The pandemic has instilled fear in many of us, but sometimes that fear can go beyond reason, such as the time Mr. Electric electrician Josh Rodriguez was sprayed with Lysol, without consent, upon entering the home of a customer.
“I was like, what is happening? She went behind me and sprayed my back,” said Rodriguez, 28. “I’m a nice guy. She sprayed the right person, because I think any other guy would be super mad.”
Greg McNaught is manager of operations of the Mr. Electric franchise. McNaught said the Lysol spraying led him to file an incident report with the state Department of Labor & Industries.
“Caution is good, but so is a bit of wisdom,” said McNaught.
The unsolicited Lysol spray-down was a first for Rodriguez, who has worked as an electrician for about eight years.
He travels from home to home helping customers with their electrical woes. With the weather getting colder, Rodriguez is preparing to respond to more calls related to heaters.
“The most frequent one, people don’t understand how electricity works so they’ll plug in a bunch of space heaters in the wintertime,” he said. “They’re the No. 1 no-no for electrical fires. It burns up the wires and they lose power on half of the house. It’s like the No. 1 service call we have — a burnt neutral wire.”
With Christmas coming up, Rodriguez gets calls about things like Christmas lights and requests from folks needing additional outlets.
The Columbian caught up with Rodriguez to learn more.
Tell me about yourself.
I’m originally from Villa; it’s by Yakima. My wife and I just moved up to Vancouver two years ago for her job. Me being an electrician — having a license is nice because it carries anywhere in Washington. She’s a worship director at a church. I’ve been with Mr. Electric for two years.
What exactly do you do?
I am a service electrician. I go around existing houses and add new things for customers like hot tubs or car chargers or maybe they want to add an outlet for their TV up high. I add things on existing houses. We don’t do any new construction. We do service where we fix problems for customers.
What rules has Mr. Electric put in place for the pandemic?
Before every call is booked the secretaries ask questions: “Has anyone in the house been sick?” Blah blah. There have been customers who say nobody’s sick, but there is somebody in our house who has an autoimmune disease. In those cases we have N95 masks — we wear those whenever customers are like, “We want you here, but you need to take every single step to make sure no one gets sick.” We take our temperature every morning, and if anyone feels sick, they tell our boss and stay home. We spray down our tools after every call. We disinfect our iPads and wash our hands. We have handwashing stations in our van. We have the whole nine here.
WORKING IN CLARK COUNTY
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So you said a burnt neutral wire is one of the top service calls you get. What is that?
It’s the way some people are using extension cords and plugging in space heaters. You should never ever do that. Also a lot of these older houses, the way they wired these things in the ’60s, ’70s and ’80s, they’d put everything on one circuit. It overloads those wires. A lot of customers in those houses don’t have a newer electrical panel.
So what’s the solution for people who have the older panels?
There are two panels that were recalled. It’s Federal Pacific and Zinsco; they were installed in the ’60s and ’70s. If we see they have that panel, we give them info about why their panel is unsafe. We see them a lot. Especially Federal Pacific. This year, I’ve probably changed out I’d say 16 so far.
I had a landlord who once sent what my fiance called a “Craigslist handyman” to do work on an electrical problem in our apartment. He shocked himself and couldn’t finish the job, so then the landlord sent a more reputable electrician. Do you see that type of scenario often? How can people watch out for those who might not be properly trained?
Oh my gosh. You’d be shocked — no pun intended — on how much stuff we have to go behind and fix because they hired a handyman, or they hired a friend of a friend or whoever, who doesn’t know what they’re doing. That’s another of our things we do: go behind and fix other people’s mistakes and do it right. Then the customer has to pay twice. They should have called in the first place to do it right.