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Sunday, 16 September 2012


I’ve just got back from the eldest daughter’s house (Again) and on arriving there I was tasked with fitting a couple of dimmer switches. A simple task not really requiring much brainpower. Isolate the circuit, unwire the existing switch, replace with the dimmer switch, and reinstate the circuit. Job done.

Of course some would have it that I should, at vast expense have called in a qualified electrician. They would be wrong in their thinking. I actually hold a high voltage certificate that allows me to work with voltages over 1,000 volts. I had to obtain this in order to enter spaces and work upon machinery operating at 6.6 kV. (6,600V for the non technically minded).

The other qualification I had was that I’d worked on a class of ship that was not complemented for an Electrical Officer. I became that man. Alongside my other duties of looking after the main diesel generators, and the refrigeration plant. Being somewhat suspicious of a killing energy that can’t be seen I took extreme care to make sure that I followed the rules of “Isolate, test, test again, and work on it”. (Once I disobeyed my rules and touched a live circuit with 440V. Never again. It threw me six feet and I was probably unconscious for a minute or two).

Now to the crux of this post. Familiarity, adverse conditions, and sheer bad luck come into play. My outfit started to man the ships with electrical officers. Of course, us amateur electricians were told by these electrical officers that we had done a piss poor job. This pissed off most of us that had done the job, whilst holding down at least two other jobs (See above).

There was a problem with the control panel for the refrigeration rooms. The only way of sorting this out was for the electrical officer to switch of the power, open the door, and fiddle the door interlock controlling the main power switch to reinstate the power to enable fault finding to begin.

The sad part was that the ship  was rolling, the deck was oily, and oh dear, the lecky pitched headfast into the cubicle, striking his head on the 440V bus bars. And sadly that was the end of him..

Now you may say that I’m being disrespectful of the dead with the next part of the post.

After the body was removed from the vicinity it was realised that the body would have to be preserved until a post mortem could be carried out. That was the excuse for all the engineers to collectively define the initial problem and rectify it. The body needs to be preserved in a cool room. (Bye the way, never store the body in the deep freeze. Coroners will crucify you for that).

However I heard through the grapevine that the real cause for concern was that one of the refrigeration chambers was exceeding it’s set temperature. This was the “Beer Room”. Engineers can’t abide warm beer.

OK I’ll rot in hell if you wish. But I’ve heard this from multiple sources that I trust.

Moral of the story: You might be the expert, but circumstances can kick you up the backside without warning.


  1. You may well be so qualified but did you supply Eldest Daughter with Certificate to prove it?

    Some years ago I was renting an elderly bungalow when the boiler failed; with the agreement of the landlord (son of the deceased former owners) I called in local heating engineers who did their stuff but also insisted upon repairing two obviously faulty light switches and drew my attention to others. The only one that they did not condemn was the dimmer switch that I had installed in the living room.

    My dad (R.I.P.) was a WW2 RN Radio Telegrapher CPO (Atlantic, Murmansk and wotnot) and had passed on a few tips.

  2. I'd prefer a talented amateur above a trained idiot every time.

    There's half a loophole in the Part P legislation in that it only seems to apply if the electrician is being paid. Thus you are not breaking any rules by working on your families wiring (as if you cared!)

    The catch-all is the safety certificate that you are meant to be able to show on demand. However, as it's impossible to date any changes to the wiring, even if there is a certificate, nobody is ever going to be able to prove you were there unless you've been *really* stupid. Of course older houses have never been certified....

  3. About 15 years ago I bought a 400 year old Cotswold stone house. The wiring was all surface, and old to boot, so I re-wired the whole place myself (5 bedrooms, living room, dining room, study, kitchen) and then got an electrician friend of mine to do the final connections to the fuse box and check the system. Saved me a fortune.

    I'm a carpenter (sole trader), and much of my work is designing, making and fitting bespoke kitchens. I always do the electrical work for new sockets, lighting etc. And the plumbing. And the tiling. It's all part of the job. Mind you, where I live now, we don't have these silly rules that if you need to replace a switch or whatever you must get a qualified electrician to do it. Nanny hasn't got her foot in the door here yet.


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