Give A Circuit Breaker A Break

There are basically two configurations for circuit breakers- Enclosed, and not enclosed. Michael was looking at a particularly shoddy collection of unenclosed circuit breakers. OK, they’re “easy to access”, but so are many other problems, he thought. The breakers were located near the building’s heavy vehicle entry point, which was open 24/7.

Like all good electricians, he preferred not to have to worry whether the electrical systems he worked with were wet, dusty, or otherwise contaminated. He pointed this out to Mr Stevens, his occasionally rational boss. Stevens had a fit.

“Do you know how much it would cost? We’re trying to save money, not find excuses for spending it.”

Michael, it so happened, knew exactly how much it would cost. It wasn’t much of an argument for not covering the breakers, particularly since these things were mid-range to high voltage circuits. Unimpressed, he made a point of cleaning the breakers, and did such a good job that Stevens couldn’t really complain about it.

He kept it up, too. Winter, however, made it a daily job, and he had to sneak around to clean the breakers regularly so Stevens didn’t spot him taking time off from other work. The big rigs were bringing in a lot of moisture and dust, and the entry point was an ongoing mess.

Apparently, the breakers had been sited there for “convenience”. Whose convenience, nobody knew. Best practice would have been a fully enclosed housing, and looking at the site diagrams, Michael could see any number of other places where they could have been better sited.

Stevens, meanwhile, was on an economy drive. It was odd, because he was always obsessively within budget. Maybe too much so to do a good job, but when the meetings with senior management came around, he was a model of fiscal restraint. Stevens actually was an electrician himself, but had gone to seed in his managerial role.

Michael was on holidays when Stevens decided to change the job description. Staff were now specifically required to carry out maintenance work only with his written approval. Michael took the hint. He just stayed away from the breakers, which got progressively filthier with time.

Within a month, they looked like an ancient archaeological site, covered in dirt, condensed petrol fumes, and other tourist attractions. Stevens, meanwhile, was awaiting the corporate safety manager’s visit with a childish glee. When you’re convinced that you’re always right, everything is good.

The corporate guy arrived- In overalls. Jack White was also an electrician, very much one of the hands-on species. White surveyed the Circuit Breakers with distaste.

“Mr Stevens- What’s this junk pile doing here?” he asked.

There wasn’t a lot to say about that, Stevens discovered.

“…. We’re on a limited budget….” he muttered, not very convincingly.

“Where does a fatality or serious injury become part of a budget?” asked White.


“I’ll give you a clue- It’s not under miscellaneous expenses,” seethed White.

The consequences were immediate. White fired Stevens on the spot, and since Michael was the only electrician on duty, he was asked the best option for permanently fixing the messy breakers. White eventually got Michael to admit he’d been secretly cleaning the breakers before Stevens stopped him, and had mentioned an enclosed circuit breaker option.

He became the new manager, five minutes later.