Death through dodgy wiring

In the Evening Standard last night.
http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/articles/13758765?source=Evening%20Standard
Very sad story, but no doubt will be seized upon as justification for changes to the Electrical Wiring Regulations (Part P)
Made me think to invest in a good wiring detector for drilling holes etc.
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On 12 Oct 2004 01:17:50 -0700, snipped-for-privacy@hotmail.com (TimD) wrote:

Fact is, there are many incredibly stupid people out there who will just drill a hole without thinking about what is underneath. Perhaps they are those who never received an accidental jolt as a child. Once felt, you never, ever forget it. Could it be that all school children need to be exposed to, say, an electric fence at least once during their education?
MM
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Yes, when I moved into this house I found that the previous owner had managed to drill through the ring main just a foot or so vertically above a socket. He'd also drilled through the tv aerial cable. Later I discovered that some sheving in the kitchen had been put up with dummy screw heads in two of the brackets because of cables underneath.
I'd always thought cables should run horizointally and vertically but not diagonally across a wall. My meter and CU are under the stairs, and most of the cabling up to the first floor runs parallel to the staircase i.e. at about 45 deg. in the kitchen wall. Having worked out where the trunking went I was able to reposition the shelf brackets.
--
Richard Porter
Mail to username ricp at domain minijem.plus.com
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Some of them should be exposed to an electric chair at least once during their education.
Steve
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http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/articles/13758765?source=Evening%20Standard
Many new house builders give these free in the starter pack.
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Visited one of my friends at the weekend - he bought his house brand new about a year ago. He was putting in an outside tap at the weekend, and after consulting the diagrams showing where all the pipework ran underneath the surface of the wall, and making use of his wire/metal/stud detector thing he started drilling.... straight through the Hep2O running diagonally underneath the plasterboard.
He was not happy.

http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/articles/13758765?source=Evening%20Standa rd
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http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/articles/13758765?source=Evening%20Standa rd
In The Times this morning the story hinted that they might sue the builders. Sigh.
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http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/articles/13758765?source=Evening%20Standa
builders.
The builders may be at fault to some degree, but the man who installed the rack, when cable detectors have been around for along time now, is the culprit. I doubt the builders would be roasted.
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Except that you are supposed to install vertically from fittings or more than 50mm deep for the precise reason to avoid electrocution when fixing to the wall. They must bear partial responsibility.
Christian.
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Christian McArdle wrote:

The Standard report is quite detailed, and supports Christian's point. The original fitters were the primary cause of this death, by cavalier routing of a mains cable which "meandered across the wall instead of being fitted in strict horizontal or vertical lines". This was the cooker hood feed cable. The metal rack which became live was put up some time later by the householder: "Mrs Wherry's husband Jake put up the rack three years ago and thought he had positioned it away from any cables, although he did not check."
You could call his failure to check contributory negligence, or (in less lawyerly speak) what happens when you assume - "it makes an ASS out of U and ME" in the trite health-and-safety mantra. Another bit of householderly incomplete cluefulness comes across in the next paragraph: "Evidence to the inquest from electrical engineer David Latimer, who examined the kitchen, was that a screw from the rack had caught the side of the electrical cable. Over the years the rack and screw had moved slightly so that eventually the screw touched the live wire in the cable. Every time a metal object was put on the rack there was a small electric shock."
You'd-a-thunk that 'this rack gives me a tingle every time I touch it' would serve as a Clue that there was something wrong. Sadly, it didn't raise enough of a response: an earlier portion of the report says, "Mrs Wherry's family became suspicious that something was wrong in the kitchen after a family friend tried to put something onto the same rack, which was under the cooker hood, that same day and received a small shock." We can't tell from the report whether such tingles had been felt on previous occasions.
That "small shock" became fatal for this victim when she was in simultaneous contact with the live rack and a good earth: "But Mrs Wherry's shock was fatal because her ankle is believed to have been touching the metalfronted open door of the dishwasher." (A sadly persuasive illustration of the downside of bonding everything to a good earth, as raised not an hour ago in the "bond the kitchen sink" discussion). The "believed" in the quote is a bit of journalistic silliness, as the next para goes on to describe the 2.5-inch discolouration around the victim's ankle, making it all too clear what path the fatal current had taken.
The coroner seems to agree that the primary fault is with those who installed this cable in a non-obvious, regs-defying route: "Coroner Alison Thompson said that Mrs Wherry would have survived if the cable had been properly installed. Recording a verdict of accidental death she said: 'The cable had not been fitted in accordance with regulations from the Institute of Electrical Engineers.'"
The final comment reported by the coroner leaves it ambiguous, though, whether she felt some blame attached to the householder too: "I am going to record that the death was the consequence of home improvement work." - from which I, at least, can't tell whether the coroner has in mind the earlier kitchen fitting work with its misrouted cable, or the husband's fitting of the metal rack.
An RCD on the kitchen circuit would've prevented this particular fatality; the not-well-earthed tingle reported earlier in the day might have been enough to trip it, with the inconvenience possibly giving the occupants more reason to investigate the fault, and certainly the victim would've been massively unlikely to have received a fatal shock, rather than a stiff belt strongly suggesting a need to Get It Fixed.
And - as others have pointed out - cable/metal detectors before drilling are A Good Thing, as is a healthy scpeticism and a curiousity about where cables and pipes are running - 'just where does that cooker hood get its power from, huh?'. This cable might not have registered as Live (rather than just Metal) without the cooker hood being switched on, mind you...
Stefek
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Stefek Zaba wrote:

I think an interesting and telling question is "what if the cable had followed the correct path? Does your avearge weekend shelf-putter-upper even know about where cable runs are allowed to go? Would he have avoided putting a hole there, thinking "ah, I'm within the 150mm band, there might be a cable here"? I'm willing to bet 9/10 wouldn't.
I think if you aren't inclined to check for cables then you're unlikely to think about where they might be in the first place.
I think the only solution is to require all cables to be enclosed in 1.5mm wall galvanised conduit. You wait, it'll come.
Related but OT - I installed a replacement extractor fan in the downstairs toilet this weekend. The instructions said that it must only be fitted by a qualified electrician. Fair enough. Then there was a section about cleaning, which said that the cover should be removed, and the motor cleaned once a month. It then went on to say that this should only be done by a qualified electrician!! So I'm supposed to book a qualified electrician to come round once a month to clean all my extractor fans??
--
Grunff

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Grunff wrote:

Another interesting question is woulp part P make any difference.
If this was not a "New Circuit" it wouldnt have needed any checking anyway!
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wrote:

No, but the new Part Q requiring all plate racks to be wooden will <g>. > If this was not a "New Circuit" it wouldnt have needed any checking

It does appear that in the absence of any other faults you could have had an electrical report done on this house the day before the accident and it would have been clean.
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Tony Bryer SDA UK 'Software to build on' http://www.sda.co.uk
Free SEDBUK boiler database browser http://www.sda.co.uk/qsedbuk.htm
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More sensible to have plastic screws. ;-)
--
*Men are from Earth, women are from Earth. Deal with it.

Dave Plowman snipped-for-privacy@davenoise.co.uk London SW
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Mike wrote:

Yes it would: all electrical work in kitchens and bathrooms will notifiable under Part P - see http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm_buildreg/documents/page/odpm_breg_029960.pdf Table 1.
--
Andy

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http://www.odpm.gov.uk/stellent/groups/odpm_buildreg/documents/page/odpm_bre g_029960.pdf
So is everyone buying up reels of T&E in the old colours so we can avoid paying a "professional" electrician for the next few years at least?
Bob
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snipped-for-privacy@ntlworld.com says... <snip>

Old colours?
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says...

I understood that when the regs come in, the wiring colours would be changing, enabling inspectors to identify new work.
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Bob wrote:

It's not quite as deliberately coordinated as that, I don't think, but it is suggestive/indicative, since the changes occur within a year of each other. "The New Colours" meaning for ornery T&E a change to brown & blue for L and N respectively, to match the much-loved code for flexes. You remember - the one the wags tried to make us remember as "ah, well, that dark brown's the same colour as the earth, so it must be for E; the bright blue's electric-blue, innit, so that'll be L where all the electrickery comes from; and the stripey one can't make up its mind what colour to be, so it's a middle-of-the-road thing, which must mean Neutral'. [No, that's NOT what the colours really mean. It's a *joke*, alright?]
Stefek
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On Tue, 12 Oct 2004 18:13:46 +0100, Stefek Zaba

You can buy new coloured cable now, so it would be legitimate to say that you did the work before the introduction of Part P.
Considering the practicalities, it seems to me that there are three scenarios where the issue comes up:
- new and additional building work involving a building control notice or application. An inspection gets done.
- something bad happens such as this Darwin situation, or a fire etc. Officialdom gets involved and it's determined that the householder DIYed the job and it wasn't inspected. Really all that has changed is that an offence will have been committed.
- the house is on the market and the issue comes up with solicitor'q questions. Thi s is a moot point, because the purchaser will probably get an electrical inspection done anyway.
.andy
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