Use of a “Special Permission” and “Power of Rejection”

This article covers the application of two rules of the Canadian Electrical Code that establish a unique relationship between electrical designers/contractors and electrical safety regulators/inspectors in each jurisdiction where the CE Code is adopted for regulatory purposes.

Let’s start with a “Special Permission” rule, or as it is described in the Code: “Deviation or postponement.” This Rule (Rule 2-030) states that: “In any case where deviation or postponement of the Rules and regulations is necessary, special permission shall be obtained before proceeding with the work, but this special permission shall apply only to the particular installation for which it is given.”

Let’s decipher the meaning of this statement. First of all, it clearly indicates that a deviation from the prescriptive requirements of the Code is possible. Second, it advises the Code user that permission for any deviation from these prescriptive requirements must be obtained before an electrical installation takes place. And, finally, it emphasizes to the Code users that any special permission for a deviation from the Code prescriptive requirements is applicable only to the specific installation for which such permission is granted.

Perhaps, now is appropriate to analyze the logic behind prescriptive rules of the Code. This logic is found in Object of the Code. Object of the CE Code addresses fundamental principles of protection against electric shock, thermal effects, overcurrent, fault currents and overvoltage in electrical installations. It is recognized in the Object of the Code that a strict compliance with the prescriptive Rules of the Code intends to meet these fundamental safety principles and to provide an essentially safe installation. However, it is acknowledged by the Object of the Code that a safe installation “may be also achieved by alternatives to this Code” where such alternatives meet the fundamental safety principles provided by the prescriptive requirements of the Code.

In fact, some Rules of the Code recognize possibilities of alternatives to these Rules throughout the body of the Code (i.e., Rules 6-104, 6-202, 6-300, 8-302, 36-302, etc). In other cases, an applicant (an electrical designer or an electrical contractor) may choose an option to apply for a deviation to a specific prescriptive provision of the Code to a local AHJ that is responsible for administration of the Code. But in each such case an applicant must demonstrate that the proposed alternative to the Code requirement is, in fact, equivalent to the fundamental safety principles otherwise mandated by those particular prescriptive provisions of the Code from which the requested deviation is intended.

As there is no universal format in dealing with requests for a special permission, each AHJ may utilize a different approach to administration of these requests. However, it should be noted that regardless of differences in the administrative approach, a generic criteria for evaluation of each such request by an electrical safety regulator is based on ability of the applicant to demonstrate compliance with the Code fundamental safety principles for every requested alternative to the Code prescriptive requirements.

City of Vancouver, for example, has published Bulletin 2009-004-EL which explains the criteria for application of Rule 2-030. This Bulletin is available on the City Website –

Is Rule 2-030 applicable for deviation from the Code requirements to use “approved” equipment as mandated by Rule 2-024? The answer is adamantly “NO.” As much as an applicant may be able to demonstrate compliance with the fundamental safety principles of the Code by requesting an alternative to the installation criteria prescribed by the Code, the applicant cannot demonstrate to the electrical safety regulator that a piece of electrical equipment which does not meet the Code definition as “approved” would be safe for installation under provisions of the Code. This means that only “approved” equipment must be used in electrical installations, whether each such installation is done in compliance with the Code prescriptive provisions, or is done by means of an alterative approach to these provisions under criteria of Rule 2-030.

This brings us to the second portion of our discussion — to “Power of Rejection.” This power of an AHJ is recognized by Rule 2-026 of the CEC.

This Rule states the following: “2-026 Power of Rejection (see Appendix B) Even though approval has previously been granted, the inspection department may reject, at any time, any electrical equipment under any of the following conditions:

a. the equipment is substandard with respect to the sample on the which approval was granted;

b. the conditions of use indicate that the equipment is not suitable, or

c. the terms of approval agreement are not being carried out.”

Appendix B Note on this Rule provides the following explanation: “As a condition of approval of certain types of electrical equipment, the manufacturer supplies instructions pertaining to its installation. It is of the utmost importance that the installer closely follows installation instructions supplied by the manufacturer to fulfill the terms of the approval agreement.”

In addition to the clarification offered by Appendix B Note on this Rule of the Code, installers should be aware that a piece of equipment may be rejected for installation if the equipment is found to be in non-compliance to the safety standards to which it was supposed to be designed, constructed and certified (i.e., although a certification monogram was attached to the piece of electrical equipment, but the specific sample of such equipment did not meet applicable provisions of the standard).

If the certified equipment installed in a particular installation is not “approved” for that specific installation (i.e., a piece of equipment that is approved with enclosure type for “indoor use” is installed in a “wet location,” etc.) the equipment may be rejected by the AHJ.

So, it is clear that in addition to vast technical requirements of the Code, these two process related Rules are extremely important in understanding the conditions under which the technical provisions of the Code may (and should) be used. And as usual, local AHJ must be consulted in each case where electrical installations are undertaken in accordance with the Code requirements.

Ark Tsisserev
Ark Tsisserev is president of EFS Engineering Solutions, Ltd., an electrical and fire safety consulting company, and is a registered professional engineer with a master’s degree in Electrical Engineering. Prior to becoming a consultant, Ark was an electrical safety regulator for the city of Vancouver. He is currently the chair of the Technical Committee for the Canadian Electrical Code and represents the CE Code Committee on the CMP-1 of the National Electrical Code. Ark can be reached by e-mail at: His company web site is: