Safety Code Book

Episode 6: Electrical Safety Code Changes

Safety Code Book

Episode 6: Electrical Safety Code Changes

Understanding Changes to the Ontario Electrical Safety Code with Nansy Hanna

Nansy Hanna, Senior Director of Engineering and Regulations, explains the main changes in the upcoming Code and how licensed electrical contractors should prepare.

A new edition of Ontario Electrical Safety Code is going to be enforced on May 5th. The Code is updated to reflect changes to requirements related to many areas – from guidance on new technology to climate change.

Senior Director of Engineering and Regulations Nansy Hanna said keeping up with the Code’s changes is necessary for all licensed electrical contractors and others working in the electrical industries, such as designers and engineers.

“Safety is paramount. The people who use electricity, they flip the switch and the light turns on and they take it for granted that it’s safe,” she said. “But, the people who are doing installation – you, the LECs, and us who are involved with inspection and Code development – we do not take it for granted. We work very diligently to make sure all installations are safe.”

In this episode, Josie Erzetic chats with Nansy Hanna, who highlights the important changes to the Code and how licensed electrical contractors should prepare. Hanna talks through changes relating to electric storage systems, powerline safety and worker safety.

One of the new Code rules will require all outdoor receptacles located within 2 meters above finished grade to be protected by a ground fault circuit interrupter, or GFCI. Right now, it’s only required for residential buildings, but the updated Code would apply that rule to all types of installation including commercial buildings. 

“If someone is hanging lights for the holidays, if they are plugging in inflatables, if you are using tools outside, this new requirement will ensure safety for the worker and the people interacting with the installations,” Hanna said.

Another Code update will aim to address an all-too-common tragedy: barn fires. There are eighty barns fires a year, and some fires claim the lives of livestock living in farms, which can be devastating to farmers. A new series of Code rules within Section 22 will ensure farms housing livestock will be designed to account for the wet and corrosive environments in these buildings.

“There are some requirements now, but they are not as clear and definitive,” she said. “This requirement will be more emphasized.”

Powerline and worker safety 

The new Code will also address concerns of powerline safety. Hanna touches on two incidents where two lives were lost due to structures being erected too close to existing customer owned powerlines. The Code has been updated to stop this safety issue from recurring. 

“They were very sad incidents, but we realized there was a gap that there are no rules to stop putting structures underneath or in close proximity to customer-owned powerlines. So this change will prohibit that and raise awareness for this issue,” Hanna said.

One last major change that Hanna highlighted was a shift in Code surrounding ‘e-houses’, or manufactured structures that house electrical equipment. The Code requires e-houses that contain transfer equipment to have one receptacle that uses an alternate power supply.

Hanna said it will work to ensure that workers can safely get power in these structures.

“There was an incident where a young apprentice defeated the transfer equipment to be able to get power for his tools, and that was an unfortunate fatality,” she said.

Climate change and energy storage systems

The Code will be updated to deal with our changing environment in many ways. One is by addressing the impact of climate change on electrical systems. 

“Everyone has been noticing the impact of climate change,” Hanna said. “And there was a task force set up under CSA to look at impacts and review all standards.”

The task force resulted in several changes to the Code. Definitions for ‘flood hazard zones’ and ‘flood elevation’ were added to the Code – helping to guide LECs in these areas. If you complete an installation in a flood hazard zone and that is below flood elevation, branch circuits need to be protected by ground force circuit interrupters. In addition, LECs need to ensure receptacles for sump pumps are installed above flood elevation.

Finally, new Code sections have been added to keep up with new technologies.  An entire Code subsection will be dedicated to address the increased number of installations of energy storage systems (ESS). It will give guidance on everything from marking to disconnecting means to where ESS can be located.

“We are working on a bulletin with our stakeholders to ensure that all questions are being answered…and that this new technology is being installed in a safe manner,” she said.

Hanna said the changes to this year’s Code is a reminder that safety guidelines need to evolve and adjust to reflect the ever-changing world.

“Although the Code is a technical document, it’s not disconnected from the environment and what’s happening around us,” she said. “It reflects what’s changing around us.”

The Code changes take effect May 5. So, any notifications or plan submissions made prior to that date will still adhere to the current version of the Code rather than the updated version.

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Content Related to this Episode

ESA Webpage 

Government of Ontario

Frequently Asked Questions

PDF Booklet

ESA’s knowledgebase on the OESC

Issues of ESA’s quarterly newsletter

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