What are the reasons for required clearance around electrical panels?

Various NEC codes and OSHA regulations require that areas around electrical panels be kept clear at all times. (Typically 3 feet deep, 30 inches wide, floor to ceiling).

I’m wondering what the reasons are for these requirements.

I see this particular issue very often, and it’s an easy one for someone to correct for an inspection, but then put the pile of stuff right back where it was. So it would be helpful to have a list of very good reasons to explain to people of why panels should be kept clear.

Tried searching google and this forum, but no luck so far. If there’s a general resource that you all like for learning the reasons behind codes, that’d be great to know about also.


For the home inspector to have enough room to remove the cover…:wink:

So that anyone working at the panel can do do safely and without obstruction…

Easy access for service work, easy access in case of an emergency requiring electrical be turned off, keep combustibles away from ignition source.

Working clearance is referring to permanent, or fixed, items. Not things you can move without dismantling like storage boxes.

The fire codes also require clear space and no storage for the same reasons already given. Easy access to shutoff, clear workspace etc.

If you are doing inspections and do not know the answer, go back to HI school, or take every InterNACHI inspection course.

According to the NEC the minimum working space is 30" wide, minimum 36" deep and 6’6" or the height of the equipment whichever is greater. Here’s the NEC wording regarding working space from Article 110:

What are some common emergencies that require the electrical to be quickly turned off? Sparks coming out of a receptacle (or anywhere)… Various other electrical shock hazard scenarios, missing/disconnected ground…

Does the fire department try to cut the power from the main panel when they’re fighting a fire?

I’m just looking for compelling reasons that people will understand. If there aren’t any compelling reasons, maybe it’s not a big deal to pile non-flammable things in front of a panel. People just get used to utilizing the space, and there isn’t any problem for decades, so it’s hard to convince them that it’s not bureaucratic over-cautiousness.

People forget “it is all about us”.

Its pretty common to have to turn a breaker back on if it trips. Getting hurt in the dark by tripping over all kinds of obstacles infront of the panel is a real possibility.

Electrical panels and junction boxed for various reasons may at some point arc,… these sparks can cause fires and its far more likely to happen when there is flammable material near by ready to catch one.

Having room to work should not be undervalued. Most accidents happen when pros or weekend warriors are working in awkward positions or a less than ideal stance. I hate seeing workers lean or stretch, especially when working with electricity. One slip in the wrong direction…

Workplace info, but the same rule applies to homes IMO. :slight_smile:

no need to have a compelling reason & we’re not the property popo
i report they decide
when electrical equipment happens to be blocked during an inspection i contact the agent(s) & put them on notice of my rein$pection fee$

this gets me lots of agent referral gigs & puts me on their xmas card list…ymmv