Use of the Codes and Standards in electrical design and installations

No, really: what codes and standards must be used for the electrical design and installation and why?

This is not a trivial question, as it deals with consistency, uniformity and, most important, with the safety of electrical installations.

So, what drives a need to use the CE Code (and not the NEC) for design of electrical installations in Canada, and what forces the designers to specify, for example, an automatic transfer switch to the CSA standard CSA C22.2 No. 178.1 and not to the UL standard UL1008? Why, for instance, is ULC S524 (and not NFPA 72) used by the designers, installers and regulators for the selection of locations of and spacing between the fire alarm system devices?

The answer is based on the provisions of the Canadian Electrical Safety System, the unique entity which integrates development of safety standards for electrical products with the electrical equipment design, construction, testing and certification to these safety standards, and with installation of the “approved” electrical equipment in accordance with the requirements of the installation code — the CE Code, Part I. Such integration is done under the electrical safety regulatory regime that is administered consistently across the country at each provincial or territorial level.

Photo 1. Wiring methods – See section 12 of the CE Code.

Nevertheless, an inquisitive mind might comment that any safety standard for electrical equipment or even the mighty electrical installation code is only a voluntary standard. This observation would be absolutely accurate — until the time when the Code or the specific standard is legally adopted in each jurisdiction for the regulatory enforcement. When this adoption is done, the Code or the standard becomes the law, and use of such code or standard (and compliance with it) becomes mandatory.

In fact, the very first statement in the Code (shown in the rectangular box on the first page of the Code) indicates that, “The Canadian Electrical Code, Part I, is a voluntary code for adoption and enforcement by regulatory authorities.”

This means that until the Code is legally adopted for enforcement purposes, it is not different from any other publication available on the marketplace. A major difference of this document from many other available publications is that this document (and any safety standard for electrical equipment) is being developed via a consensus process by participating experts who represent all areas of the electrical safety (i.e., manufacturers, designers, contractors, educators, power and communication utilities, labour, installation users, etc.) In fact, the CE Code and safety standards for electrical products are specifically intended to be legally adopted for enforcement, as the electrical safety regulators from every provincial and territorial jurisdiction play a major role in the development of these documents. The CE Code development process includes a transparent means by which participating regulators indicate whether they might have regulatory issues with the proposed language of the Code, and whether such legal issues would adversely impact their ability to administer the Code. This process helps to resolve such issues at the code development stage in order to facilitate the future Code adoption process. This explains why only the CE Code is used as the safety standard for electrical installations.

When the Canadian Electrical Code is legally adopted in a specific jurisdiction, only this adopted Code (and not the NEC or any other electrical installation code or standard) must be used by the industry stakeholders. This means that if, for example, C22.2 No. 178.1 is referenced in the body of the legally adopted CE Code(i.e., Rule 24-304), then only this CSA standard must be used for the design, construction, testing and certification of an automatic transfer switch (and not UL 1008 or any other similar standard).


Photo 2. Installation – as per Section 24 of the CE Code, electrical safety in health care facilities – as per Z32

But what about the standard ULC S524 for installation of a fire alarm system devices? Is this ULC standard specifically mandated by the CE Code? Although use of the ULC S524 is only referenced in an explanatory (non-mandatory) Appendix B Note on Section 32 of the Code, compliance with this ULC standard is mandatory, as use of this standard is required by the National Building Code of Canada (NBCC ),which is also legally adopted in each province and territory. Sentence of the NBCC states that “Fire alarm systems, including the voice communication capability where provided, shall be installed in conformance with CAN/ULC-S524, ‘Installation of Fire Alarm Systems.’ ” There are some other cases, when use of a particular standard is only mentioned in Appendix B Notes on the CE Code, but is mandated by specific provisions of the NBCC. One such example is the CSA standard B72 “Installation Code for Lightning Protection System.” While it is not mandated for use by the CE Code (it is only referenced in Appendix B Note on Rule 10-706), its use is required by Article of the NBCC. This means that when a lightning protection system is designed for use in Canada, it must comply with the CSA standard B72.

Similarly, use of the CSA B44 “Safety Code for Elevators and Escalators” is mandated by the NBCC, but is only referenced in a non-mandatory Appendix B Notes on Rules of Section 38 in the CE Code. Sometimes, certain standards are referenced only in explanatory Appendix B of the CE Code and not in the body of the code, and use of these standards is also not required by the NBCC. In these cases, application of such standards is not mandatory under provisions of the CE Code, and their reference is only intended to the code users for informational purpose. For example, Appendix B notes on Rules 2-304 and 2-306 reference CSA standard Z462. However, there is no need for the Code users to apply this standard during design and installation of electrical equipment, as this standard is only intended for safe work practices around energized electrical equipment in conjunction with the local occupational health and safety regulations (if it is legally adopted by these work health and safety jurisdictions). Otherwise, Z462 is a voluntary standard, and use of this standard is a good engineering practice.


 Photo 3.   Installation – as per Section 58 of the CE Code, safety of aerial tramways – as per Z98

Another such example: ANSI standard B77.1 or CSA standard Z98. Compliance with ANSI standard B77.1 “Passenger Ropeways – Aerial Tramways, Aerial Lifts, Surface Lifts, Tows and Conveyors – Safety Requirements” and CSA standard Z98 “Passenger Ropeways and Passenger Conveyors” is not considered to be mandatory, as these standards are only referenced for information purpose in non-mandatory Appendix B Note on Section 58.

It is interesting to note that occasionally legally adopted building and electrical codes reference different editions of certain standards. In this case, the latest edition should be used, as it accurately reflects the latest consensus based revisions to such documents. For example, 2010 edition of the NBCC references C282-05 and Z32-04. However, 2012 edition of the CE Code mandates use of both these standards in the body of the Code and references 2009 editions of each of these standards.


And what about various IEEE or NFPA standards? Are they mandated by the legally adopted CE Code or the NBCC?

IEEE is a purely electrical engineering standard, and it is not referenced by the NBCC. The CE Code, however, mandates use of IEEE 835 (see Rule 4-004) and of IEEE 80 (see Tables 51 and 52 of the CE Code). Other IEEE standards are utilized by many designers as a part of a good engineering practice or as a part of requirements of the system performance, but not as the electrical safety requirement in accordance with the CE Code. Many NFPA standards are mandated by the NBCC, and the electrical professionals involved in design of electrically connected life safety systems in accordance with such standards must use these standards accordingly. Examples of NFPA 13, NFPA 20, NFPA 80, NFPA 96 is a case in point for a need to apply these technical documents by the electrical design professionals.

And, of course, compliance with the CSA engineering standards C22.3 No. 1 and C22.3 No. 7 is mandatory, as use of these standards is required by the CE Code.

There are quite a few examples of a similar nature, but the fundamental principle is based on understanding the difference between mandatory and voluntary standards. If use of the former is required by law, the application of latter is a demonstration of a good engineering practice in order to enhance performance of the designed electrical systems or to meet specific requirements of the owners or operators of the facility subjected to the electrical design.


 Photo 4. Installation of a strobe light – as per ULC S524, wiring methods – as per Section 32 of the CE Code.

And last, but not least, we need to discuss a compliance with various safety standards for electrical equipment. Quite often electrical design specifications reference NEMA, EEMAC or UL standards for electrical products. However, such practice is not consistent with provisions of Rule 2-024 of the CE Code.

All electrical equipment installed in accordance with the CE Code must be “approved” as required by Rule 2-024 of the CE Code.

Rule 2-024 states the following, “Electrical equipment used in electrical installations within the jurisdiction of the inspection department shall be approved and shall be of a kind or type and rating approved for the specific purpose for which it is to be employed.”

It should be noted that approved is a defined term in the CE Code, and it means that the electrical equipment is certified by an accredited certification organization to the provisions of an applicable CSA safety standard (CSA Part II standard – one of the safety standards for electrical products listed in Appendix A to the CE Code, starting on page 376 of the CE Code 2012). The CE Code defines approvedequipment as follows:

Approved (as applied to electrical equipment) —

(a) equipment that has been certified by a certification organization accredited by the Standards Council of Canada in accordance with the requirements of

(i) CSA standards; or

(ii) other recognized documents, where such CSA standards do not exist or are not applicable; or

(b) equipment that conforms to the requirements of the regulatory authority (see Appendix B).


Appendix B Note on definition “approved” states:

It is intended by this definition that electrical equipment installed under provisions of this Code is required to be certified to the applicable CSA product Standards as listed in Appendix A. Where such CSA Standards do not exist or are not applicable, it is intended by this definition that such electrical equipment be certified to other applicable Standards, such as ULC standards. Code users should be aware that fire alarm system equipment is deemed to be approved when it is certified to the applicable product Standards listed in CAN/ULC S524.

“This definition is also intended to reflect the fact that equipment approval could be accomplished via a field evaluation procedure in conformance with the CSA Model Code SPE-1000, where special inspection bodies are recognized by participating provincial and territorial authorities having jurisdiction. For new products that are not available at the time this Code is adopted, the authority having jurisdiction may permit the use of products that comply with the requirements set out by that jurisdiction.

The Standards Council of Canada has accredited a number of certification organizations (CSA, UL, ULC, ETL, QPS, etc.) to certify electrical products to the CSA (CE Code, Part II) safety standards. When the piece of electrical equipment is certified by the CSA, then “CSA” monogram must be placed on that piece of electrical product in accordance with Rule 2-100 of the CE Code. When the piece of electrical equipment is certified by the UL (US-based certification organization), then the certification monogram by UL must also bear a small “c” at 8 o’clock. This “c” signifies that the piece of electrical equipment is certified by the UL for use in Canada to the CSA standard. For example, if a luminaire is marked “cUL,” it means that the UL certified this luminaire to the CSA standard C22.2 No. 250″Luminaires” (see page 381 of the CE Code 2012). If an automatic transfer switch (see our example above) is certified by UL for use in Canada, the “cUL” monogram will signify that such automatic transfer switch is certified by the UL to the CSA safety standard C22.2 No. 178.1 listed on page 379 of the CE Code 2012 (and not to the standard UL 1008 for the automatic transfer switches).

Certification to a UL, NEMA, EEMAC or IEEE standard does not make such equipment “approved” for use in Canada under Rules of the CE Code.

When a piece of a fire alarm system equipment (a control unit, a smoke detector, a manual station, etc.) is certified to the applicable ULC safety standard listed in the ULC 524, such piece of equipment is deemed to be “approved’ in accordance with the CE Codedefinition, as there are no CSA safety standards available for such products. In this case, a “ULC” monogram on such piece of equipment would manifest the fact that that particular piece of a fire alarm equipment is certified by the ULC to the applicable ULC safety standard for fire alarm systems. For example, if a control unit of a fire alarm system bears the “ULC” monogram, it means that the control unit is certified by the ULC to the ULC standard ULC S527 “Control Units for Fire Alarm Systems.”

It should be noted that in accordance with the CE Code definition of “approved,” a piece of electrical equipment may be also approved by means of a special inspection/field evaluation. This type of approval does not constitute a complete certification to any applicable CSA safety standard referenced in Appendix A of the Code. Such field evaluation represents only testing in accordance with the scope of the CSA Model Code for Field Evaluation of Electrical Equipment SPE 1000.

Specific conditions of every field evaluation should always be discussed with the local electrical safety authority.

Hopefully, this brief article helps in clarifying the subject related to the criteria for use of Codes and standards in electrical design and installations.


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: