Understanding the Canadian Electrical Safety Regulatory System. Part II: Canadian Provinces and Territories

Canada’s 10 provinces and three territories are the legislated regulatory authorities for electrical safety in Canada. Under the Canadian Constitution there is a division of powers between the federal and provincial/territorial governments. The federal government has jurisdiction over areas such as defense and communications while the provinces and territories have jurisdictional authority over others such as education, health and electrical safety. As a result in Canada, you have 13 separate electrical safety regulatory authorities.

Within each provincial or territorial jurisdiction, there is a self-contained electrical regulatory infrastructure with authority to independently set and enforce electrical safety standards. Regulatory decisions made within these jurisdictions are not subject to any national authority.

In practice however, despite 13 separate jurisdictions, the electrical regulatory systems across Canada are remarkably similar. This can be attributed to a history of strong participation by the electrical safety authorities, inspectors and chief inspectors of the Provinces/Territories, Municipalities and other agencies on key national electrical safety standards and advisory committees. These national committees include The Canadian Electrical Code Part I Committee (CEC Part I), The Regulatory Authority Committee (RAC), and The Canadian Advisory Council on Electrical Safety (CACES).

The close affiliation of the Chief Inspectors within these various bodies promotes discussion and encourages common solutions to electrical safety issues and jurisdictional matters. As a result, the regulatory environment across Canada is fairly uniform, and since statutes and regulations are similar, each jurisdiction adopts the Canadian Electrical Code with minimal amendments.

Provincial and Territorial Statutes (Acts)

All electrical regulatory activities at the Provincial or Territorial level start with a Statute or Act. These establish the legal framework under which the electrical safety regulatory programs operate. Acts address requirements that typically establish the scope of legislation, the authority of Inspectors and Chief Inspectors, administration provisions, offences, penalties, and the authority to make regulations.

Amendments to Statutes or Acts are rare, and must be processed through the Provincial and Territorial legislative assemblies. This can be a fairly time-consuming process that can take in excess of a year or more to complete. A copy of each of the Electrical Safety Acts enforced in Canada are available on the web-site of each individual Province and Territory. For more information, visit:http://www.eagle.ca/~matink/themes/Provinces/province.html

Provincial and Territorial Regulations

Regulations fall under the authority of Statutes or Acts, but set out more specific requirements. A typical electrical safety regulation would cover equipment standards, qualification and licensing of installers, review of electrical designs, the issuing of permits, inspections, compliance procedures, utility connections, accident investigations, collection of fees and other various administrative rules.

Regulations are easier to amend than Acts. The Government in each Province and Territory typically has a committee of senior Ministers or Cabinet that can, with the recommendation of the electrical safety inspection experts, approve regulation changes without having to go through the legislative assemblies. This expediency may be necessary where there are technological advances or where an identified safety hazard needs to be corrected.

In addition to Provincial and Territorial regulations, some of the larger cities in Canada also regulate electrical safety through municipal by-laws. By-laws derive their authority from statutes similar to regulations, but tend to be less technical and more administrative in nature. For example, municipalities address issues such as local permit requirements, licensing fees, plan reviews, inspections and other administrative functions in addition to those delegated from the Provincial or Territorial level. It is unlikely that a municipal bylaw would amend a code, standard, or other technical document adopted or set by the Province or Territory.

Electrical Inspectors and Chief Inspectors

Another important function set out in regulations are the roles and duties of Electrical Inspectors and the Chief Electrical Inspector. Each Province and Territory, as well as some municipalities, have a Chief Electrical Inspector, or Chief Electrical Safety Administrator, if not by title, then at least by function.

The Chief Inspector is typically the senior policy and technical decision-maker concerning electrical safety, and serves as the Provincial or Territorial representative on the national electrical safety standards and advisory committees. Although his/her administrative functions may vary, the Chief Inspector is generally responsible for interpreting codes and standards and making associated rulings on their application. The Chief Inspector is also the authority to order unsafe equipment de-energized or removed from the marketplace and is the primary jurisdictional contact for electrical safety matters in his or her jurisdiction.

Development of Codes and Standards Canadian Electrical Code Part I

Every Province and Territory in Canada adopts and enforces the same installation code, CSA Standard C22.1, the Canadian Electrical Code Part I. (CEC Part I). Some Provinces and Territories also make amendments to the CEC prior to adoption.

Electrical Safety Regulatory authorities are very active in the development of the CEC Part I. Every Province and Territory in Canada as well as three major Canadian municipalities (Winnipeg. Calgary and Vancouver) are represented on the Canadian Electrical Code, Part I Committee. The Chair of the CEC Part I Committee, is elected by the membership and appointed by the Standards Policy Board for a renewable 3-year term. Each Part I Section Sub-Committee has one or more electrical Inspector members, and in some cases, an Inspector or Chief Inspector is the Chair of the subcommittee. In this respect, the electrical safety regulators can be influential during the process of developing Canada’s electrical safety standards.

Within the CSA/CEC structure there is the Regulatory Authority Committee (RAC) made up of Provincial and Territorial Chief Electrical Inspectors. This committee has the authority to evaluate and return proposed amendments of the Code to the CEC Part I Committee if they deem the provision is unenforceable or legally unworkable. However, although the RAC may return a proposal, it must also provide alternate wording that would preserve the intent of the original proposal with more legislatively compatible wording. This ensures that the CEC Part I, which is eventually incorporated into each Canadian jurisdiction’s regulation, is developed and formatted in a way that will make it legally suitable for enforcement across Canada. Through this development mechanism, the CEC is more likely to meet the needs of all jurisdictions, less likely to be amended by a Province or Territory and promotes uniform acceptance. It should also be noted that the CEC, Part I deals only with electrical installations. Requirements or specifications regarding the design for construction of products or electrical equipment are explained in the CEC Code Part II, a separate set of standards also published by the Canadian Standards Association. This ensures that equipment installed in conjunction with the CEC Part I will be compatible and safe to use under the installation rules.

Another area addressed under Provincial/Territorial electrical safety regulations is the acceptance of certification organizations. Certification organizations must be accepted under each Provincial/Territorial regulation before their certification marks are recognized in those jurisdictions. Typically, Provincial/Territorial regulations will state that no electrical equipment can be used, offered for sale or otherwise distributed unless it has been certified by an acceptable certification organization.

An acceptable certification organization is usually defined as an organization that has been accredited by the Standards Council of Canada (SCC). Under the SCC accreditation criteria the certification organization is required to apply a small “c” indicator adjacent to their registered certification mark to indicate that the product complies with a standard that is compatible with the CEC. There is an exception where the certification organization’s mark clearly indicates Canadian standards, such as CSA International’s mark. The accreditation agreement also requires certification organizations to have a recall procedure in place to ensure unsafe products are removed from the marketplace in a timely manner.

Enforcement of the CEC

A mix of Provincial/Territorial governments, municipal governments, quasi-government agencies, electric utilities and, in some cases, private inspection agencies, carry out the enforcement of the various regulatory requirements in Canada. Electrical Inspectors and Chief Electrical Inspectors enforce standards through design reviews, inspections, investigations, etc. Penalties can range from fines of tens of dollars to several thousands of dollars depending on the nature of the infraction. Responsibility for post-market surveillance of electrical products may lie within a jurisdictions regulatory authority, but there is rarely a procedure set up in each jurisdiction. This is because historically, product surveillance activity has been carried out by certification agencies.

For example, if a complaint is filed with the local electrical inspector. The inspector will investigate the incident, and subsequently contact the organization that certified the product and report the incident. The certification organization, which has an agreement with the manufacturer, will begin an investigation and if necessary, institute corrective action. Depending on the severity and extent of the problem, this action may be limited or extensive. If it is a widespread issue then CACES will be informed and this may result in a recall by the manufacturer or the regulators may order the product off the shelves.

The Canadian regulatory system requires the cooperation of all levels of government, private certification organizations and independent regulators. This system of cooperation, while seemingly unregulated due to the absence of one master regulatory body, has worked extremely well over the past decades, perhaps because the interests of one group have not superceded the interests of the others. Furthermore, due to the high level of communication that must take place between the various parties, the Canadian regulatory system has evolved over time at a significant rate while at the same time incorporating the interests, ideas and concerns of an entire cross-section of electrical regulatory perspectives.

The next installment of Understanding the Canadian Electrical Safety Regulatory System will outline the influence of the Canadian Advisory Council on Electrical Safety and the Canadian Electrical (CE) Code on the Canadian Regulatory System.

CSA Group
The CSA Group, is a not-for-profit standards organization which develops standards in 57 areas. CSA publishes standards in print and electronic form and provides training and advisory services.