Permitting/Code Staff: Watch Solar Installations for Unprotected Electrical Boxes

With both large-scale and household-level solar installations continuing to gain ground, county permitting and code enforcement staff are advised: Maryland law requires safety precautions on residential installations, which may prove to be life-savers.

In 2019, the General Assembly passed HB 586, legislation requiring that new residential solar installations, including residential rooftop facilities, be equipped with a “lockout tag.” While the burden of installing these safety devices lies with the installer, counties may enhance the effectiveness of this law as part of their code enforcement or permitting processes.

From the text of the final, enrolled bill (with markups from legislative amendments):

Washington DC news outlet WUSA ran a story in 2019 about the dangers of uncovered electrical boxes related to solar installations:

To show the risks, the electrician is doing just what he worries a kid could do, probing what’s called a knife’s blade disconnect switch and tapping the intense current.

“240 volts of unlimited ampacity,” he said while his volt-ohm-millimeter tester squealed. “Voltage burns you. Current is what kills you.”

Crews have installed the boxes on homes across the region and around the world for swimming pools, heat pumps, and solar panels and HVAC systems.

Davis said almost none of them are locked.

“These things are the only widely use piece of electrical equipment that doesn’t require a tool to open,” he said.

The current law governing safety protocols for electrical boxes attached to residential solar panels is in the Public Safety Article, Section 12-705.


Michael Sanderson

Executive Director Maryland Association of Counties