March 16, 2009


Electrician Rick Smith, puts the finishing touches on a wall outlet at new home near Victoria.

Electrical Contractors

British Columbia revising national electrical safety code before adopting it

Revisions to Canada’s electrical safety code are expected to reach B.C.’s provincial government soon.

Stephen Hinde, electrical safety manager for the British Columbia Safety Authority, which has been responsible for the province’s electrical safety code since April 1, 2004, said its Electrical Technology Committee has been reviewing and refining the 118 revisions from the Canadian Standards Association.

They have been busy reviewing since the first week of January and are close to delivering final recommendations to the Ministry of Housing and Social Development.

“We’re in the process of consulting with interested stakeholders,” said Hinde.

He said that the amendments will be reviewed by the ministry for such things as legal definitions before a ministerial order is signed proclaiming the new code as law.

Hinde said that so far, the B.C. committee of eight to 10 experts has made four minor changes to the CSA document, two dealing with wording of definitions, another to address a 2006 oversight that disabled WorkSafeBC regulations on ground-fault circuit-interceptors at construction sites and one dealing with restrictions on the location of thermostat controls in bathrooms.

He hopes this can be done by June 1.

The last revisions in 2006 took 15 months before being finalized and the goal is to reduce the turnaround time to six months.

Hinde estimated the cost of all the changes to the B.C. construction industry at $750,000 to $1 million, but quickly added that there will also be some cost savings due to cheaper installations.

“We haven’t finalized that number yet,” he said.

Tamper-proof receptacles will protect children, who insert conductive items or fingers into wall sockets.

CSA electrotechnical director Stephen Brown said that in the last six years, 365 children under the age of six have been injured in Canada in wall-socket accidents.

The new receptacles will be mandatory, except in areas generally inaccessible to children, such as attics.

In addition, manufacturers will be required to mark the new receptors as Tamper Resistant or with the letters TR.

Brown said the new receptacles will probably cost builders an extra $5 to $6 each, but Hinde said that would decrease to about 50 cents each in two or three months, once they are fully stocked in hardware outlets.

The CSA wrote its first version of the safety code in 1927 and the latest is the 21st edition.

Brown said about 260 volunteers from the manufacturing, consumer, regulatory and academic sectors formed the working committee, which formulated the changes.

About half the amendments addressed new product safety issues, while the remainder concerned administrative and technological issues.

Hinde said B.C. sent eight representatives and while that number may seem small, Hinde said five of them served on the main administrative committee, including chair Ark Tsisserev, Vancouver’s chief electrical inspector.

Because of rapid advances in technology, the CSA adopted a three-year cycle for review instead of every four years, bringing it more into line with its U.S. counterpart, the American National Electrical Code.

There isn’t a federal electrical safety code encompassing all provinces, territories and the four municipalities, which hold separate charters allowing them to make their own regulations.

Brown admitted that there isn’t an appetite for a national code at this time.

Hinde said the stated goal in B.C. is to harmonize the code to the point where no amendments are needed.

Not all provisions in its code apply to every jurisdiction.

As an example, under CSA rules, block heater outdoor outlets are required to withstand temperatures up to -40 degrees Celsius.

While that would suffice almost every region of Canada, it would not be enough for the Northwest Territories.

He said that approximately 95 per cent of the CSA’s 700-page, 43-section safety code is adopted across the country.

The CSA regulations now cover such things as electrically-connected carbon monoxide alarms in new homes and new grounding requirements for swimming pools.

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