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What to Do
13

What to Do

What to Do

(OP)
So I have been with this company for nearly a year and have some real concerns with how things are done and not done. This company has been around for many years and rarely had an EE on staff. Is one needed here? For sure.
Since starting, I have had to gently argue the need to have a service entrance rated transfer switch (3000A service). I managed to win that argument. However, I am learning they are withholding information from me and the field is being redirected, contradictory to what the code allows and my design (ignore the need to have a good design - that don't factor in here at all). For example, they were told to use THHN instead of THHW in our underground raceways. They were told they don't need to test the GF circuit on the 3000A service entrance (with a 3000A main breaker). The MCC building had water running down the inside, almost a mini river, when it rained real hard. They withheld this information from me. I know there is a lot more going on there than I know. Unfortunately, these sites are rural and almost never have an electrical inspection. To make matters worse, we have two master electricians on site, who should know the code, who are simply doing what they are told even if it means a violation of code.
I have since learned one of our PE's (structural), who stamps the structural drawings and is employed here has a written agreement with the boss that if something happens due to the boss changing the design, that she will not be liable.
I am at a loss as to what to do. I can't just leave this alone. I know there are many other violations of code. Obviously, I am looking for another job. Should I report these violations to the customer? To the AHJ (if I can find one)? What about the PE with a secondary agreement not to be liable in the event of a problem due to the boss changing the design (like leaving out rebar the engineer wanted)?
Thank you.

RE: What to Do

> As a licensed PE, don't you have statutory obligation to report on public safety issues within your area of expertise?

> I think that side agreement is worth less than the paper that it's printed on. A PE ostensibly has statutory responsibility for public safety. It seems to me that such an agreement makes things worse; since they knowingly operated with the presumption of possible violations of their legal obligations.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: What to Do

As long as the changes are made without your knowledge, you likely have a legal 'out'... as far as having an agreement about changes... that could be more problematic in that you are aware of changes being made... You are in an uncomfortable position that has no resolution if you want to keep your position... off the side, I'd be looking for other employment.

Dik

RE: What to Do

Just to be clear, what sort of company are we talking about here? If this is a company building elementary schools, it sounds like there are real life safety issues and you have an ethical obligation to report.

If they're designing cell towers in the middle of nowhere, it's possible that a code violation is not the same as a public life safety risk -- which makes for more of a grey area when it comes to obligation to report (IMO, could be wrong).

----
The name is a long story -- just call me Lo.

RE: What to Do

I understand your point, Lomarandil; however, I would have to disagree with you. Code violations, particularly of the electrical code in this case, may be life threatening to a technician or maintenance person down the road...even in the middle of nowhere.

I once worked on a project that was responsible for designing an emergency system to provide back-up power at a generating facility. The electrical engineer wanted to utilize a custom-made extension cord with two male plugs...exposing a hot end when one side was plugged in to the temporary diesel generator...his argument that we could administratively write a procedure to keep someone from killing themselves with that arrangement fell on deaf ears with me. I escalated it up the chain and it was struck down, thankfully. Even in an outlandish, emergency scenario or the middle of nowhere, proper engineering and code requirements are necessary to protect those responsible for operating and maintaining our designs.

To the original posters' point, I believe you are obligated to report it to the state board who has certified your company to practice engineering in that state. If someone is hurt or worse while operating or working on one of your altered designs, don't hold your breath that you won't be held responsible as the stamping PE.

RE: What to Do

4
I personally could not live with myself if I did not report this. A very similar thing happened to me at my last regular job. I reported a dangerous condition that had the potential to affect many people, and was fired for it. I ended up suing my employer for wrongful termination and won a settlement large enough to pay my attorney's fees and purchase a new Honda CRV Touring. It was not enough to pay for the lost income for the 3-4 years it took nor to pay for the impact to my overall health.

From the experience, I learned a couple of very important things (true at least for California). You must report in a timely fashion, usually 30-60 days after first becoming aware of the issue. You must also report to a governmental agency or agency having jurisdiction. You MUST report to someone who has direct control to shut it down or force compliance. If you do this, you are protected by Federal Whistleblower Laws.

If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

RE: What to Do

(OP)
There are people working in these facilities daily. They are not public buildings. Maybe I wasn't as clear but the structural guy is stamping his drawings and he is the one with the agreement with the owner that he won't be liable. I was sure this would not hold water in court but wanted to make sure. Also, I don't stamp our electrical drawings (I am not licensed but operate under the company's general contractor license) but am aware of all the short cuts. I know I would not be held liable in most cases but regardless if I was or not, I think something should be done.
Thanks to all for reinforcing my opinion that something needs to get reported to someone with authority to get it rectified. As far as the PE with the side agreement, should I report this to the engineering board?

RE: What to Do

To some degree, this "agreement" comes off looking like the PE is being suborned for future ethics violations, although, it doesn't seem particularly secretive. One might reasonably presume some sort of quid pro quo, i.e., some form of bribery.

TTFN (ta ta for now)
I can do absolutely anything. I'm an expert! https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BKorP55Aqvg
FAQ731-376: Eng-Tips.com Forum Policies forum1529: Translation Assistance for Engineers Entire Forum list http://www.eng-tips.com/forumlist.cfm

RE: What to Do

Casseopeia,
Did you mean you stated 3-4 years unemployed because of that?
How did you get back on your feet then?
If I may ask beside the main thread discussion.

RE: What to Do

I always ask myself if I would want to work on/in something that has been "overlooked" from a safety/code perspective... if the answer is "no", then I would consider it egregious enough to warrant spilling the beans. The poor souls who work in/on it every day without the benefit of the knowledge it's potentially not safe, well, they're counting on you to protect them (in however an indirect way).

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: What to Do

Absolutely report it. Otherwise you are complicit in the mistake.

I just had to do the same myself on a job my employer did in the recent past.

Mike McCann, PE, SE (WA)


RE: What to Do

buzzp,
I empathize with you, it is one of the biggest worries of my career to be one day in a similar situation. But I will offer the same perspective that I have in the past on similar posts. You know there is serious issue and now have to do something. When the worst happens and the lawyers arrive, if you have done nothing, you are at risk in some fashion (they may even discover these posts). They go after the deepest pockets, but even if you escape that, your conscience remains and reputation is harmed.

Casseopeia, I have not seen a post from you in a long time, although I do vaguely recall you being in a tenuous situation many years ago. It sounds like it went bad, I am sorry for that, hope you are doing ok.

IC

RE: What to Do

5
(OP)
I have decided to report these issues to the customer and to the state, hoping an inspection will be forthcoming. I don't know if it will happen anonymously or not but it will happen. Obviously if the boss gets word of this I will certainly be let go - never been fired in my life but it would be worth it to me - who needs an electrical engineer with diverse experience? LOL. I wonder how many engineers would actually make the decision to report this knowing their job will likely be in jeopardy. I am guessing less than half would report it.

I am somewhat hesitant to report the structural PE to the board because I have no first hand knowledge of any side agreement, just heresay. I should probably make them aware but not so sure they will have enough to act.

RE: What to Do

Document everything that happens, in writing and email (to yourself, if that's more comfortable. If they fire you for blowing the whistle, well, there's a reason why the law is called what it is...

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: What to Do

let alone, one with integrity.

I would advise your employer that he should do this, and that for ethical reasons, you would be compelled to do it in the event he doesn't.

Dik

RE: What to Do

Well done buzzp. This won't be easy but you may sleep better.
When reporting to the state did you get the feeling that it would be acted on, and kept confidential?
It probably doesn't matter because your customer probably won't have such restraints on keeping the report anonymous.

STF

RE: What to Do

If you're smart, your looking for a new job now and not just waiting for other people to decide your fate.

RE: What to Do

The OP said so in the first post.

STF

RE: What to Do

Yep, I see that sandwiched in their now. Then I guess all the wondering about whether getting fired or not in later post is totally irrelevant. Myself, I would have waited till that new job was landed, THEN reported it to the board and moved on with my life. But that's just me - a responsible survivor, not hero. I bet WAY LESS than half would report on an employer before securing a plan B.

RE: What to Do

Lining up a new job may take time. I would try and talk confidentially to another experienced engineer(s) (friend, former colleague, etc.) to get a second opinion / peer review about the risks involved. Based on the outcome, if there is an immediate risk/threat to public safety, this needs to be reported immediately, no matter whether an alternative job is lined up or not. If we are talking sloppy design, or deviations to code which are not "safety critical" (not something we could endorse in ANY CASE), well then probably waiting a little could be advisable. The finality is the same, this needs to be reported, the attempt here is to mitigate any awkward consequences for the OP. Just my opinion.

RE: What to Do

Have you contacted a lawyer to discuss the circumstances?

Dik

RE: What to Do

Quote (rotw)

...If we are talking sloppy design, or deviations to code which are not "safety critical" ...

Again, the OP said so in the first post: water flowing through the motor control center enclosures during rain storms, presumably because of inadequate waterproofing of the enclosures. Water pooling in these electrical enclosures is a clear and present danger to workers who access them.

STF

RE: What to Do

Well, dont want to reset the debate. But on the other hand who said its easy to move the lines? I read the OP post again and again.

The fact that there was no EE before sounds like there was a big disruption when things started to be viewed from the perspective of an EE.

Some pictures of catastrophic consequences may help to build awareness and sense of urgency. Communication is key. Mamagement will tend to trust the old workers and would be rather suslicious at the "newly" hired person.
Has the OP exhausted ALL the possibilities to work out the problem internally?

Playing the advocate of the devil. Ok?

RE: What to Do

The response by rotw is very accurate. I find your actions to be rather abrupt. It would appear that you are now in a less influential position, and probably unprepared for the most likely outcomes. "This company has been around for many years..." so, obviously they have many contacts and friends, and certainly some in strategic positions. Since you're asking us who to even report this to, you obviously don't. Now you're in a tough spot. You should probably not only move, but change specialities. This stuff becomes part of the public record, and inspectors go to meetings and chat too.

The largest factor is your (previous) employers network of friends. I built a catalog of code violations at a previous employer, and when I quit during a spat, I sent a list of them, thoroughly and properly documented, to the AHJ. The ultimate outcome was a forklift driver being cited for seatbelt violation. About a month later a worker was killed after falling into an unguarded potato peeler. The company? Birdseye. Do you think they had a network of influential friends? It took 2 more fatalities and 6 years to shut down that facility.

Me? I went back to my historically primary line of work, as intended,,, however, one of those fatalities was a man that had become a friend. Such spats can only be measured by who looses most.

RE: What to Do

Cass:

Just out of curiosity... were there any of your actions that you would have done differently?

Dik

RE: What to Do

(OP)
I have been through round after round with my boss. He just don't care guys. He also sold the customer two 4" runs of conduit for future equipment that he knows can never be used because the LB is buried in other conduit - won't access unless rip out mass conduit in order to pull the cable. The GF is a real concern. First they took a 3R box, cut holes in the side to attach some cam-lock connectors. This 'box' just happens to be a 3000A transfer switch sitting outside. They wouldn't build a roof over it either. Won't tell me how they assembled it, etc. In fact, I haven't been invited back to the site for months - clearly because they don't want me to see all the issues. I am very confident when I say the grounding/bonding is probably incomplete as well. There is way more here than meets the eye.

How should I let the cat on the bag to the customer while being mindful of whistleblowing laws?

RE: What to Do

For fear of beating a dead horse... you have to make it clear to your boss that what has been constructed is dangerous and life threatening. Explain to him why it is not acceptable or why it is dangerous.

Not only can you not endorse it, but also you are obligated by law and by professional conduct to report it to the AHJ, not your client. Make sure you're correct. In any event, this can have long term career implications. As I noted, you may want to consult with a lawyer. I've over 45 years of experience, and, I'd get some quick legal advice... it may cost a couple of hundred for a 'quick chat'.

He has to provide a redesign that is safe; try to keep it internal if possible.

Dik

RE: What to Do

If I were you, and I'm not, I would go to the owners of the company, with the laws and code of conduct in hand, to explain the situation and your responsibilities to the public and all concerned parties. Explain that if they choose to not correct the problems, then you will need to approach the Client and other authorities about said code violations. Said authorities are all relevant inspectors, fire marshals, the local OSHA office, and if you are a PE, it may be wise to alert the board in your state.

One time mistakes are easier to work with. Habitual wrongdoing is another matter completely.

Read your state's laws and code of conduct first, think about how they relate to your situation, and decide on a course of action. Doing right is often hard but right needs to happen.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: What to Do

Lacajun... yup... try to keep it internal if possible and let employer know that they or the engineer has no other option if the work is not remedied.

Dik

RE: What to Do

(OP)
This companies reputation follows them. I don't know that they have ever had one repeat customer. They could know everybody in town but it still wouldn't change my mind on what to do - it shouldn't change anyones.

Yes, me coming in caused mass disruptions in the norm. Not sure how it wouldn't here given all the issues they have. I even informed them slowly about these issues over the last year. Not sure about 'abrupt actions' given the seriousness of the GF testing alone.

I did send some pictures of what can happen in the event of a ground fault on more than one occasion. I was told to 'leave it alone'.

I will try to let everyone know when the cat is out of the bag. I fully expect to get fired if they find out I had anything to do with reporting this. I won't be talking to them about it any more. It is a fruitless effort and only raises more eye brows. As far as other projects, if we get an inspection on this one, he may think twice about cutting so many corners on the other ones. That is my hope.

RE: What to Do

buzzp, to me, it is not a good idea to work covertly against an employer. If you run into this again, you would be wise to consider the path of informing your employer about problems and your responsibilities as a PE, assuming you are one, with the laws and code of conduct in hand. If they choose to overlook that, then it is best to inform them that, as a PE, you have to report the problems to the Owners and other authorities. It is very hard to do but it is the right thing to do. It demonstrates strength of character and integrity.

If an investigation is launched, I would be very surprised if you are not revealed for various and sundry reasons. When one is accused, they generally want to know their accuser. I believe they have a right to know. No one likes being blindsided whether they are right or wrong.

Good luck.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: What to Do

(OP)
I agree, I don't like doing things covertly. However, there is no choice until I make a final decision as to how to proceed, anonymously or not. Accusations are one thing, being able to visible see issues and not being able to produce test records, is another. One can accuse someone of something but without factual evidence, it is hard to prove. Everything I have 'accused' them of is substantiated by mere observation or requesting test records that don't exist. My integrity is what makes me tick and is why I am having such a problem letting this go.

RE: What to Do

I hope circumstances allow you to act sooner than later. If no further substantiating evidence will come your way, then waiting just prolongs the risk of injury due to the problems you've observed.
In fact, the longer you remain while in knowledge of the problem makes you appear more to accept them. Even if you are not a member of the local PE organization, you should be able to contact them for advice before you make a specific report.

STF

RE: What to Do

Then document, document, document especially if you are a PE. Never jeopardize your license or the safety of others over mistakes, deliberate or not, that others make. Written records hold up in court. If they're to provide test records and don't have them, that is relevant, too. Keep records of your requests, which I'm sure you've done. Put everything into a timeline to help others, e.g., attorneys, understand your steps.

Pamela K. Quillin, P.E.
Quillin Engineering, LLC
NSPE-CO, Central Chapter
Dinner program: http://nspe-co.org/events.php

RE: What to Do

...and being aware of a potential life threatening problem, and doing nothing about it, could put you in the 'soup' if anything happened.

Dik

RE: What to Do

You have exposed several technical observations and risks on safety. Understood.

BUT...

Could you pick just ONLY ONE / MOST SEVERE technical issue (not only a concern but a case of non conformity) which according to you could have impact on safety, and then EXPAND on this a little bit in here, i.e. in this thread?.

In a nutshell:
Explain what is the background of the issue, what equipment is concerned, indicate which code/standard or design practice is applicable, the specific requirement(s) of the code, and then explain specifically the situation of non compliance?

RE: What to Do

Hi Rotw,
Are you sure we should be asking the OP to divulge that much information? The more specifically we get involved, the more specific our advice, direction, and comments become, until we find ourselves debating trivial issues and questioning the OP's judgement. I would rather stay focused on the OP's ethical problem, and leave the judgement of hazards to the OP, since there seems to be no uncertainty (to the OP) that a danger does exist.

Furthermore, would you advocate reporting a safety problem to the media instead of to your professional engineering regulatory body?

STF

RE: What to Do

Sparweb... agreed, and I think we have provided the OP with a fairly clear idea of how he should proceed. I can think of nothing that could be added.

Dik

RE: What to Do

I understand what rotw is trying to say...just would like some clarification on why the issues he brought up are bad. Me bring structural I don't really understand electrical all that well so when the OP says they used THHN instead of THHW in underground raceways I don't know what that means. A little explanation on what that means and what the ramifications are if the wrong material is used would be interesting to me.

Same thing with testing the 3000 amp service. What could happen if they don't?

I don't need minute details but am interested in a little more detailed explanation.

RE: What to Do

THHN wire is rated for use in industrial raceways in dry service, THWN is rated for wet service. A lot of raceway wire is sold as "dual-cert"*, thus rotw's concerns (ie. the wire may be suitable). But I don't know of anyone who would think that flowing water in an electrical conduit is ok.

*for instance:
http://www.southwire.com/products/oem-thhn-thwn-tw...

RE: What to Do

Um guys, I don't think you need to ask the OP for an education. Especially when they have bigger problems. Allow me to quote the OP, from the very first post, first paragraph:

Quote (buzzp)

...For example, they were told to use THHN instead of THHW in our underground raceways. They were told they don't need to test the GF circuit on the 3000A service entrance (with a 3000A main breaker). The MCC building had water running down the inside, almost a mini river, when it rained real hard. They withheld this information from me....

To help clarify this statement, "MCC" is "Motor Control Center" so I assume this is where the motor starting switchgear is housed. Contactors, soft-starts etc. If you're installing motors controlled from a MCC, then we're not talking about single digit horsepower...
My understanding of "buried raceways" is what I more often see named "buried conduit". Hence, THWN or other sort of cable rated for direct burial. There is ALWAYS standing water and/or condensation in underground conduits. Add into the mix a potentially faulty Ground Fault interrupt on the service entrance, and you have a complete circuit:
Power supply -> through saturated wire insulation -> through standing water -> human operator -> ground.
The human operator is optional in this circuit. Who knows what kind of havoc it could cause even if someone doesn't get zapped. I'm taking this example to the extreme to:
a) make the implications clear, and
b) save the OP from having to bother explaining this.

STF

RE: What to Do

Quote (Sparweb)

The human operator is optional in this circuit.

I thought he was the one that completed the open circuit...

Dik

RE: What to Do

Sparweb,

Understand where you are coming from...but I would insist on getting more details.

Asked OP to pick one issue and substantiate... Nobody wants a full report. There is margin.

When you say: ...since there seems to be no uncertainty (to the OP) that a danger does exist. Don't know about you but I want to have a closer look.

I think there is definitely an ethical dimension here. No doubt about this is significant.

But by asking such technical question, I am also trying to probe both sides of the story.

Regards

RE: What to Do

dik,
oops, that didn't come out the way I intended...

rotw,
I do agree with you: there is another ethical dimension, here, and it is significant. However, probing this dimension is the jurisdiction of, literally, the AHJ.
Verifying that there actually is a hazard following any complaint is a necessary part of any investigation, but we are hardly fit to do that, here.
I'm trying to be sensible about who gets to evaluate (or at least help with the evaluation) of what constitutes a hazard in any given situation.
Stepping back, I have to admit my limitations, even if I was an EE, peering through my computer screen at a situation I cannot personally see.

STF

RE: What to Do

SparWeb... knew what you meant... I was just thinking that you were missing an essential conductor.

Dik

RE: What to Do

(OP)
The biggest concern is the lack of GF testing. This GF circuit is on 480VAC, 3 phase, 3000 amp service entrance rated transfer switch, mounted outside in a 3R enclosure (not immune to hose directed water - heavy rain). Our crew modified the transfer switch enclosure by mounting a box on the side to house cam lock connectors for the generator plug-in. They say it was gasketed etc. but we know what its like to mount thin gauge steel to another thin gage steel, it always buckles unless it is secured with a bunch of fasteners. The seam between these two enclosures is found on the top and is a perfect place for water to sit and migrate between the enclosures. Ignoring the enclosure modification, there is still cause for concern.

GF testing is a requirement for any 1000A or larger circuit breaker according to the NEC. Given the location of this equipment, heavy rains are a common occurrence. The chances the GF circuit will work is probably good but I don't like gambling with lives. I would rather know that the circuit was tested, after installation, to assure everyones safety. The lack of testing coupled with modifications to the enclosure lead me to believe this is a real safety concern. Even if they didn't modify the enclosure, I would be concerned. If things are not wired properly, especially concerning grounds and neutrals, there could be a real hazard here that we have yet to become aware of. There could be current going to ground now and if it occurs before our 6 main breakers (or if it less than 800A - breaker rating), it will never be detected unless it is 3000Amps or better. 3000A has the capability to raise potentials to very hazardous levels. I also suspect the crew didn't lash the cables in the transfer switch, as required by the manufacturer, to reduce movement in the event of a fault.

The water running down the inside of the MCC building was a huge concern but a separate issue from the lack of GF testing. The fix: paint the block building - I am not even sure they used a sealer, could just be paint. This building is right next to the service entrance rated transfer switch located outside. This issue appears to be resolved but then again, we haven't had a huge rain there again, yet.

RE: What to Do

Hi buzzp,

First off, thanks for elaborating on the subject. I am mechanical, yet it is really good to read through this description.
I think you are doing a great job at flagging these issues and your focus on safety is noticeable.

I still think you should try to move the lines internally because there might be some sort of hidden logic to what is happening: e.g. Probably what they were lacking is: an engineer. They now hired an engineer but what they miss is the "culture" (or work ethics) that goes with it and this is more difficult to get/build. I might be wrong but this is my bet.
Basically it boils down to the "human" problem...this is hard to fix.

Could you speak to a person in your company who has a certain political leverage (e.g. project leader, chief operator, whatsoever) and who appears a bit "reasonable". Expose the case to that person in a one to one meeting. Then get that person involved in a last chance meeting with your manager. Obtain 5 minutes to expose the case (communication skills should be at their best). Take it from there. Does that make any sense?







RE: What to Do

(OP)
ROTW,
All persons report to one guy, the owner. All of these people were aware of the issue with the GF test. I used some of their advice and expressed my concerns from a safety perspective to all. This prompted them to say they would do the test. I had a test set shipped there at least a week before it was to be tested. The electricians called me and said this test set wouldn't work. I explained to them it would and how to use. Then then said the terminal that was supposed to be on the breaker wasn't there. I told them it is in the back of the unit. A while later they said the instructions didn't say how to test the GF. They sent me the 9 pages that came with the tester and GF was covered on pages 1-5. The utility got involved and they told them we did the test (along with the customer) but they never did the test. The sparky don't like me even though I am not an arrogant engineer and am big into being a team player. They came up with every excuse in the book not to do the test. The owner himself told me he told them not to worry about it...
I am going to look out for myself a little and wait until after Christmas in hopes I might get a little Christmas bonus. After this, I will discuss with the owner. If he don't see the light, I will report it (and the many other code violations) to the AHJ and I will attach my name to the complaint.

RE: What to Do

Buzzp,

Seems to me that the owner does not (or does not want to) understand the extend to which he is bound to comply with codes and regulations and in particular, the irrelevance of him being the owner. He may think that liability holds true only when things go wrong. A misconception with far reaching consequences and which is unfortunately hard to fix when "ego" comes around.
Sorry that you had to go through all this to have - what I suspect to be at the end a "routine test" - executed; wish you all the strengths.

RE: What to Do

Take care and merry Christmas Buzz.

STF

RE: What to Do

Since the bonus situation was raised... I'd file any report BEFORE you're informed of a bonus. If someone wanted to, the claim could be you were punishing them for not giving you a bonus. Stupid idea to us logical folks, but it doesn't sound like they're being very logical.

Dan - Owner
http://www.Hi-TecDesigns.com

RE: What to Do

(OP)
Merry Christmas SparWeb.
Yes ROTW the test is very routine and is why it is so hard to understand the resistance to doing it.
Good point MacGyver. I have never got a bonus here so this won't affect much. I don't anticipate getting one either since we just had our Christmas meal.

There is not much logic here that is for sure - they bought a $1200 portable heater for a permanent installation. They figured out they won't have a thermostat, disconnect, etc. So I spend 6 hours creating a BOM for more parts to buy to make this heater work. Not to mention, the electricians will spend a good 4 hours wiring it up. Then we lose the UL listing on the heater because we have modified the internal wiring. It would of been much cheaper, cleaner and safer to buy the correct one to begin with. Yes, not much logic floating around.

Thanks to all. My next post, I will let you know the outcome of all of this so we can bury the dead horse - LOL.

RE: What to Do

Quote (casseopeia)

If you do this, you are protected by Federal Whistleblower Laws.

Which are not worth the paper they are written on. My only advice is to make your exit plan ASAP.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."

RE: What to Do

Oh, and document every detail, as events and discussions occur.

"Everyone is entitled to their own opinions, but they are not entitled to their own facts."

RE: What to Do

Quote (dik)

Just out of curiosity... were there any of your actions that you would have done differently?

I suppose I could have not reported anything, but I'm actually required to as a licensed architect. I was filling in for someone on observing destructive testing because they needed an architect to design a fix for numerous leaks on a relatively new apartment building. The contractor opened up the ceiling in one top floor unit and there was a rush of air that smelled very strongly of mold. I said out loud at the time, "this smells moldy." I had them make a bigger opening while I went to the roof. On the roof I found that the single ply roofing had not been replaced over a parapet after a previous investigation, leaving the building vulnerable to water intrusion on a massive scale.

When the contractor punched through the third layer of gyp in the ceiling, water just poured into the unit. Water had filled the ceiling cavity and you could see several panels of roof decking were sagging. There was black, slimy looking mold being contained in the clear vapor barrier.

My concern was twofold, the obvious black mold and what appeared to be a very real danger of a localized roof collapse. So I reported to the building management company that we could not put the gyp back because of the conditions and called my office. No one connected with the job was in. They had all gone to a sporting event, I think a Warriors game, courtesy of the contractor that had forgotten to replace the single ply roof. I didn't know that at the time. It was uncovered in discovery.

The construction manager for the management company came to the site and instead of discussing the best way to deal with the problem of having to move the tenant out to a hotel, and getting a remediation contractor in, he berated me for saying it smelled moldy and that he was going to have to offer rent concessions, the tenant might sue, blah, blah, blah. I said it could not be closed in it's current condition because there was also the possibility of collapse. I didn't even know at the time that our own Project Manager for the project (the person I was filling in for) had fallen through a section of rotted decking a month before.

The Property Manager's construction guy said he would deal with it and I went on my way to the other leaking units. I was called into the bosses office a few days later and fired for saying 'it smells moldy.' Seriously, it's in my termination letter, something like saying "it smells moldy" loud enough for the tenant to hear.

There is a lot more that happened after that but to answer the question of what would I have done differently, I would have saved the samples and photos that were confiscated from my desk during my firing and gone straight to the building department and reported it. I ended up reporting after 30 days which kind of weakened my case on the whistleblower side and part of the reason I elected to settle.

The good news about the project is that I just happen to know the roof inspector the Plaintiff hired because of the leaks. I spilled everything to them and became a percipient witness in their case, but I still regretted not keeping the samples of the ceiling gyp, decking, and roofing in my car. that would have been sweet to have produced that.

If you are offended by the things I say, imagine the stuff I hold back.

RE: What to Do

Casseopeia,
Thank you for sharing that story. I hadn't learned the details before, but had noticed you mentioning this disaster before. I'm pretty sure I would have said those same 3 words if I'd been there.
As you tell it, I can see your boss's own seeds of failure in his dishonesty. If "the boys" were off at the football game, and more exposure of the building was going on where they couldn't cover it up, then it's pretty ironic if it's the contractor that didn't re-roof properly. Too bad there wasn't any justice in that irony...

STF

RE: What to Do

English is not my first language. So just to learn, am asking some clarifications.
What is the problem saying it 'smells moldy'?
It does not seem to be impolite, rather it is an olfactive first impression which anyway was followed by a more formal/factual check. Where is the faux_pas?
I got it that the boss was looking for an excuse for unfair dismissal. But th justification for this outcome (firing) is so ridiculous or am I missing something?

RE: What to Do

You are not missing anything as far as I can tell. Based on Cass' description of the events this is textbook unfair dismissal and quite alarming that any company would operate this way.

RE: What to Do

"Mold" is a fungus that grows in damp environments.
"Black mold" releases toxic spores that implant in people's lungs.

On the face of it, the statement is equivalent to saying "I hear noise" when standing beside a running bulldozer. However, by saying "I smell mold" in a building where damp areas ceilings being exposed, with the tenant in hearing range, she was ALSO making a finding in public as an expert. Since she is a licensed architect, this is something that she is permitted and expected to do on behalf of the safety of the public. However, as an employee of a company that must make money, it was not in the company's financial interest for the tenant to know that. Somehow they expected her to have no reaction to the discovery of potential toxins in the dwelling.

STF

RE: What to Do

Quote:

I have since learned one of our PE's (structural), who stamps the structural drawings and is employed here has a written agreement with the boss that if something happens due to the boss changing the design, that she will not be liable.

I am at a loss as to what to do.

Sounds like the PE gave you a road map. I'd say follow it, but if you notice something that you judge to be an actual harm to the public, you have an ethical duty to point it out, document it, etc, with everyone who will listen.

Hydrology, Drainage Analysis, Flood Studies, and Complex Stormwater Litigation for Atlanta and the South East - http://www.campbellcivil.com

RE: What to Do

I doubt very seriously that any such written agreement would hold water in court - in fact, I would expect it to be quite damning as it is evidence that you were aware that your designs were being altered without your direct consent.

RE: What to Do

(OP)
UPDATE: I reported many of the safety concerns and violations to the customers management team, anonymously. They immediately called my boss, the owner of the company, and told him they received an anonymous email identifying electrical violations. He is a keen individual so I know he is well aware of who blew the whistle. After this, he has consolidated the more important tasks assigned to me to be completed in 2 days for another project they are doing. This, so he can get me out as quickly as possible while still utilizing my engineering expertise so as not to delay the construction. I gave my boss a letter yesterday identifying all the safety concerns and that I would be reporting it the AHJ. I fully expect when I get back to the office, I will be let go. It is simply amazing someone can have such a disregard for other's safety by installing oversized breakers, undersized wire, remove grounds from equipment to get them operable, defeat electrical protection devices, etc. and not even bat an eye. I expect to discuss my letter with him late this afternoon or Monday and will post the results of the discussion here.

RE: What to Do

Ok something I don't quite understand. The OP has stated that he did not sign/seal the electrical drawings. Were the drawings sign/sealed by another PE? If not how did the company(GC) get a building permit that included major electrical construction? Per5haps the AHJ is also failing?

On the other hand if there are sealed construction drawings, and the actual construction deviated from them, then those changes are clearly a violation on part of the GC and can be easily documented and reported.

RE: What to Do

(OP)
djs,
I don't claim to understand the requirements of general contractors as it related to building non public facilities. However, I believe they operate under the guides that it is not a public facility. In addition, I believe one only needs a licensed electrician to pull a building permit. To make matters worse, the GC is allowed to sign off that the electrical system was installed per code. There is no electrical inspection required given the remote location of the facility - no electrical inspectors. Scary but true according to the state. No PE signed off on these drawings.

RE: What to Do

The statement "protecting the public" does not only apply to areas the general public can enter. Employees in a privately owned limited access structure are still "the public".

RE: What to Do

I realize I am swooping in late to this party... but:

It appears from your posts Buzz, that you've approached all discussion with decision makers at your company a certain way- pointing out code violations and expressing that you're upset about those violations.

The missing piece appears to be that the owner/management of your employer doesn't seem to understand the consequences of an injury or death due to a non-code-compliant installation. You say 'they don't care'; I suspect they don't care because they don't understand the consequences of what they're doing. In my opinion, you would be doing yourself and your employer a favor by explaining these (potentially extremely severe and shop-closing) consequences in goriest detail you can manage; they don't need to care about conforming to code for its own sake- conforming to code out of fear of losing your job and your business is a pretty effective motivator. I've seen it.

Have you framed any of your communication in this way? I.E. "if the GF system has not been tested and someone is severely injured or killed due to a GF system failure, [buzz's employer] is open to a massive amount of liability, especially if reports are being issued stating that GF system testing was completed when it has not been" and also "[buzz] is aware that GF system tests and other code-compliance procedures are not being followed, and [buzz] is bound by professional duty and will not perjure himself in the event that a code compliance failure results in litigation"

I would most certainly get that second part on the record via email or memo or whatever, if you haven't already. You need to make it explicitly clear that you are bound by both personal and professional ethical standards and will, under no circumstances, lie to protect them should their substandard business practices lead to litigation. You also need that communication on record so that should they ever be involved in litigation, you are clearly seen to not be complicit with negligent practices.

I have been in similar a similar situation before; I posted about it in the SE subforum, because I wanted/needed some SE input to determine if I was being unreasonable and to help point me at the correct code to help me out. When I dealt with my situation, just talking about code compliance problems didn't move the needle; what turned the tide in my favor was explaining what kind of liability exposure the company was exposing itself to by failing to comply with the code, and explaining that by trying to force code compliance of our systems I was working FOR the company's best interest, not against it.

So we're clear: I am not trying to imply that you've handled this the wrong way, at all. You're in a tough position. Just try to think of a way to frame your actions as those of an ally, not an adversary.

RE: What to Do

(OP)
I tried showing explaining someone could get fried by the nearly 800 amps that could flow if a GF went undetected. In addition, this equipment is in a common walk way, outside, on what might be an ungrounded concrete pad (which wouldn't change the outcome if it were there w/o GF protection). I also explained the possible outcome of using a 18,000 amp breaker instead of the required 65,000 amp breaker that is needed. I explained to him the outcome of every situation we discussed. I did exhaust all the angles I could with no result.

So I sent the letter and got fired less than 10 minutes later. Said he couldn't move forward with me when I am reporting them to the authorities. Asked for my key and said he would have to escort me out. I am certainly not surprised but they left me no choice.

Been trying to report this to someone who can do something. Project is in Illinois where no permit or electrical inspection is required. I don't even think Illinois has adopted the NEC on a statewide level. The county don't have any electrical code to speak of. I called the Fire Marshall and told them. They were very interested but again, nothing they can really do but they will visit the site for fire code compliance. Where should I go to next? The only thing that comes to mind is letter to a couple key individuals; Governor and Attorney General.

RE: What to Do

(OP)
Oh, the customer doesn't seem to care or know any better. They were notified about violations and how this could lead to someone getting hurt of killed, by a electrician that cared, anonymously. They promptly sent the email to my employer without even considering the contents. This is somewhat due to the industry (feed mill) but more likely to do with their lack of knowledge on the subject.

RE: What to Do

If nothing else, you have a wrongful termination case that's as open-and-shut as any I've ever heard of.

RE: What to Do

Yes, if you speak to an attorney at this stage it seems like you have accumulated enough evidence for a case.
You may want a referral to an attorney with some competence in workplace safety/hazards/accidents. You may be able to get some names from the state licensing authority/board which would be preferable to the automobile accident litigators who plaster pages of the phone book.
Let them know you have a grievance, but your first pursuit will be the establishment of the facts of the hazard to safety. Without substantiating the threat - to people who may not have the background to understand it clearly - you will have a much more difficult time demonstrating that you were fired without cause. But as J said, it sounds open-and-shut to me, too.

STF

RE: What to Do

Quoted
Said he couldn't move forward with me when I am reporting them to the authorities.
Unquoted

The negativa of this sentence implies that should you have not reported him, he was willing to move forward with you. There was zero margin to manoeuver and now such a statement. I really hope that there is some sort of justice that will cut him down.

RE: What to Do

If your former employer is an Illinois company, you should call Ken Vanko at CCM.

RE: What to Do

buzzp
good karma to you for doing what is right

RE: What to Do

(OP)
My former company is not based in Illinois. I have already started to try to find a competent attorney. However, I am not so sure I have a case given I haven't been to the job site for many months (was always given an excuse as to why I couldn't go) and can't really say I seen the inadequacies first hand. Also, without at least an inspection of some sort from a third party, I don't see anyone collaborating by accusations. However, I do have written evidence on a couple of non-compliance issues. I just don't know if that will be enough. That's what attorneys are for.

This whole situation is disheartening...no one in this county has the authority to assure compliance with minimum electrical safety standards. Not even in the state, since they haven't even adopted the NEC, in general. It is up to the local jurisdictions to require this. Illinois must be a mecca for dishonest electrical contractors to cut corners while putting citizens in danger. I will report this to the Governor and Attorney General, after that, any injuries that occur will be on their shoulders.

RE: What to Do

Cass... Thanks for the information...

I generally keep samples myself as well as those at the office, so there is a continuity... I had a case about 20 years back where the samples 'got lost'... The court case was a few years after the investigation and someone did some housecleaning in the interim. Ever since then I don't rely on others to maintain my specimens. Same with photos... I take them, I download them on my machine, and burn a CD/DVD, sign and date it. and put the CD/DVD in the project file and if a PM is involved, give him an additional signed copy of the CD/DVD. The CD/DVD is uploaded on to our server, and the IT guys reduce the size and resolution so it 'fits' the company standard... not realising that they have likely ruined it for use as evidence. The real copy is the one on my desktop.

Dik

RE: What to Do

What state is your former employer located in?

To prove wrongful termination, you don't necessarily have to prove the code compliance problems individually. You have to prove that you were dismissed because you reported code noncompliance

Those are different things.

A lot of people on this board have dealt with issues like this- if you tell us what state you're in you're going to get some good references.

RE: What to Do

Going over the posts, the only thing I can see that may have been overlooked... by advising the client and your ex-employer of the outcome, in the event of a problem, they are clearly negligent and by being advised of this and not mitigating the problem, they may not have any insurance coverage.

Dik

RE: What to Do

(OP)
jgKRI: My former employer located in Montana - they have state wrongful termination laws for 'reporting violations of public policy'. There may be other legal matters related to being a general contractor, too. Getting an attorney on the phone is proving to be difficult. Getting one to return your call is just as difficult. Still trying though.

dik: I am not sure their negligence is an issue until something happens. I do know they carry some forms of insurance.

I did send an electronic letter to the governor with my concerns, with links to videos of recent explosions in their state and neighboring states and videos of breakers failing as result of trying to interrupt too much current. Hopefully, this will raise some eye brows.

I will try to continue to update this thread, as necessary, and welcome any feedback. If I am not responding, it is because I was advised not too by an attorney.

RE: What to Do

FWIW, personally, if I were in your shoes, I would not be saying another word until I talked with of a lawyer.

RE: What to Do

Quote (OP)

I am not sure their negligence is an issue until something happens. I do know they carry some forms of insurance.

agreed... but, knowing that you may be personally liable, and not insured, may cause some action... it's unfortunate that some poor b*stard gets fried in the process...

Dik

RE: What to Do

Maybe their insurer can comment, I'm sure for working out premiums they might be interested in some anonymous information related to possibilities.

RE: What to Do

(OP)
dik, I have obligations as the engineer to report this, which I got fired for fulfilling. In my mind, this should release me of any liabilities. As I stated before, I don't hold my PE license, never really needed it in my 20 years of experience. Yes, I do have a formal education with a BSEE.



RE: What to Do

OP:
You did the correct thing... and you were harmed in the process. It's too bad that the regulatory process fails.

Dik

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