Episode 9: Top 10 Defects (Part 1)


Episode 9: Top 10 Defects (Part 1)

Top Ten Most Common Defects (Part 1) with Trevor Tremblay

Trevor Tremblay, technical advisor at ESA, takes us through the top five most common defects – and how Licensed Electrical Contractors can be prepared to avoid them in their work

In 2021, the Electrical Safety Authority identified more than 143,000 reports of defects. That’s why Trevor Tremblay, technical advisor at ESA, takes us through the top ten most common defects that we found in the last 12 months  Trevor also reminds listeners on the requirement in the Ontario Electrical Safety Code (OESC) to report serious electrical incidents within 48 hours.

“We use this information mostly to deal with trends which are published annually in the Ontario Electrical Safety Report,” he said. “Seeing where people are getting hurt so we can more effectively protect the people of Ontario.”

In this episode, host Karen Ras sits down with Trevor to break down how Licensed Electrical Contractors (LECs) can avoid these defects and remain consistently compliant with the Ontario Electrical Safety Code. In part one of this two part series, they talk about arc fault circuit interrupters and how to streamline the inspection process.

1. Arc fault circuit interrupters (AFCIs)

For the last couple years, the most consistent defect written is regarding AFCI requirements for branch circuits. The biggest misunderstanding usually comes from what exemptions are permitted.

There are only four exemptions to AFCI requirements: kitchen countertops, a fridge in a kitchen, a sump pump, and a receptacle that’s required to be one meter from a sink in a bathroom. 

Many defects come from receptacles being installed for fridges in other areas of the dwelling like utility rooms. It’s important to keep in mind that if a fridge isn’t in a kitchen, it isn’t AFCI exempt. 

“We are seeing many creative ways of trying to say things are kitchens,” Tremblay said. “A lot of times many people are putting things in their basement – a countertop with a fridge and sink – and they’re assuming that’s what they call a kitchen.”

But, that’s not the case. The ESA only considers the space a kitchen if it has all the electrical requirements that are typically found in the room: a countertop receptacles, a range receptacle, and a dedicated fridge receptacle.

“It’s very hard to tell, so please consult with your inspector to make sure that you’re not thinking it’s exempt when it might not be,” Tremblay said. 

2. Ground fault circuit interrupters (GFCIs)

GFCIs are another common area where LECs may run into trouble from time to time. Whereas outdoor receptacles only used to need to meet GFCI requirements in residential dwellings, now  that’s been expanded to all outdoor spaces.

The general rule: GFCI everything outdoors up to 2.5 meters.

Tremblay said that should make things a little easier for LECs, but that there still may be a few complicated areas  – like for parking lot receptacles.

“When you’re planning it out, you may not want to have two block heaters on one receptacle,” Tremblay said. “The block heaters may cause some tripping due to some leakage so you may have to plan it out a little bit better and have one receptacle per one block heater.”

Another important thing to remember is that 2.5 meters starts from grade. So, if you have a balcony, it doesn’t start from where that structure ends, but rather from the ground level. 

3. Access 

Access can be a touchy subject for LECs and inspectors alike. Inspectors need to be able to get in and give the okay before anything can be energized.

Tremblay said it can be difficult to work around the schedules of homeowners. But he said, it’s just something that LECs and inspectors need to learn to deal with.

“It’s very hard and something that we’re working very hard to make it easier for the contractors and for the inspectors,” Tremblay said.

However, it’s very important electrical work is not energized until it has been reviewed by an ESA inspector.

4. Work Descriptions

In 2020, the ESA launched risk based oversight (RBO) which allows the organization to focus on complex and higher risk installations. 

But, sometimes, vague work descriptions can hamper the work. For example, at bigger locations – like a hospital – it’s important to make sure there are sufficient details to direct the inspector. If a notification simply reads ‘three receptacles’ with an address, then it may make it difficult to find in a larger space.

“It makes it very hard for the inspector and for the people who work there to direct you to the right location,” Tremblay said. “Sometimes people are busy so you can’t get a hold of your contact person. So just be very clear on where the work is being done.”

5. Complete panel directory 

The more specific a panel directory is, the easier it will be for an LEC or an inspector. In the past it may just read ‘receptacle’ or ‘lights’, but now it’s encouraged to include more specifics about the room or area of the house.

“We don’t want it to be just very generic,” Tremblay said. “Just to make it easier for people to identify stuff because we want to encourage people to turn off power before we use it.”

During renovations, panels are often full and transitioned to mini-breakers. But, when these go unlabelled, it adds a lot more time, effort, and often frustration for the next person who’s coming to work on it.

“It’s very frustrating and you want to make sure for safety purposes that it’s identified right,” he said. “And it goes not just for panels, but it’s for switchgear, MCCs, everything.”

If you want more information on common defects, it’s available on the ESA’s website. Listen to the full episode to hear more recommendations from Tremblay on how to avoid common defects, and keep your eyes and ears open for Part 2 of this series for the remaining five defects.

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Content Related to this Episode

The Ontario Electrical Safety Report shares the rate of electricity safety incidents in the province. We have issued this report every year since 2001.

Help out the industry by reporting equipment that seems to be causing the issue. ESA is working with Electro Federation Canada (EFC) to alert the manufacturers when their equipment is involved.

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