Industrial Electrical Code Violations You Didn’t Know Existed

As an industrial electrician, I regularly encounter electrical installations that violate the National Electrical Code (NEC). Many of these violations go unnoticed for years, putting workers and equipment at risk. In this article, I will highlight some of the most common yet overlooked industrial electrical code violations that exist in facilities across the country.

Improper Conductor Sizing

One of the most frequent violations I come across is undersized conductors. The NEC contains detailed load calculation procedures to determine the proper wire size for any electrical circuit. Undersized conductors can lead to excessive voltage drop, overheating, and potential fire hazards. Common problem areas include:

Compliance requires re-running properly sized cables, which can be very costly in an existing facility. Careful load calculations during design and construction are needed to avoid this violation.

Lack of Overcurrent Protection

The NEC mandates overcurrent protection for virtually every electrical circuit. This essential protection is often omitted, bypassed, or incorrectly sized in industrial environments. Some common issues I encounter are:

Installing adequate overcurrent protection improves electrical safety and reduces fire risks. While correcting these violations does require investment in breakers and fuses, it pales in comparison to the cost of replacing damaged equipment in the event of an overcurrent.

Inadequate Grounding & Bonding

Proper grounding and bonding is a fundamental requirement of the NEC. In industrial settings, I often discover bonding connections missing entirely, undersized ground conductors, or improper use of equipment grounding conductors. For example:

Correcting poor grounding requires extensive rework of bonding connections and grounding electrode installations. Doing it right the first time is far more cost effective than future upgrades to meet code requirements. Proper grounding is essential for safety and proper operation of electronics.

Inadequate Workspace Clearances

The NEC specifies required clearances around electrical equipment for safe access and operation. However, equipment installed without regard to spacing requirements is unfortunately common. Issues encountered include:

Correcting clearance violations can be difficult in cramped industrial spaces. However, the safety of electrical technicians pulling fuses or operating disconnects requires installing equipment in accordance with NEC workspace rules.

Substandard Wiring Methods

The NEC recognizes specific wiring methods suitable for different applications and environments. However, unsupported or prohibited wiring techniques are widespread in existing facilities. For example:

Reworking improper wiring to install cables in approved conduit or raceways and replace damaged conduits is key. The right wiring method for each application avoids electrical hazards.

As this overview shows, even experienced electricians can miss recognizing widespread NEC violations in industrial environments. Paying attention to conductor sizing, overcurrent protection, grounding, clearances, and wiring methods allows facilities to improve electrical safety and head off expensive failures down the road. Correcting violations before an incident occurs protects workers and avoids OSHA citations. I recommend thorough electrical safety audits by knowledgeable electrical contractors to identify issues early. Fixing problems during planned outages or scheduled maintenance is far more cost effective than reacting after an electrical fault has already occurred and caused damage. Staying in compliance with the NEC should be a top priority for every industrial facility.