Most of the world is 240, there are a few 120s and then, there's Japan, who insist on 100, probably just so they can throw a spanner into the global system

            Mains plugs are a whole different set of silliness. You can almost tell a country's colonial history by the mains plug they use.

            1. l8gravely

              And what about frequency...

              And let's not even talk about how Japan has 50Hz on one coast, and 60Hz electric on the other half of the country since their power grids aren't really interconnected...

              And the US uses 60Hz, EU uses 50Hz and god knows about the rest of the world. Luckily most if not all power supplies don't seem to care much any more. Except when you get into the big stuff.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: And what about frequency...

                When I was in college, our dorm had to be on generator power for a couple days. No big deal, we thought. In the wee hours of the morning, my roommate's digital alarm clock went off, claiming it was 7 AM. (It was closer to 3 AM.) Watching it closely, it seemed to be running at near double the usual speed. Issue went away upon return to regular power.

                Some devices use the line frequency as a freely-provided clock tick - which is a horrible idea. Not sure if that's what happened here, but still...

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: And what about frequency...

                  "Some devices use the line frequency as a freely-provided clock tick - which is a horrible idea."

                  Normally it's a great idea. Power grids have very stable frequencies (if you have local frequency drifts, that means you have bad things happening with reactive power). The last(only) time I visited a power grid control room, the grid frequency was prominently displayed to two decimal places on the big board. US here, so 60Hz nominal. Worst i saw was 60.05.

                  In your case, I suspect the frequency was actually fine, but the generator was very noisy, and the cheap clock was detecting many extra zero-crossing events.

                  1. Anonymous Coward
                    Anonymous Coward

                    Re: And what about frequency...

                    (I'm the AC with the fast alarm clock)

                    That's the reason that using an onboard clock chip is smart - regardless of the incoming power, if it'll power the device without damage, it works fine. Same clock in a 50Hz country would malfunction, but in the opposite direction. But a $0.01 clock chip will prevent that. Seems like a penny well spent.

                    1. H in The Hague Silver badge

                      Re: And what about frequency...

                      "But a $0.01 clock chip will prevent that. Seems like a penny well spent."

                      To get a high accuracy that would need a very good crystal, and would still be affected by temperature changes, etc.

                      I think nowadays mains frequency controlled clocks are most widely used in kitchen appliances, which are subjected to significant temperature swings, so relying on the mains frequency gives is likely to more accurate than using a crystal + clock chip.

                2. A.P. Veening Silver badge

                  Re: And what about frequency...

                  Some devices use the line frequency as a freely-provided clock tick - which is a horrible idea. Not sure if that's what happened here, but still...

                  It is a pretty smart idea, provided the frequency remains within the (pretty tight) margins. Interesting things start happening if the frequency strays outside of those margins. A couple of years ago the frequency dropped a bit in all of continental Europe due to one country not supplying the contracted power. Clocks were a couple of minutes slow after several months of this.

            2. Anna Logg

              Japan is 100V nominal, 94V minimum, and equipment must survive down to 85V (IIRC) . Quite tough to design a truly global PSU that can handle everything from Japan minimum to UK maxixum (A voltage ratio of almost 3:1) - and that's before looking at frequency variations.

              1. Robert Sneddon

                Japanese appliances

                A lot of Japanese appliances use DC motors because of the 50Hz/60Hz split in their two grids. It's easier to convert the AC mains to DC to drive a motor rather than have something run at differing speeds depending on where in the country you plug it in.

                We discovered this when autopsying a dead Japanese coffee grinder someone had tried wiring up to British 240V mains. Sorry, but it wasn't ever going to run again after that...

            3. Jim Whitaker

              And the sensible ones still use the UK, square pin ones.

            4. WhereAmI?

              Ah yes. Been to India and can verify that statement from experience. Oddly, the only place where I seemed to be able to guarantee the same sockets from town to town was up in the Himalayas. With a bit of care you can get European two-pin plugs to fit the Indian old-style British round pin sockets. They don't grip well and you need to support the plug, but when you're only charging power packs it does the job and beats carrying huge numbers of plugs/adaptors. Down on the plains it was a bit of pot luck as to which socket you'd find in the accommodation.

              1. Allan George Dyer Silver badge

                Flexible plugs

                @WhereAmI - "With a bit of care you can get European two-pin plugs to fit the Indian old-style British round pin sockets"

                Hoover used to do a rubber 2-pin plug that would deform to fit the spacing on 2 or 3 pin (unshuttered) UK sockets. I'm not sure if it would fit a European socket, the pins might have been too thick.

        2. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          UK/EU voltage standards

          (as related by an employee of the body responsible for setting UK electricity supply industry standards): The UK had 240v +/-10% and the EU had 220v +/-10%. Nobody actually changed anything other than the "expected" voltage.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          . . . The voltage was unified

          The people running the EU demanded that there was a single standardised voltage across the entire EU which (IIRC) had at the low end 220v 10a on the continent and at the high end 240v/13a sockets in the UK.

          This matters because 220v *10a = 2200watts, whereas 240vv * 13a = 3120watts, making any device made for the latter system potentially one third more powerful and effective than the former, meaning companies based in the former bleating about it being unfair that nobody in the latter countries wanted to buy their electrical equipment, because who wants to buy a kettle, toaster etc which takes a third longer to get the job done? The solution is of course to ban the latter. :/

          Hence bureaucratic warfare being waged to bring everything to one standard. The electricians given the job of picking the standard knew that scrapping an entire electric generation infrastructure would cost literally (tens or hundreds of) billions with nothing to show for it, and pragmatically said that the new requirement was 230v with tolerances that covered both the 220v and 240v systems normal fluctuations.

          Thus on paper we are supplied 230v and in theory new generators are specced to this voltage. However, anything existing that is supplying 240v (ie, everything before the regulation was installed; which is almost everything) is still supplying 240v. (my work UPS's are receiving 240v, for reference)

          So if your getting supplied 230v then your probably getting it from something connected to the grid recently (ie a wind farm), whereas if your getting 240v then your getting it from nuclear, gas, coal etc which generates the majority of the UK's power, and was probably installed a couple of decades before the regulations came along.

          1. Missing Semicolon Silver badge
            Boffin

            Re: . . . The voltage was unified

            They use the ability to go down to 230 to save power on windless days.

            Check your mains voltage when the frequency is below 50Hz!

          2. H in The Hague Silver badge

            Re: . . . The voltage was unified

            "So if your getting supplied 230v then your probably getting it from something connected to the grid recently (ie a wind farm), whereas if your getting 240v then your getting it from nuclear, gas, coal etc "

            Not sure that's correct. As far as I'm aware the voltage reaching consumers is determined by the setting of the tap changers on the transformers feeding the distribution network. Thus not influenced by the generation voltage (which is completely different from the distribution voltage).

            1. KBeee Bronze badge

              Re: . . . The voltage was unified

              Yeah, the voltage you get is more to do with how far you are from the substation than anything else.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: . . . The voltage was unified

                Well, line loss, which can be lost from the substation to your house, or lost within the house. Line loss depends on load, which can change during the day.

                If you look carefully in many areas, you can see autotransformers on long lines(especially in rural areas). They'll adjust to trim or boost line voltage as required.

                1. David Hicklin

                  Re: . . . The voltage was unified

                  My UPS was showing up to 253 volts for quite a long time (couple of months) until we had a series of very short power interruptions (too short for UPS to trip but enough to upset some gadgets - whereas they would all cope with a total failure!)

                  Now it is between 225 and 230 since just before Christmas

          3. BeefEater

            Re: . . . The voltage was unified

            "So if your getting supplied 230v then your probably getting it from something connected to the grid recently (ie a wind farm), whereas if your getting 240v then your getting it from nuclear, gas, coal etc"

            Can you explain that please?

            You seem to realise that all the generators are connected to the same Grid (usually run at about 440kV but with some other voltage levels in places) but seem to believe that after passing through various shared transformers the voltage at your house might be different according to what type of generation was involved.

          4. General Purpose Bronze badge

            Re: . . . The voltage was unified

            So if your getting supplied 230v then your probably getting it from something connected to the grid recently (ie a wind farm), whereas if your getting 240v then your getting it from nuclear, gas, coal etc

            Supply voltages are totally independent of the generator voltages, which are considerably higher. In between, we have the transmission voltages of (in the UK) 132 kV, 275 kV and 400 kV.

          5. LDS Silver badge

            "The solution is of course to ban the latter. :/"

            In many countries meters won't support a 3kW load for too long and will disconnect. So nobody would buy devices that would have issues often and people should be very careful to turn on if anything else is running at the same time. There is a reason why in many countries gas stoves and heaters were far more common than electric ones. Getting a contract allowing a load above 3kW was far more expensive.

            Only recently these restrictions are being lifted to allow for more "green" devices.

            1. John Arthur
              Flame

              Re: "The solution is of course to ban the latter. :/"

              Indeed my ex and I owned a holiday cottage in France for over 20 years. We had a contract for, I think, a 30A feed. If we drew more than that the circuit breaker would soon trip leaving us in the dark. The trip also had an RCD rated at 500mA. Enough to stop the house burning down in the case of a fault but not perhaps to save our lives. I added a standard 30mA RCD in tandem

        4. KBeee Bronze badge

          I think they just changed the tolerances for voltage to reflect the official 230V. In the UK it was 240V plus or minus 6% (i.e. 15V), so anything fron 225V to 255V was within tolerance. Now (I think, haven't checked) it's something like 230V plus 10% (253V), minus 3% (223V).

      2. G2

        China's 220V vs Europe's 230V

        China still uses 220V a.c. as the nominal mains voltage - this is why a lot of e-crap that's designed only for the Chinese internal market - thus only for the 220V standard, with very tight voltage variation tolerance, will end up in smoke quite faster than intended when used in an European power socket. (where 'very tight' means they build the devices for just +/- 5% voltage tolerance)

        This is usually (ab)used by the tat bazaar online sellers to not honour the warranty since it was technically a fault created by the end user - using an appliance rated only for 220V on an electrical network with different nominal voltage levels can be grounds for immediate termination of warranties.

    2. Archivist

      Phase to phase

      I fell foul of this predisposition of Americans to connect across phases. I was in a hurry (never buy in haste) to procure 2 x 5KVA UPSs. My eyes looked at the options and saw 110V and 2xx volt. So being in the UK I ordered the NOT 110V versions. To my horror when they arrived the connectors were "funny" and as I unboxed one I became horribly aware that the 2xxV was 208V.

      The messages from the dealer "special order" and "6 week delay" started echoing around my brain, as did the realisation that I'd have to explain this to my boss. It took over a year to convince the dealer to accept them as a return.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Phase to phase

        Had a boss once that bought a UPS based on runtime vs. what power is fed in. Got a 30A version vs. the 20A version, and asked me for a conversion plug.

        I refused to make him one.

        I believe it sat around forever then rather than them paying an electrician to just wire up the correct circuit.

    3. John Arthur
      Mushroom

      When working in Brazil about 25 years ago I had a flat which had quite a lot of two pin sockets. They were identical in appearance but some had Dymo labels with 220V and others with 110V. Some sockets had no Dymo label. I did not use those.

      1. Is It Me

        South Korea (at least in the mid-90s) had both 110v and 2x0v supplies, but even the 2x0v mains ran at 60Hz.

      2. katrinab Silver badge
        Meh

        Stick a 220V hairdryer in it? If it runs as it's supposed to, it's 220V, if you get a light draft of barely-above-room-temperature air, it's 110V.

        1. John Arthur
          Happy

          Sadly I did not have enough hair to need a hair dryer. Still don't!

      3. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Used to work at a place where work on many different products came and went over the years. Occasionally a standard 110 socket (US and definitely not to code) had been wired to 220 for tests of power supplies for overseas use. Along comes the cleaner and his vacuum. Who connected to one where the sticky label had fallen off. I was told by witnesses that the rotating sparks were quite colorful and entertaining until things melted enough to shut down the show.

    4. swm Silver badge

      When I worked in industry they had 240 volts between the three phases. One of the phases was grounded, i.e., neutral, so there were 4 wires: equipment ground, neutral, phase 1, and phase 2.

    5. ICPurvis47
      Boffin

      Three Phase Supply

      Many years ago, a work colleague of mine bought a house in a new development. Other members of the same workforce also bought houses in the same terrace, and they discovered that the three houses were each connected to a different phase. Being Electricians working for Site Services department of a local electrical engineering firm, they quickly decided to run a three phase + neutral cable along the roof facia so they could each tap into it and have thee phase available in their garages. I left that company many years ago, as did one of the electricians, but two of them still live beside each other after retirement.

  4. macjules Silver badge

    In true Clouseau style ..

    I used to have a lease on a premises in Central London where I shared power lines with several other offices. When I set up the office with the UPS etc I hired an electrician to check all the wiring and remove any unused cabling. I pointed out to him the cabling which I knew was mine and that which I knew was other companies. What I failed to comprehend was that his way of testing was pretty much limited to "cut it and see" (©1990 British Telecom onwards), so when he asked me "Does your cabling look like this?" I replied "Yes". Second later there was a flash, a scream and the power went off in my neighbours office. Asking the electrician what he had done, "You said that cable looked like yours, so I cut it as I didn't think it was in use." not bothering to check that it actually was mine or if it was live.

    He did get paid for the day at least.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: In true Clouseau style ..

      He wasn't a chap called Brendan by any chance?

      Similar Central London story, but with added 10base5 and 10base2 goodness...someone told him to remove *all* the cables in one of the risers, forgetting that the networking also ran through it as well.

    2. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: In true Clouseau style ..

      >"cut it and see"

      Step 3 being, if live replace electrician and goto step 1 ?

  5. John Robson Silver badge

    Professionals built the titanic...

    an amatuer built the ark.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Professionals built the titanic...

      An amateur also built (and crewed) the Teignmouth Electron. It did not end well.

      Edited to add - I tried to find a link to the amateur who wanted to sail around Britain, and spent three days circumnavigating the Isle of Sheppey before he was rescued. Anyone?

      My point is, not all amateurs are at the same skill level. Rather like professionals, really.

      1. EmilPer.

        Re: Professionals built the titanic... Teignmouth Electron

        "Teignmouth Electron" ... the boat survived, the error was in between the rudder and the chair, not in the boat design

        1. Francis Boyle Silver badge

          Re: Professionals built the titanic... Teignmouth Electron

          On the other hand, as I understand it, the reason that Crowhurst embarked on the series of deceptions that lead to his death was his understanding that were he to venture into the Southern Ocean his boat would have been destroyed.

      2. John Robson Silver badge

        Re: Professionals built the titanic...

        My point is, not all amateurs are at the same skill level. Rather like professionals, really.

        Absolutely - There are idiots in all walks of life, I'd just rather they weren't doing things with commonly available lethal machinery (like gas pipes, electricity supplies, or cars).

      3. Ochib

        Re: Professionals built the titanic...

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Donald_Crowhurst

      4. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Professionals built the titanic...

        Gillingham to to Southampton?

        http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/uk_news/england/kent/8648011.stm

    2. Wellyboot Silver badge

      Re: Professionals built the titanic...

      To be fair, Titanic being sailed at speed through fog wasn't the shipbuilders mistake and building the arc did have the highest level of guidance possible.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Professionals built the titanic...

        >building the arc did have the highest level of guidance possible.

        The last project where the bloke handing out the specification actually WAS omniscient - instead of just thinking they were.

        1. eionmac

          Re: Professionals built the titanic...

          "bloke"? "S/He" probably

    3. jake Silver badge

      Re: Professionals built the titanic...

      Except there was no ark. Tall tale to frighten the children.

      1. LogicGate

        Re: Professionals built the titanic...

        ...or the remnants of a truly epic story about surviving the flooding of the black sea.. re-told and re-told over the ages...

        1. Loyal Commenter Silver badge

          Re: Professionals built the titanic...

          ...with a fictitious sky fairy and boat builder added in for teh lulz.

          I'll not dispute that the prevalence of "flood myths" from around that part of the world points towards a prehistoric flooding event. I am disputing that some guy built a massive ship to save all the animals on instructions from "on-high". I'm also prepared to shout down any creation myths, flat-Earthism, or young-Earth fundamentalism you happen to have to bring to bear.

          1. LogicGate

            Re: Professionals built the titanic...

            I did not dispute any dispute..

            .. although a bit more "research" (Wikipedia) seems to dispute the catastrophic black sea flooding..

            There is more than enough "magic" in our existence. We do not need to add anything supernational in order to spice it up. Anyone else eagerly waiting for SN9?

            But with regards to the OOP, Professionals built the Titanic to the specifications of the day. A moron saied it at full speed into a known ice-field.

            1. Arty Effem

              Re: Professionals built the titanic...

              A moron (or group thereof) insisted that the voyage take place, despite knowing that the ship was on fire long before it took-on any passengers.

              1. Anonymous Coward
                Anonymous Coward

                Re: Professionals built the titanic...

                And it wasn't even the Titanic, it was the Olympic, and the owners swapped the two ships in an insurance scam. Olympic had already been severely damaged in two incidents, both involving Capt. E J Smith, and the insurance had been upped by 50% just days before the sinking.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Professionals built the titanic...

                  Just a debunked conspiracy theory, I'm afraid.

                  https://www.history.com/news/titanic-sinking-conspiracy-myths-jp-morgan-olympic

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Professionals built the titanic...

            Personally, I think that there was some kind of a flood, and personally I think that some bloke called Noah probably created a boat that he called an Ark. However, how would the people on the boat know that the flood was global? If we exclude telephones, the internet etc and just consider physical transport then if you had the inclination then you could easily jump in a car and drive on motorways for 8 hours @ 70mph travelling ~600 miles.

            By comparison, let's consider a highly developed transport system at the dawn of the industrial revolution using nothing but horses and carts. If you look up the Trafalgar way (which is the route the dispatches landed from Trafalgar at Falmouth and then proceeded 271 miles over roads with a carriage and 4 horses. This took 21 stops for fresh horses (they were basically raced full out, and then swapped out) and it took ~37 hours to cover that 271 miles.

            If in whatever BC they knew what was going on for more than 50 miles around them then i'd be surprised. As far as a stone age primitive was concerned, as far as you could walk probably was the edge of the world. They certainly wouldn't have been checking.

            But now let's consider the Ark itself. Modern "replicas" are built on either steel barges if they float, or on reinforced concrete bases. This is a massive cheat; while they superficially look like a ship externally they are more akin to the construction of a multi storey car park. Without the modern materials holding them together the entire thing would literally collapse within seconds.

            There is simply put an upper limit on the size of a wooden ship, and those "replicas" are way beyond it. And they aren't big enough to have one of everything aboard, ignoring little details like food and fresh water supplies that actual sailors used to worry about.

            And obviously two of each animal is an insufficient gene pool.

            1. A.P. Veening Silver badge

              Re: Professionals built the titanic...

              And obviously two of each animal is an insufficient gene pool.

              Two pregnant females of some large litter species*) might just squeeze by.

              *) Canines and porcines come to mind

              1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

                Re: Professionals built the titanic...

                It doesn't say 2 it says 7

                ps. It does explain why Swans are evil. All the evil people and animals were drowned, except presumably ducks and fish. So we have Sharks, Alligators and Swans = evil buggers than can survive floods.

            2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

              Re: Professionals built the titanic...

              "And obviously two of each animal is an insufficient gene pool."

              And speaking of food supplies, the majority of those animals are food for others in the chain. Not to mention the mucking out that needs doing!

              As for transport, was the horse domesticated and rideable at the estimated time of the flood? If so, the Pony Express is probably the best estimate for prehistoric fast communications.

              1. katrinab Silver badge

                Re: Professionals built the titanic...

                Boats were the main means of communication. That's why cities tend to be on the coast or on navigable rivers.

                1. Anonymous Coward
                  Anonymous Coward

                  Re: Professionals built the titanic...

                  Boats were the main means of communication. That's why cities tend to be on the coast or on navigable rivers.

                  Dug out canoes were the starting point. Then you have rafts for trade and then early ships, which would have been a wood frame covered with hide or reeds, which is probably the tech base that built the ark. (which also precludes carrying elephants etc)

                  Both dug out canoes and frame covered ships would likely have been powered by oars or punts without sail, as sail requires masts which is an imposing difficulty for very early ship design due to having to hold something up vertically (which practically requires multiple wooden decks, itself a significant structural problem to solve) and then you have to transfer the force from the sail to the entire body of the ship to avoid ripping the structure to bits with a heavy structural load in one place.

                  But even so, assume you could get to 5 knots, that's still only roughly 120 miles in a 24 hour period. And of course ancient navigators hugged the coast, making attacks by pirates in dug out canoes practical. (which in itself is a discouragement to long distance travel)

            3. katrinab Silver badge
              Meh

              Re: Professionals built the titanic...

              The end of the last ice age was a major flooding event. It didn't flood the entire planet, but to some people, it may have seemed like it.

  6. Gomez Adams

    My own experience of something similar is much more mundane. Lent a USB charging cable to someone at an outdoor event who neglected to tell me they had dropped it in a puddle. Next thing I know the USB socket on my phone is borked! :(

    Spent the next seven years using only wireless charging and Bluetooth or FTP file transfers until I eventually got a new phone last month.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      WTF? You can now get electrictity over FTP?

      1. Doctor Syntax Silver badge

        Parsing error.

      2. jake Silver badge

        Only if you pay extra for a wet loop.

      3. Anonymous Coward Silver badge
        Coat

        Foiled Twisted Pair. Yes, the electricity is standard PoE.

        Not sure how you connect it to a phone though.

        1. John Brown (no body) Silver badge
          Coat

          USB Ethernet adaptor?

  7. GlenP Silver badge

    Some years back I was IS manager for a company running an AS/400 for ERP, etc. By the time I left we'd converted most people over to PCs running terminal emulation or the screen-scraped GUI but initially they mostly had 5250 terminals. They were fairly robust but we had one start smoking first thing on a Monday morning,

    No problem, get a spare one out, swap them over, the second one starts emitting smoke as well! Everywhere else in the office was fine but obviously I wasn't going to risk a third dead terminal so called the site electrician. When he'd finally tracked the wiring he found that socket was wired to a different circuit to the others and a fault meant it was running across two phases not 1 phase and neutral. It was a lucky escape, if the terminal had been left on when the user left on the Friday it could have had all weekend to smoulder away.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    El Reg is a family publication?

    Pull the other one it has bells on!

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Held to a higher standard?

    Back in the early 90s I was a teenage PABX installer, travelling all over the country

    I was assigned an important job - cabling up the new offices of the company which sold the systems and provided all our work. At the time BT would inspect your installation* and if it didn't meet their standards, refuse to connect the external lines. One key regulation was keeping telephone cables at least 50mm from electrical ones and up and off false ceilings.

    Off I went to the job, fairly easy as it was a modern office with false ceilings. Careful, neat runs of telephone cables in said ceiling. Ran out of day and didn't have time to strap them up off the ceiling, No problem, I was to return in a few days and could finish.

    Oh the naivety of youth! Upon return I opened the ceilings to find the unholiest rat's nest of electrical cables known to mankind. Literally every tile had a mass of crossing and twisted cables heaped upon it. And of course, all on top of my lovely cables. I was sure disaster would strike and we'd fail the inspection.

    Shouldn't have wasted an ounce of nervous energy - this was BT in the 90s. The nice BT man came along, glanced at the PABX fixed to the wall and signed it off. Inspect the cabling properly? Open a ceiling tile for a cursory glance? No way - he was off down the cafe.

    Not long after, BT inspections were ended and a BSI standards self sign-off was introduced, but of course I kept to my high installation standards*

    * for ancient historians, known as a "PCI" (pre-connection inspection)

    **Of course I didn't

    1. Boothy Silver badge

      Re: Held to a higher standard?

      Also early 90s for myself. Used to do a lot of 1st and 2nd fixing with electrical/electronic equipment of various types and had similar issues to you with 'mains' cables etc. (Sometimes they'd burn through our cables as they pulled the heavier cables over ours!).

      Most of our cabling was either standard telephone type cables, typically 6-core (i.e. 3 twisted pairs) most often, although sometimes we had larger twisted pair cables, and sometimes coax as well, depending on the equipment going in. Either way, this was fragile stuff in comparison with typical mains rated cables.

      I soon decided to try to get whoever was in charge at the sites we were working at, to not just let us know when the 1st fixing window was available for us to start wiring (i.e. walls (and usually roof) up, but not plastered yet), but also let us know when the sparkies had completed their bit.

      This meant less damaged cables for us, that we could stay away from the mains cables, and also any walls that needed breaching for cable runs, were often already done by the sparkies, so we didn't need to!

    2. Peter2 Silver badge

      Re: Held to a higher standard?

      Shouldn't have wasted an ounce of nervous energy - this was BT in the 90s. The nice BT man came along, glanced at the PABX fixed to the wall and signed it off. Inspect the cabling properly? Open a ceiling tile for a cursory glance? No way - he was off down the cafe.

      To be fair, that was all he needed to do.

      BT's concern is things messing with the BT network. If you had a PABX then the BT network was connected between the NTTP where the POTS, ISDN2 or ISDN30 came in to the final termination point, which was the PABX. If the extension wiring for the PABX is poor and shorts causing the PABX extension cards to cook then while that is a serious problem for the PABX maintainer then it's not BT's problem so they wouldn't care one jot.

  10. Evil Auditor

    Idiot.

    ...because in his whole career he had never installed XYZ that was anything other...

    I've heard the same moronic excuse, in different variations, too many times. My remedy has been to slap them the respective standard in the face, or, alternatively, ask them to tell me which standard it is.

  11. Martin Silver badge
    FAIL

    This was my own fault, not someone else's...

    ...but it's worth telling.

    When I were a little lad, I found that I could strip wire better with my teeth than I could with wire-strippers.

    One day, when I was about fifteen, I was working on wiring up something - don't remember what it was. I stripped off a piece of mains cable in my usual way. I was holding the cable, and the two bare ends touched each other - there was a helluva bang, my hands were covered in carbon....and I went into a cold sweat and my heart started going like a trip-hammer when I realized that the other end of the mains lead was attached to a plug, plugged into the wall. And I'd put the wires into my mouth....

    It's a miracle that I'm still here to tell the story. I still get slight cold shivers thinking about it, even though it happened fifty years ago.

    1. Rob Daglish

      Re: This was my own fault, not someone else's...

      I nearly did something similar... I was working on a Panasonic Digital PBX for a client sometime in the early 2000s. The phone socket I was rewiring had screw terminals rather than being punch down, and as it was late and I couldn't be bothered going to the car, I decided to strip the wires using my teeth. First one was fine. The second one, the wire turned as I pulled the insulation off with my teeth, causing the first wire to make contact with my nose while the second was still in my mouth... Not the most pleasant of feelings, and I was certainly more careful about doing it in future!

  12. Danny 2 Silver badge

    Respect the experience

    It's great to read @TonyJ and @Blofeld's Cat.

    Just because you are techies doesn't make you leckies. I threw my brother in law out of rewiring a relatives house because he wasn't a qualified electrician.

    He exclaimed, "But I am a qualified electrician!"

    "Really? What City and Guilds or National Qualifications do you have?"

    "I am a qualified cable runner!"

    "A rat is a qualified cable runner, they just aren't allowed to connect them."

    A lorry ripped up an old overhead cable in my village, leaving a sparking cable jumping around on the pavement. My neighbours came to me to make it safe because I was an Electronics Engineer. I had to explain I didn't deal with anything over 12 volts but I had just the thing for them in my garage until the electricity board arrived - traffic cones.

    In my first job there was an elderly tech who claimed to be able to measure high voltage by touching it against the back of his hand. He said he charged his car battery by holding up a wand to over-head power cables. Another guy at the same place was supposedly killed when someone threw a large charged capacitor at him as a joke.

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Respect the experience

      I remember as a YTS many moons ago with CRT monitors, been shown to use the back of your hand on the front of screen to see it the HT was present or not - certainly not the cable, and certainly not measure it!

    2. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: Respect the experience

      > killed when someone threw a large charged capacitor at him

      Mind blowing (no pun intended)! "Back off, my capacitor is charged and I'm not afraid to use it!" (On the other hand I've seen capacitors which even uncharged could kill somebody if thrown. Assuming you have a catapult or some such.)

      1. Vincent Ballard
        Alert

        Re: Respect the experience

        One of the physics teachers in my secondary school had a demo where he shocked a volunteer using a capacitor charged from a battery. I naïvely volunteered and gave a tremendous shriek; he confessed to me a few years later that he checked afterwards and discovered that he'd miscalculated the capacitance and given me a bigger shock than intended. He followed up with the first XV rugby player who had volunteered in an earlier class and discovered that, although he was too tough to show pain, he had a numb arm for a few hours. So I can well believe that someone with a dodgy heart could be killed by the surprise.

        1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

          Re: Respect the experience

          I know a few teachers who would very much like to be able to do that to their students, but, alas, I suspect conducting such experiments on them is now illegal :o(

          1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

            Re: Respect the experience

            Students, can't even tazer them these days - bloody elf+safety

  13. Pascal Monett Silver badge

    I guess I'm lucky

    I am apparently the only person here who knows a competent electrician.

    We moved in our new house in November 2017. After one winter, we had discovered that the heating needed a bit of an upgrade. Fine, so we go looking for other solutions. My wife takes a fancy to some stone panels and I, obviously, agree with her choice. We enter into discussions and end up signing the contract.

    In the summer, the guy shows up to evaluate the premises. He takes one look at the electrical panel and says to me "I can't install your radiators with this - you are completely off norm and it wouldn't be safe".

    The previous owner had copiously boasted about how he had done all the electricity himself. Apparently what he had done was create a fire hazard. It's a small miracle that he still had a house to sell.

    Obviously, I agreed to have the guy redo the electrical panel to modern standards, after which the new radiators were installed.

    This guy has done a few other things for me (replacing cieling lamps with LED lights), and I have absolute confidence in him.

    I guess I'm lucky.

  14. prodromos65
    Black Helicopters

    My boss and I were tasked with installing a three phase outlet for a new CNC flatbed laser cutter which was being shipped from the USA to Australia via their subsiduary in New Zealand. Since it was coming from the States which has completely different electrical supplies compared to Australia, we asked them to confirm that the necessary modifications had been made for it to be run on Australian voltage. They assured us that it had indeed been modified so we did as we had been asked. The next day, the Rep from the USA arrived to provide training to the staff in the operation of the machine. The power was switched on and the control computer immediately released blue smoke into the air.

    No modifications had been made and we soon discovered that it was expecting a 120V-0-120V supply instead of the 415V it was given. Apparently the Rep had no idea about the different supplies outside of the USA. Thankfully all that needed replacing was the computer as the other components only received power after the computer finished starting up. In the meantime we had to source an isolating transformer with a centre tap on the secondary

  15. Elledan Silver badge

    The US nightmare of voltages and outlets

    The US has a patchwork of over 40 different mains connectors, with voltages ranging from 125 - 600 VAC: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/NEMA_connector

    While not all of these are commonly in used, especially office buildings in the US will generally use at least 3-5 different NEMA outlet types and 2-3 voltages.

    Meanwhile even a European laboratory will have generally two outlet types: one for the ~230VAC (generally Schuko) and one for the 3~ 400VAC. This was all we had back on the farm as well, with the big clunky 3-phase connector used primarily for things like the welder and other heavy-duty gear.

    Schuko isn't even polarised, so the only way to mess up wiring those outlets is to do something unspeakable with the earth connection or so. Maybe it's about time the US modernised to a similar set of standards :)

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: The US nightmare of voltages and outlets

      As a left-pondian, I'd have to disagree on what office buildings "generally use". They're almost always 5-15R or 5-20R outlets, which look exactly the same except for a horizontal extension (T-slot) of the neutral slot for the 5-20R. Nearly every device has a plug that will fit either.

    2. DS999 Silver badge

      Re: The US nightmare of voltages and outlets

      Commercial buildings in the US will pretty much never have anything other than NEMA 5-20P receptacles unless there is a very specific need - i.e. in a restaurant kitchen, laboratory, server room or something like that expecting equipment which requires more than 1800 watts and obviously only the last is valid for an office building.

      I've seen office buildings that have a circular receptacle next to the standard NEMA 5-20P that's covered up here and there - I'm guessing that maybe they ran 4 10 gauge wires to a few locations and used them during construction (to run concrete grinders or other high powered construction equipment) and then changed them to 120v/20A in the panel, moved the wire to the receptacle next to them, and installed a blank in the L6-30 or whatever they were using.

  16. hoola Silver badge

    Sending UPS units

    A few years ago some remote offices were being refurbished and it was decided that they should each have a UPS on the small comms cabinet. This contained a couple of switches & some sort of router. In the event of a power cut then the equipment would stay up and staff could still work (yes, I know about the obvious, this was local authority at it's best).

    A stack of APC 1000Ah UPS units where ordered, unpacked and then configured. They were repacked and then sent via a carrier (I cannot remember why we did note take them in a van). A few days later the calls started coming in, every single one was broken. They had all clearly been dropped and the fronts completely smashed into the enclosure with a nice battery sized hole in. What was scary was some had been plugged in "to see if they worked" with resulting building trips.

  17. Giles C Silver badge

    Dodgy wiring

    This happened to me about 10 years ago.

    Working on a Saturday night pulling telephone cables to get space for a SAN to be installed. There were two of us working in the same raised panel as the cables were tight. The Electrican’s had been in and installed new 32A commando sockets. I needed to lift the socket out of the way so the cables could be moved.

    Picked up the socket there was a bang and the site went dead. A few seconds later the emergency lighting came on to reveal 2 rather stunned people. We traced the problem and isolated that socket and got the rest of building up before making calls to get the rest of the support teams in to restart everything.

    The fun started after.

    I took a day off on Monday and the rumour mill went into overdrive, by the time I got back I was attending my funeral the next day. The actual cause was the electrician hadn’t screwed in the neutral line and when I picked up the cable it fell out and landed on the live inducing a dead short.

    10 years later it is still recounted to people and when I went back there for a jobs fayre (after Thomas Cook failing) I met my old colleague who proceeded to recount the story to a group of people who just stood there with their eyes on stalks.

  18. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Wiring houses

    My grandfather worked for the Electricity Board, managing the buildings (he had nothing to do with electricity, just he fabric of the buildings). Anyway, he told me that there was a new road of houses being wired up to the mains, some time in the 1950's.

    One of his electrician friends who was a stickler for the correct procedure had done the wiring on one side of the street. Returning to the office that night he'd told them what he'd done. The supervisor said no, he'd done the other side. No, he'd done the side of the street he'd just said. Oh. The side he'd wired up had not been taken through the local substation so was at electricity grid voltage, not the then 240V domestic supply level. The electricians response: "I thought it was a bit live."

    As he'd used his rubber mat, and done every procedure 'by the book', he'd survived unharmed. And as they were new houses, no one had plugged anything into a socket either.

  19. Roland6 Silver badge

    Lucky Harry...

    As for Harry, he bought himself a multimeter the very next day to check future outlets just in case he ran into the work of another electrician who "had never thought to check the specs."

    "I never had an issue after that first time," he said

    I've found it is useful to have a pack of spare fast blow fuses - for the multimeter, in the bag...

  20. Quotes

    National Grid Status

    http://www.gridwatch.templar.co.uk/

  21. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    This is essentially the plot of The Towering Inferno, minus the Tower, Steve McQueen, and Paul Newman. Don't use cheap electricians.

    1. ralphh

      Tinsel

      The Mad Magazine version had the Tower wired with tinsel.

  22. knottedhandkerchief

    Disco Beer

    When at uni, I was put in charge of the students' union entertainment equipment, and used to drag out the disco equipment (it was the 70s) for impromptu evenings in the bar. Revolting students used to be the thing in the 70s (they are much tamer now they have to pay fees, it seems) and throwing beer in the over dancers (and the equipment) wasn't infrequent.

    I'd built a mains checker from Practical Electronics mag - basically neon lights and resistors squeezed into a three pin plug (it would probably throw an RCD now) - tried it on the mains extension lead presumably created by a predecessor - the lights didn't look good, so opened it up to find the extension lead was simply a hefty two core, no earth lead!

    Changed that promptly, and taught me not to trust stuff provided with.

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Disco Beer

      > find the extension lead was simply a hefty two core, no earth lead!

      Common at music venues - 'easiest' way to avoid earth loop hum

      (for certain illegal values of easiest)

  23. Eclectic Man Silver badge

    Boeing Aircraft Wiring

    It is a long article, but there are claims of substandard wiring in Boeing aircraft:

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/jDOe2y9Tbo/boeing-737-max

    Near the end it sates:

    "Another former quality control employee at the plant, Cynthia Kitchens, has made similar allegations. In 2011, she complained to regulators about substandard parts being deliberately removed from quarantine bins and fitted to aircraft, in an attempt to keep the production line moving.

    She also alleges employees were being told to overlook substandard work, and says defective wiring bundles, containing metallic shavings within their coatings, were deliberately installed on planes – creating a risk of dangerous short-circuits.

    Aircraft with such wiring, she told the BBC, may still be flying today."

    Warning: The article makes very uncomfortable reading.

    There is also a comparison photo of the original 737 and the 737 Max in a linked article, showing just how far forward of the wing leading edge the new engines are compared to the older, less fuel-efficient under-wing engines were. (Nearly at half way point in the article.)

    https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/extra/IFtb42kkNv/boeing-two-deadly-crashes

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Boeing Aircraft Wiring

      I thought we used up all that dodgy fragile insulation rewiring Nimrods ?

      1. Eclectic Man Silver badge

        Re: Boeing Aircraft Wiring

        Nah, there is (or was) lots of it in BR signal boxes. Besides the USAfolk are quite capable of making their own.

  24. Sparkus Bronze badge

    Or a "CIO" who argues against UPS protections....

    because electricity doesn't' have an IP address........

  25. Boris the Cockroach Silver badge
    Flame

    Kwalifried sparky

    Yes been there ,been on the receiving end

    Assurred that the house had 2 rings and the upstairs ring had its fure removed....attempted to disconect power socket only to have my best electrical screwdriver explode in a blinding blue flash

    Upon recovering my eyesight and ceasing to swear at the hapless houseowner who'd employed said 'sparky'.... I found there was only 1 ring and he'd wired each of the ring into 2 different fuses.....

    2 years later when the kitchen was rebuilt , I found further work.... a spur off the ring, feeding into 2 more spurs and a further spur off of one of those.

    Feeding things like kettles, deep frier, washing machine , cooker oven.. etc etc etc.

    Ended up rewiring the entire place

    Flames .. because the houseowners were lucky their place didnt go up in them

    1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

      Re: Kwalifried sparky

      I had a very old house that wasn't wired with a ring - but direct runs to each (admittedly scarce) socket.

      Needed to fit a modern consumer unit and had to explain to dozens of PFY that they were putting the wrong fuse values - eventually got a grey beard electrician who would accept that "not a ring main" could exist, and was arguably better.

    2. John Brown (no body) Silver badge

      Re: Kwalifried sparky

      "Assurred that the house had 2 rings and the upstairs ring had its fure removed....attempted to disconect power socket only to have my best electrical screwdriver explode in a blinding blue flash"

      Dad taught me.

      1. Pull relevant the fuse in the consumer unit (better, just turn it off completely, but wives sometimes have arguments against that option)

      2. Put fuse in pocket so no one can put it back in.

      3. Make sure the relevant circuit is dead by turning on lights or plugging something in.

      1. Yet Another Anonymous coward Silver badge

        Re: Kwalifried sparky

        Did all that and still got zapped.

        The treasonous colonials wire the top/bottom socket in an outlet to different feeds on different breakers.

        I mean, nearly 250 years and the buggers are still trying to kill me -

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Kwalifried sparky

          <joke>That's because it's been 250 years and you still call us colonials, you resident of the Britannia province of the Roman Empire...</joke>

          In all seriousness, those are made so that one socket can be run from a lightswitch to control a lamp, while the other is a regular (unswitched) outlet. Really shouldn't be on different breakers, though.

          1. NITS

            Re: Kwalifried sparky

            They were also used for kitchen countertop appliance circuits. 2 phases, 1 neutral, 1 ground. One phase to the top receptacle, other phase to the bottom socket. Each socket has 120 volts to neutral, but 240 between the 2 phases. Lets you put 2 heating appliances (toaster + ???) adjacent on the countertop.

            I don't think that they are even a thing anymore, since GFCIs came into use.

      2. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Kwalifried sparky

        Went to change a broken light fitting. Did steps 1 and 2 and the lights went off... then tested step 3 by sticking my screwdriver into the light fitting and blowing the end off!

        Went back to the consumer unit where I noticed a 2nd, older, consumer unit 20ft off the ground. It had just one job to do... protect the one sodding light socket I was changing

  26. Richard Tobin

    "Trust but verify"

    How, in practice, is this different from "don't trust"?

    1. ThatOne Silver badge

      Re: "Trust but verify"

      More polite?

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: "Trust but verify"

      "Don't trust" involves being a lot less friendly to the person you're not trusting.

  27. eionmac

    Habits die hard.

    Not electrical but out of 'pipes'. Sometimes in my youth I trained "Young Officers" from a middle east country. Once part way through their course; we had to instruct in rifle range safety and practice. Issue each trainee with rifle, take to training ground, fire off a few rounds, inspect all rifles unloaded and bring men plus rifles back on truck.

    As my normal practice, I physically had trainees in a line at practice end and have every rifle unbolted and open and stuck my little finger in chamber to ensure no rounds loaded before they got on truck (I had learned!). But you do not look behind you!

    Guys climb onto truck at back end, part way through them climbing aboard , a Bang! Hole about 1 cm above drivers head [N1] in cab. (or roughly less than a thumb width). Getting into truck a guy hit rifle on truck edge & pulled his trigger.

    Found out, in their country, it was a major criminal offence in their army to carry an unloaded weapon. They all had a spare round in their breast pockets they loaded into their rifle chamber after I had inspected rifles were empty and collected all 'issued' rounds.

    I changed to having rifles issued at firing range by my native UK troops and returned to to my native UK troops after firing practice.

    However I found the [N1] driver would never drive me thereafter. Strange.

    Habits and culture can ruin any written procedure for safety.

    As I worked internationally thereafter, it was a good lesson for my surviving, but with an awful reputation as "he lets the trainees kill one another". "He likes putting his fingers in holes" (without an explanation).

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Habits die hard.

      In my cadet days a similar story - the "range officer" was a fairly enthusiastic but clueless maths teacher, who didn't always conduct huimself behind the firing line, but occasionally in front of when he thought it was safe to do so. We had all done our target shooting assessment blasting rounds all over the shop with our un-zeroed cadet rifles, then whistle blow, "cease fire" etc.

      Then "For inspection, port arms!"

      Cue 30 kids all "cocking, hooking and looking" to make sure all safe. Weapon duly inspected by range officer, once all 30 checked, ok to release and fire off the action. At this point our officer decided to do his "in front of the safety line" bit to lecture us about our inability to shoot straight.

      However one cadet hadn't removed and checked his magazine, so the "release" picked up a shiny fresh round from the magazine, and firing off the action drilled a 5.56mm round into the ground about 3 ft from the officer's right boot. The deathly silence that followed lasted for a good minute while everyone processed, then all hell broke loose...

  28. croc

    Once I was installing a new controller platform for a manufacturing plant. I bonded and grounded the frame per specs, then started testing voltages From power to system ground was within spec, but from system ground to frame ground was like 20 volts AC. Checked other power points, similar results. In another building everything was normal. Started looking for the first building's main grounding point. I finally found it, a heavy gauge wire welde to the incoming 8 inch cold water main. However, the main had apparently developed a leak because between the ground point ant the actual pipe inlet was a two meter or so length of PVC.

    I spoke to the plant supervisor and suggested he use a traditional earth ground. Next day all was normal.

    Ground loops are frustrating.

  29. W4YBO

    Electricity and idiots

    I brought the FNG to our mountaintop site and gave a standard tour of three FMs and two UHF-TV transmitters. I'd excused myself to head to the bathroom when there was a godawful explosion and flash of light. He had opened the door to the 100 kW UHF high voltage cabinet (room sized cabinet). 55,000 volts and current limited only by the capacitor's discharge time meant entering that room while it was energised risked leaving as a nasty smelling puff of smoke. We shut down the transmitter, discharged a cap that had not contributed to the lightning bolt, and set FNG at replacing contacts on the interlock. Back on-air in about 15 minutes.

    He started off with a doozy, but I never knew him to make another mistake, and he had a long career with that company until he left to start his own contract engineering firm.

  30. sitta_europea Silver badge

    I won't put this in an email as requested, because the elReg email service says my Gmail account has been disabled.

    Thanks, Google, but I never had a Gmail account.

    Back in the early 80's I was in Oxford, England at a company called Innotron designing and manufacturing instruments for hospital laboratories.

    I had the printed circuit boards made locally, and a company called Newport Instruments near Milton Keynes was sourcing the components for us, assembling them onto the printed circuit boards, and testing the completed boards to my specifications.

    Or so I thought.

    We started getting problems reports for a batch of 100 instruments which we'd sold to the Americal Hospital Supply Corporation in the USA. In 1981 these instruments cost twenty grand apiece.

    I sent a guy out to Chicago to investigate. His name was Tony Primarolo. An American by birth, he was now living in Oxford.

    He let me know that the problems were real and that it appeared that some of the components weren't sourced to my very detailed specification.

    One of the components was supposed to be an MC14528B dual monostable multivibrator. In fact instead of the one specified, a completely different dual monostable device, the HEF4582B, had been substituted by the buyer at Newport Instruments, Duncan hunter.

    It turned out that Mr. Hunter had found a cheaper device which vaguely resembled the one specified, and he'd used that.

    He'd thought that when Roger Kirby in the Newport Instruments test department actually ran the tests to my specifications, it would be obvious if there was a problem and they'd fix it then. He didn't actually tell anybody about that, nor, presumably about any bottles of whisky that he might have taken home.

    The only trouble with the plan was that Roger Kirby never did test the boards to my specifications, and what should have been a 2.5 microsecond pulse in the circuits was barely scraping half a microsecond on a warm day. The instruments scraped through calibration in that state but they were never going to last after shipping across the pond, storage for months, shipping across America and then getting installed in a hospital lab which might be in sultry Florida, or fozen Alaska, or any of the other forty-eight states in between.

    They didn't last. Tony had to start unpacking, rectifying, recalibrating and repacking nearly a hundred instruments. I gave him a fortnight.

    He said, "It's impossible!"

    A couple of weeks later I flew out as well, and we finished the job together in under a month working 16-18 hour shifts. I can still remember the scrratchy records on the taped muzak which they played day and night at the AHS warehouse, and the free Root Beer from the machine in the canteen. I'm still addicted to Root Beer.

    Well all that was so that Duncan Hunter could save 15 pence a shot on a few thousand integrated circuits.

    More or less at this point, somebody should mention the quality costs graph....

    https://www.researchgate.net/figure/Cost-of-Quality-Graphical-Representation-Many-of-the-COQ-costs-are-hidden-and-very_fig2_317428436

    All the names used here are the real names of the real people and companies involved.

  31. Nick Ryan Silver badge

    Unclosable external sockets

    We moved office last year. Yes, during covid lockdown...

    The outfitters who were doing the job were tasked with fitting external sockets on our rather nice terrace. They fitted three out of four of them so low that it was not possible to use the clip to securely seal them up, let alone have anything plugged in at the same time which would run through the gromets at the bottom of the socket. Their idiotic excuse was that this was where the building manager had instructed to install them. I've yet to see the electrical installation safety test documentation, because there is no way that these could have been properly tested as being safe. When I came across this installation I just turned the entire external circuit off, there was no way I was going near them or allowing them to be turned on.

    They came back and complained that they were fine and marginally moved them vertically up a little bit anyway - emphasis on the little bit. The result? One socket is still not closeable unless one uses some form of tool to hammer the clip shut, two others are just about closable but still with nowhere near enough clearance to actually run a cable out of the bottom when closed and the fourth is just about usable but only as long as the cable attached to the plug doesn't have strain relief on it as there is till only about 3cm clearance below the socket. Luckily we haven't really moved into the new office yet.

  32. bwv540

    I would not describe the UPSes as having committed seppaku so much as having been murdered.

    Ours is not to wonder why, ours is but to do and fry?

    In my experience (lots of data center projects), L5 twistlocks are used exclusively for 120V circuits and L6 for 208V/240V. I suspect this electrician was from the planet Skyron or something...

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