Understanding the Canadian Electrical Safety Regulatory System

The Canadian Electrical Safety Regulatory System is governed according to two separate principles. The first is the formal legal or legislative arrangement that is the law as it applies to electrical safety in Canada and the second is the participation and cooperation of all Canadian electrical safety stakeholders, particularly the chief electrical regulatory authorities. The next three issues of Ask CSA will outline how the Canadian Electrical Safety Regulatory System works and how it supports the electrical inspector in the field.

The first aspect of the Canadian Electrical Safety Regulatory System outlined in this series of articles will focus on the legal or legislative arrangement.

The next issue of Ask CSA will continue with an outline of the working structure between the various electrical safety regulators, certification organizations, standards organizations and accreditors in Canada, which although not grounded in any particular legal framework, does have a major influence on how electrical safety matters are dealt with in Canada. The third installment of the series will sum up how all these jurisdictions come together to form Where does the inspector fit in this structure? a unified, consensus based approach to administering electrical safety protection in Canada.

Canadian Electrical Safety Regulatory System: Legal/Legislative Arrangement The Canadian Electrical Safety Regulatory System provides support to the inspector from a legislative and structural (governance) model that has a major influence on how electrical safety matters are dealt with in Canada.

Table 1

Diagram 1 illustrates the key components of the legislative arrangement, which is the hierarchy of the legal authority to regulate electrical safety in Canada. Canada consists of ten provinces and three territories with each province and territory having a statute or act which provides the broad legal framework to support regulatory activities in electrical safety. For example, the Electrical Safety Act of British Columbia is the statute for British Columbia and the Electrical Protection Act of the Northwest Territories is the statute for the Northwest Territories. Within each act there are regulations that set out specific requirements for electrical safety and enforcement. In some provinces and territories, these regulations also empower municipalities to adopt bylaws, thereby setting the requirements in their respective municipalities.

Furthermore, in some jurisdictions, electrical power utilities and/or private or separate operating authorities or agencies are delegated or authorized to administer provisions of the electrical safety legislation. Areas typically covered by the regulations include codes and standards, certification of electrical equipment, administration and enforcement and the role of the chief inspector. In addition to the provinces, territories and municipalities, the Federal Government of Canada, which although not technically part of the electrical safety regulatory structure, can have a major influence on electrical safety in Canada.

The Federal Government of Canada is not the regulatory authority for electrical safety in Canada. In fact there is no single Canadian Regulatory Authority. However the government of Canada, in exercising its constitutional authority, can impact on the Canadian electrical safety system in two different ways.

First, the Canadian Government negotiates and signs international trade agreements. Many of these agreements will impact on Provincial/ Territorial jurisdiction. For instance, in the Canada/European Mutual Recognition Agreement, Electrical Safety Annex, the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade negotiated a trade agreement with another party. Its full implementation calls for the individual Canadian provinces and territories to accept electrical equipment that has been certified by European Conformity Assessment Bodies.

This has created a lot of discussion amongst regulators in Canada and illustrates the important relationship between the federal government, trade policy and the Canadian electrical safety system. The electrical safety inspection community is concerned about the
accountability of foreign-based certification bodies to Canadian regulators and how market surveillance and corrective action will be carried out.

The Federal Government of Canada can also impact the Canadian Electrical Safety Regulatory System through the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). The SCC is a federal Crown Corporation under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Industry. A representative of the Minister of Industry is one member of the SCC’s 15-member governing body that provides policy guidance and direction to the SCC.

The SCC has a mandate to coordinate standards activities in Canada and functions as the core of the National Standards System that includes all stakeholders developing and using Canadian National standards. Externally, it provides or supports representation for Canada in international standardization activity such as the International Electro-Technical Commission (IEC) and the International Organization for Standardization (ISO).

The SCC plays a key role in the regulatory system in that it accredits standards development organizations, certification organizations, and testing organizations. Provinces and territories then use this accreditation as the criteria for acceptance of these organizations under the respective provincial/territorial electrical safety legislation.

This process is a great advantage to inspectors, manufacturers, and certification bodies since the same certification organizations are accepted in every jurisdiction across Canada.