A Tale Of Utility Cabinets

When you buy an older building, it’s like exploring a new world. It’s much more like exploring an alien planet, when you get around to exploring the electricity systems. In this particular building, the design motif was Flintstones-era systems, and as Barney rummaged around in the museum pieces, he was supposed to be maintaining, he was dreading his next inspection, some old utility cabinets.

From what he’d seen of the building so far, he was expecting something left over from an ancient civilization. That turned out to be pretty much the case. The strange thing was that this building and being occupied until quite recently, and it was obvious that whoever had been running the building previously had paid no attention whatsoever to the electricity system.

The black widow spider which he encountered on opening the cabinet was less than reassuring. He wondered vaguely what the thing had been hunting, until he saw a few mummified insects. The actual utility cabinet housing wasn’t in particularly good condition, either.

As fire and safety hazards went, it was a pretty thorough effort. Exposed wiring was one of the issues. It also meant that no licensed electrician, or at least no sane electrician, had been anywhere near the utility cabinet for a very long time.

Barney, like most electricians, was particularly annoyed at the state this utility cabinet was in. More electricians die from unsafe wiring than through any other cause, and Barney didn’t much appreciate being put in the firing line. The sight of a large number of clumsily taped up bits of wiring did nothing to improve his mood.

He stalked off to his manager, furious. The manager, who appreciated Barney’s rich if terse vocabulary, went to inspect the utility cabinet for himself, was appalled, and added a few terse words of his own in his report.

The report escalated to senior management. Senior management, which had been finding a few other equally unwholesome problems with their recently bought building, notably the plumbing, contacted their lawyers.

The lawyers, for their part had been working hard trying to find a way of getting some sort of legal recourse for the plumbing problems. Their clients had bought a building which seemed to be comprised almost entirely of covered-up statutory violations, and had been looking for ways of retaliating against the vendors.

The utility cabinet was the breakthrough. There was absolutely no way critical wiring could possibly have been in that condition if anybody had even bothered to think about compliance. A city inspection was requested, to document the state of the wiring. The vendors happened to have several other premises within the city limits, which were immediately inspected. All of the premises were found to have multiple breaches of basic regulations.

The vendors were hit with massive fines and their buildings shut down until they were compliant with safety standards. Meanwhile, the lawyers for Barney’s company had filed a complaint regarding both the condition of the building systems and the cost of repairs, also alleging fraudulent representation of the state of the premises at the time of sale.

The overall cost to the vendors went into the millions.

The moral of the story is-

Be nice to your utility cabinet, and it will be nice to you.