Industrial Wiring Nightmares: Risks and Dangers of Cutting Corners


Electrical wiring is crucial for any industrial facility. However, I have often seen companies try to cut costs by using subpar wiring methods or materials. This almost always leads to dangerous situations and expensive fixes down the road. In this article, I will go in-depth on the risks and dangers of cutting corners with industrial electrical wiring. My goal is to educate facility managers, maintenance technicians, and business owners on why proper wiring practices are critical for safety and operations.

Common Wiring Issues in Industrial Facilities

There are a few wiring problems I regularly encounter in plants and warehouses. These are some of the most common industrial wiring nightmares:

Insufficient Wire Gauge

Wire gauge refers to the thickness of copper wiring. Thicker wires can handle more current. If wires are too thin for an application, they can overheat, melt, and cause fires. I often see owners try to save money by using wire that is not thick enough for motors and other equipment. This leads to shorts, blown fuses, and potential shock/fire hazards. The National Electrical Code (NEC) specifies minimum wire gauge for different amp loads. Attempting to use thinner, cheaper wire is extremely dangerous.

Unsecured Cables

Loose cables are a tripping hazard and get damaged over time. Proper cable management like using cable trays or conduit secures wires neatly and safely. However, I sometimes see loose cables strewn haphazardly overhead or along the floor to save time and material costs. This leads to frayed, damaged insulation and exposed conductors. Workers can also trip on loose cables. Taking the time to run cables properly reduces hazards.

Poor Connections

Wire connections must be secure and corrosion-free to avoid shorts, arcing, and overheating. However, I often find loose connections from wire nuts falling off, corroded terminals, and makeshift splices like electrical tape. This increases resistance and creates a fire risk. Proper terminations, terminal blocks, and splicing techniques are essential for safe, reliable operation.

Damaged Wiring Insulation

The insulation on wires prevents dangerous contact between conductors and surrounding metal parts. Heat, chemicals, radiation, and physical abrasion can damage wire insulation over time. I routinely find wires with cracked, crumbling, or missing insulation that desperately need replacement. Continuing to use damaged wires eventually leads to shorts, fires, or electrocution.

Dangers of Improper Grounding

Grounding is one of the most vital aspects of industrial wiring that companies try to cut corners on. Proper grounding protects equipment and people by providing a safe path for fault currents to flow. When grounding is missing or inadequate, any electrical issue can have catastrophic results:

Trying to save on copper by skipping ground rods, bare ground wires, bonding jumpers, and proper connections puts any industrial facility at risk for extremely dangerous and expensive electrical incidents.

Hidden Hazards of Inadequate Wiring

Some wiring problems are obvious. However, many hazards only become apparent once issues arise after the building is occupied and equipment is running:

It can take months or years for these kinds of problems to become critical. The installer is long gone when issues finally arise. Don't gamble with dangerous wiring - do it right from the outset.

Real-Life Industrial Wiring Nightmare Example

To illustrate the dangers of cutting corners, here is a real-life cautionary tale:

A factory owner hired a low bid contractor to wire a new production line. To save costs, the contractor used 16 AWG wire instead of the 12 AWG required by the equipment ampacities. They also opted not to install conduit and instead ran wires along the roof beams.

Initially after installation, all seemed fine during low-load testing. However, a few weeks after full production started, machines downstream of the VFD drives began malfunctioning. The 16 AWG wires from the VFDs were overheating from the start/stop cycling loads. Insulation began cracking and exposed conductors eventually touched the roof beams.

A phase-to-ground fault occurred, energizing the entire roof structure. Several workers received serious shocks when they touched equipment. The fault current arced and ignited combustible lubricants that had accumulated on the roof over time.

The resulting fire engulfed half the production line, destroying inventory and equipment worth nearly a million dollars. If proper wiring practices had been followed, this entire disaster could have been avoided.

The Benefits of Quality Wiring Workmanship

In the long run, using thick, robust wiring and following NEC guidelines saves money by:

Spending more upfront to install adequate wiring properly will pay dividends over the life of any industrial facility. It greatly improves safety and reduces expensive issues down the road.


Industrial electrical systems have unique hazards and require expertise to implement correctly. Attempting to cut costs by using undersized wiring or improper installation practices can have catastrophic and expensive consequences. Safety should always be the top priority - never try to save money at the expense of proper wiring techniques. Hiring certified electricians and following NEC guidelines may cost more initially but prevents hazardous risks and operational problems over the long haul. Do it right the first time!