person reviewing maintenance plans

Returning Electrical Equipment to Service

As pandemic restrictions reduce and workplaces and facilities return to normal operations, it is important that electrical equipment and systems are assessed to ensure they have been maintained and are in safe and proper working condition. As equipment returns to service, the demands on the equipment’s performance will change. Changes in usage or duty cycle may initiate failure in the safety performance of electrical equipment and systems. For this reason, it is important that facility owners and operators consider the safety of the electrical equipment in their workplaces before it returns to normal service or operation. ESA is providing the following guidance for facility owners and operators as they plan to reopen their business.  

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Overview

The Ontario Electrical Safety Code (OESC) requires that all electrical equipment be kept in safe and proper working condition. The OESC also requires any equipment that is used infrequently be maintained for “future service” and evaluated prior to returning to normal operation. These requirements ensure the equipment does not represent a hazard to people or property. 

Pandemic restrictions have resulted in electrical equipment being out of normal operation for an extended period of time. During that time electrical and mechanical components of the equipment may have deteriorated as a result of disuse increasing the likelihood of failure. 

To avoid the risk of fire, shock and/or costly incidents, you must evaluate electrical equipment before returning it to service. 

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Installation and Maintenance Practices

To ensure the safety of people who install, maintain and operate electrical equipment, as well as the facilities where they are installed, owners and operators must follow the installation and maintenance practices below.

Installation

For facilities installing new or altering electrical equipment and systems, consider the following to ensure the compliance, safety and functionality of the system:

  • Only qualified licenced electrical contractors or competent employees must complete the installations, maintenance and repairs of electrical equipment and systems.
  • Altering or repairing electrical equipment may be an electrical installation (work) by definition in the OESC.
  • Notify ESA of the electrical installation (work).

Maintenance

When undertaking the maintenance and evaluation of electrical equipment and systems, consider the following:

  • Electrical equipment must be in safe and proper working condition. 
  • Qualified personnel with specialized test equipment may be required to verify the operation of the system.
  • Failure to maintain electrical systems and equipment will increase the risk of shock and fire hazards.
  • Damages to electrical equipment may not be visible.
  • Damaged or deteriorated electrical equipment may quickly develop into a fire or shock hazard. 
  • When breakers trip or alarms initiate, immediately contact qualified service personnel to investigate.

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Evaluation of Electrical Equipment

The evaluation of electrical equipment and systems can be complex and may require help from individuals with specialized skills. In many cases, the assessment will be relatively simple and may be performed by a person trained in the process of evaluation. 

The evaluation falls into two categories — condition and performance. The condition evaluation is usually a visual assessment of equipment intended to identify any deterioration or damage. Performance evaluations consists of operating and measuring the equipment to ensure it is in normal operating condition according to manufacture and design documentation.

Any deviation from manufacturing and design specifications represents a hazard. Any risk that might produce a fire or shock incident is not acceptable nor complaint with the OESC.

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Electrical Products

The evaluation of electrical products relates to approved cord-connected electrical utilization equipment or electrical consumer products which includes coffee makers, microwave ovens, photocopiers, etc. It may also include industrial utilization equipment and machinery that is a self-contained manufactured unit.

Deterioration due to disuse must be identified prior to returning the equipment to normal service. The following criteria may be used in the condition and performance assessment of electrical products.

Condition — identify issues through visual inspection:

  • Physical Damage
    • Cracked or damaged cords
    • Damaged cord caps (i.e. missing ground pins)
    • Broken switches or triggers
    • Cracked or damaged cases
    • Missing parts and/or components
  • Deterioration
    • Evidence of heat or melting
    • Excessive dirt or contaminants
    • Corrosion of parts
    • Evidence of moisture
    • Malfunctioning displays

Performance Inspection — assess the performance of equipment and systems:

  • Review manufacturer documentation and user manuals
  • Assess the operation of the equipment in a safe and controlled space
    • Ensure that the all safety provisions are in place and functioning
    • Confirm and operate all functions
      • Test and verify all functions are within designed parameters
      • Ensure equipment performs according to specification 

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Electrical Installations

The evaluation of electrical installations looks at electrical equipment and infrastructure permanently installed and attached to a facility or structure. This includes distribution equipment, such as panel boards, protective devices, raceways, wiring, and outlet devices, as well as permanently installed utilization equipment, such as heating appliances. All this equipment can deteriorate due to changes in use and/or duty cycle.

Condition — Provide criteria for identifying issues with a visual inspection:

  • Physical Damage
    • Cracked or damaged cables
    • Broken switches or receptacles
    • Damaged enclosures or fixtures
    • Missing parts and components (i.e. cover plates)
  • Deterioration
    • Evidence of heat (deteriorated or changed paint colour)
    • Excessive dirt or contaminants
    • Corrosion of parts
    • Evidence of moisture

Performance Inspection — Provide criteria for assessing performance of equipment after it has been reconnected to power.

  • Review the manufacturer documentation
  • Assess the operation of the equipment 
    • All functions operate in a safe space
    • Ensure all safety provisions are in place
    • Operate all functions of the equipment
  • Ensure equipment performs according to specification 

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Role of Business and Property Owners

Activities such as maintenance and evaluation ensure the safe and reliable operation of electrical equipment and systems. Facility owners and operators are responsible for controlling all fire and shock hazards identified in the workplace. 

Individuals responsible for the ongoing safety and reliability of electrical equipment in their businesses should follow these recommendations:

  • Ensure the safe and proper operation of electrical equipment and systems.
  • Maintain and document that the system is in safe and proper working condition.
  • Assess risk to ensure people and property are protected from electrical hazards.
  • Confirm any required work on electrical installation is done according to the requirements of the OESC and O Reg. 570/05 (Licensing of Electrical contractors and Master Electricians).

The OESC requires that a record of electrical installation work be kept for electrical equipment that would impact public safety. Facility owners and operators must document any evaluations and/or remedial work that has been done to ensure the equipment is in safe and reliable condition. This documentation provides the required due diligence for regulatory compliance, and ensures any electrical equipment that may impact public safety has been considered. 

Employees

Facility owners and operators must ensure the work of maintaining and evaluating electrical equipment and systems is done by qualified persons who have the ability to understand and control the hazards associated with electrical equipment. At a minimum, ESA suggests qualified persons have an awareness of the electrical equipment and installation, including:

  • An understanding that the maintenance and evaluation of electrical equipment may represent a fire and/or shock hazard.
  • The competency to safely complete the work without creating a risk of shock or fire, such as
    • Identifying hazards
    • Testing voltage
    • Determining a fault condition
  • The ability to use tools during maintenance and evaluation to identify faults in electrical equipment and systems that are a shock or fire hazard. 

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Role of Licensed Electrical Contractors

Licensed Electrical Contractors installing or maintaining electrical equipment and systems must mitigate all hazards and take appropriate measures to ensure the safety of people and property, such as:

  • Ensure that electrical work is planned and overseen by a Master Electrician.
  • Provide all required understanding to staff to ensure all shock and fire hazards are identified and mitigated during the installation and maintenance of electrical equipment.
  • Ensure all electrical equipment is approved according to the OESC and O Reg. 438/07 (Product Safety) and is used according to manufacturer and design specifications.
  • Provide notification of work to ESA.

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