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Electrical safety is something many of us take for granted. When a consumer buys an appliance, they assume it will operate correctly when they plug it into a receptacle, and that it will not cause an electrical shock or fire.
The fact that we take for granted our homes and appliances are safe from electrical hazards is a direct result of the evolution of the Canadian Electrical Safety System, working hard to keep installers, regulators, consumers and their families safe from harm. The three pillars of the Canadian Electrical Safety System are standardization, third-party certification, and regulation. How do they all fit together?
Standardization: Better by design
To be used in Canada, electric appliances must be designed and manufactured in accordance with the applicable Canadian electrical product standard. There are literally hundreds of CSA Group electrical product standards, including IEC standards adopted for use in Canada, as well as tri-national standards harmonized with the USA (UL) and Mexico (ANCE), such as the C22.2 No. 60335 series of standards.
Canadian electrical product standards cover everything from toasters to high voltage switchgear, from conductors to generators, and everything in between. Collectively, these standards are known as the “Canadian Electrical Code, Part II”.
On the other side of the coin, the Canadian Electrical Code, Part I, “Safety Standard for Electrical Installations” is a single code that covers the installation of wiring systems and equipment. For those familiar with IEC standards, the requirements in the CEC, Part I address the fundamental principles of safety contained in Section 131 of IEC 60364-1, Low-voltage electrical installations. Together, the CEC Part I and Part II series of standards lay a foundation for an integrated set of requirements that form the back bone of the Canadian Electrical Safety System.
Certification: Helping ensure interoperability
So where does third-party certification fit into the equation? Most standards are designed to ensure interoperability. In other words, different components of a system will work with each other in the manner intended. For example, it would be inconvenient to purchase a lawn sprinkler that wouldn’t connect to your garden hose because the connector threads were different. When it comes to electrical systems, however, interoperability is not just a matter of convenience; it’s a matter of safety.
Within the Canadian Electrical Safety System, interoperability and coordination between standards is accomplished through integration between the Canadian Electrical Code, Part I (electrical installations) and the Canadian Electrical Code, Part II (equipment standards). Rule 2-024 of CEC Part I requires electrical equipment be “approved,” which in most cases means the equipment must be evaluated by an accredited third party certification organization and certified as conforming to the requirements of the applicable CEC Part II equipment standard. Conversely, CEC Part II standards are carefully written to ensure requirements for equipment construction, testing, and marking are compatible with an electrical system that was installed in accordance with the CEC, Part I.
In practical terms, this integration between CEC Parts I and II means the attachment plug for an appliance will fit into the wall receptacle, and the receptacle will deliver the correct voltage and polarity to the appliance. It means the screw shell on a lampholder should not shock a user who might accidentally touch it while changing a light bulb, or that someone using an appliance in a wet bathroom should not receive an electric shock.
It also means an electrician installing equipment will understand the purpose of a green screw terminal or a white conductor. At its core, integration between the CEC Parts I and II ensures approved equipment has been evaluated and certified for use with an electrical system that will safely provide power to the equipment.
Regulation: Leveling the playing field
The third pillar of the Canadian Electrical Safety System is regulation. Regulatory authorities are at the front line of the Canadian Electrical Safety System as they’re often the first to encounter unsafe installation practices or products. The fact that every single regulatory authority in Canada has a voting position on Canadian Electrical Code Committees means they can immediately bring issues to the attention of the responsible code or standards committee.
It also means the resulting changes are coordinated and developed through a consensus process together with their fellow regulators and other industry stakeholders, the outcome of which is a set of electrical safety requirements that is largely consistent among Canadian provinces and territories. Consistent, nationally adopted, safety regulations remove barriers to inter-provincial labour mobility and trade, and create a level national playing field for designers and contractors within all provinces and territories.
There are some common misconceptions associated with identifying who is responsible for regulating electrical safety in Canada. Electrical safety is not regulated by CSA Group, by Standards Council Canada, or by the Federal Government of Canada. In Canada, electrical safety regulation is the responsibility of the provinces and territories.
The one exception is for premises that are federally owned or regulated. This includes airports, post office buildings, federal buildings, military installations, and similar facilities. Although the provinces and territories do not have jurisdiction over federal installations, the federal government will often direct their contractors to comply with local codes and obtain permits and inspections from the local authority having jurisdiction.
CEC Part I and its referenced series of CEC Part II standards are adopted as regulation by all provinces and territories, and through bylaws enacted by municipalities having authority for electrical inspection such as Winnipeg and Vancouver. CEC Part I is also adopted by the Federal Government through the Canadian Labour Code.
While standardization, certification, and regulation are the foundation of the Canadian Electrical Safety System, safety doesn’t just simply “happen.” It must be applied by all stakeholders including trained installers, dedicated educators, skilled designers, diligent inspectors, knowledgeable manufacturers, safety organizations, and many others. Understanding the connections between each pillar of the Canadian Electrical Safety System is the first step.
Training on the CE Code, Part I
CSA Group is a global leader in providing industry professionals with standards-based training solutions that help you; comply with standards, keep your workers and the general public safe, mitigate risks that can negatively affect your business, and gain a competitive edge in support of your career goals. Each year more than 10,000 professionals get results from CSA Group Training & Skills Development programs.
Training is critical when a document like the CE Code, Part I, is a required element of your trade, contributing to safe electrical installations and remaining in compliance. Our 2015 CE Code Essentials training offers an in-depth review of the Code, key changes and updates, and practical ways to navigate commonly used sections, rules and regulations. Fall dates now listed on shop.csa.ca, and as always, any of our training courses can be delivered in customized on-site format at your place of business.
CSA Group is an independent organization dedicated to safety, social good and sustainability. CSA certification marks appear on billions of qualified products worldwide.
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