CODEFAQS BY JIM DOLLARD
Tape over device terminal screws?
For decades, I have wrapped receptacles
and switches with insulating tape before
installing the device into a box. I learned
to install them in that manner as an
apprentice. On a recent job, the foreman
told me to not place tape on devices. I
know there is a Code rule somewhere that
states the exposed screw terminals have
to be protected. Can you tell me where
the rule is located?
There is no requirement in the NEC or
elsewhere that requires any device to be
wrapped in tape before installation, but
the practice of wrapping devices in tape
has been around for a long time. I have
been questioned about this practice on
many occasions. One justification is that
taping devices is necessary because the
receptacles/switches will be energized
before the finish plates are installed
or the tape allows for the removal or
replacement of the device while energized. Devices should not be energized
before the device cover plates are
installed. To do so with standard type
screw-terminal devices means there are
exposed energized parts creating multiple problems.
The NEC requires cover plates to be
installed on completed installations; see
sections 110.3(B) and 314.25.
However, the practice of energizing
receptacles and switches before the application of cover plates is quite common in
construction as a job nears completion.
As the temporary power is removed, it is
typical to energize newly installed branch
circuits for temporary power. In many
cases, the permanent cover plates are not
yet installed due to wall finishes, such as
paint or wallpaper, that are incomplete.
Energizing these receptacles is a violation
of the NEC as well as Occupational Safety
and Health Administration standards. See
29 CFR 1926.416.
Where there is a need to energize
permanent branch circuits for temporary
power, temporary plastic cover plates
should be applied to comply with the
NEC and to ensure there are no exposed
energized parts. The practice of removing or installing devices while energized
would only be recognized as “justified
energized work” where de-energizing
the circuit would create “additional
hazards or increased risk.” See NFPA
70E 130.2(A)( 1). Removal while energized would require application of all
the safe work practices rules in Chapter
1 of NFPA 70E.
Required grounding electrode?
When we install a service to a building or
an outside feeder to a building, we always
install a grounding electrode system.
At some point, we need clear direction
on other locations where a grounding
electrode is required. Inspectors
in different areas require different
grounding electrode installations. For
example, we have installed power outlets
at recreational vehicle sites without
installing ground rods, yet in other
jurisdictions, we were required to install
two ground rods at each power outlet
location. Recently, we had to install
ground rods in a parking lot at each
electric vehicle charging station. Where
are we required to install grounding
electrodes? It changes from one area to
The focal point of this issue is the Article
100 definition of the term “structure,”
All that said, an electrical inspector
might look at a piece of electrical equip-
ment that is feeder supplied, identify it
as a “structure,” and require a grounding
electrode. In my opinion, that was never
the intent of Section 250.32.
The good news is that, during the first
round of the 2017 NEC revision cycle, the
Article 100 definition of “structure” has
been modified as, “That which is built or
constructed, other than equipment.” By
Taping Devices, Installing
Grounding Electrodes and More
Jim Dollard has an extensive background in codes and standards. If you
have a query about the National Electrical Code (NEC), Jim will help
you solve it. Questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org. Answers
are based on the 2014 NEC.