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Author Topic: locking out outlets  (Read 1532 times)

Taylor Hall

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locking out outlets
« on: June 04, 2019, 07:11:50 am »

We had a near miss this past weekend where someone (not us) backstage tried to pull the plug on a piece of equipment so something else could be plugged in. Luckily one of our techs was nearby and stopped them.

Is there any electrical/fire code that forbids enclosing or otherwise locking out any flavor of power distro (stringer box, pagoda, power strip, etc.) so that nothing else can be plugged in or unplugged unless by proper personnel? If nothing else we want to safeguard against something like this from happening to mission-critical devices, or devices which require a cooldown period (discharge fixtures, projectors, etc), so it's not like we'd be locking up every edison we have.
Obviously better security would solve this, but we don't always have that luxury at some events. Thoughts?
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Mike Sokol

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Re: locking out outlets
« Reply #1 on: June 04, 2019, 07:18:05 am »

We had a near miss this past weekend where someone (not us) backstage tried to pull the plug on a piece of equipment so something else could be plugged in. Luckily one of our techs was nearby and stopped them.

That's a great question. I once had a food service worker unplug my video projector hot right in the middle of my seminar because they wanted to plug in their big coffee urn. Yup, popped the projector bulb to the tune of $500 or so.

What about a yellow flag with Velcro that said "DO NOT UNPLUG". 
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Taylor Hall

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Re: locking out outlets
« Reply #2 on: June 04, 2019, 07:25:33 am »

What about a yellow flag with Velcro that said "DO NOT UNPLUG".
If people bothered to comply with signs (let alone read them) OSHA would be bankrupt :P

In all seriousness, we do try to tuck everything away as best we can to be out of easy reach, and we've only ever had this kind of issue with stringer boxes and power strips as they are more "familiar" to the layman than a multi-phase distro box or anything rack-mounted. I know that you can buy covers for power strips for residential use to baby-proof things or declutter, but I'm not sure how a device like that would fly in a production setting.
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: locking out outlets
« Reply #3 on: June 04, 2019, 09:43:02 am »

I guess you could always leave one free outlet, but that might still not be enough for some.

JR
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Stephen Swaffer

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Re: locking out outlets
« Reply #4 on: June 04, 2019, 12:42:20 pm »

The biggest issue I would see is that code/safety is concerned primarily with being able to disconnect equipment in the event of something bad happening.  You might run into an inspector that takes issue-though there are provisions for restricting access to authorized personnel.

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Steve Swaffer

Taylor Hall

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Re: locking out outlets
« Reply #5 on: June 04, 2019, 01:28:00 pm »

The biggest issue I would see is that code/safety is concerned primarily with being able to disconnect equipment in the event of something bad happening.  You might run into an inspector that takes issue-though there are provisions for restricting access to authorized personnel.
That was my main concern as well. The only thing I can find through my searches so far is that electrical/fire codes require some kind of cover plate on the outlet box itself, but nothing about restricting access to said outlets.

The one thing that could possibly be used as precedence in this are in-floor electrical drops which are usually locked or taped shut once any runs have been made. While slightly different from a mobile stringer box or similar, the concept of sealing it off is mostly the same in the end.
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Jonathan Johnson

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Re: locking out outlets
« Reply #6 on: June 04, 2019, 01:59:56 pm »

The biggest issue I would see is that code/safety is concerned primarily with being able to disconnect equipment in the event of something bad happening.  You might run into an inspector that takes issue-though there are provisions for restricting access to authorized personnel.

The thing is, though, plug-and-receptacle connectors SHOULD NOT be considered "disconnecting means" if they are not listed for breaking capacity. If they aren't disconnecting means, then securing them from unauthorized disconnection should not be an issue. For a typical 15A plug and receptacle (NEMA 5-15), how do you know if it is rated for 15A breaking capacity?

(Now, I do not know what the Code says about this. Does the Code consider all plug-and-receptacle connections to be disconnecting means? Are all NEMA plugs and receptacles supposed to have breaking capacity at their rated amperage? Judging by the number of burned receptacles and plugs I've seen, I'm guessing "probably not." This is probably why British receptacles have switches.)

Note, however, that Neutrik powerCON TRUE1 connectors ARE designed for breaking capacity, so an astute inspector might not like seeing THEM secured! On the positive side, I haven't seen any coffee urns or vacuum cleaners with a TRUE1 plug.
« Last Edit: June 04, 2019, 02:20:02 pm by Jonathan Johnson »
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John Roberts {JR}

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Re: locking out outlets
« Reply #7 on: June 04, 2019, 02:02:41 pm »

Perhaps a length of colored gaffer tape over those plugs would give people the hint to not unplug them during a show. Maybe no tape over plugs that don't matter.

If there was an actual emergency they could still easily be unplugged.

JR
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Jamin Lynch

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Re: locking out outlets
« Reply #8 on: June 04, 2019, 02:21:05 pm »

Maybe?
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Frank DeWitt

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Re: locking out outlets
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2019, 05:08:30 pm »

We had some things at church that people would keep unplugging.  We switched the plug and outlet to non standard.  It has solved the problem.
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Re: locking out outlets
« Reply #9 on: June 04, 2019, 05:08:30 pm »


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