Episode 9: Top 10 Defects (Part 1) transcript

Trevor Tremblay: We are aware there is some nuisance tripping, and we want to try and solve that. If the contractors aren't filling this out, we can't really impact change because if there's not a great enough number of these things happening and reported, we won't be able to change things. So we really need your help.

Karen Ras: Did you know that in 2021, ESA inspectors wrote over 143,000 defects? That's why we've dedicated two episodes to discuss the most common ones so that you can use the information to be consistently compliant. This is part one of two on the Top 10 Defects. Grounded in Ontario is a podcast for you. The provinces licensed electrical contractors, master and certified electricians, and offers safety tips, tech, and best practices. Now, let's get grounded. Hello and welcome to another episode of Grounded at Ontario. I'm Karen Ras and I work for the electrical safety authority. We have a special two part series for you on the top 10 defects that our inspectors commonly see when conducting site inspections. I'm happy to welcome back Trevor Trembley, technical advisor at ESA who is going to take us through the list. Trevor, it's nice to have you on the show again. How are you today?

Trevor Tremblay: I'm doing very well. Thank you. How are you?

Karen Ras: Great, thank you. It's a beautiful sunny day. Now, before we get into the first five defects in this episode, can you remind our listeners of how we get information on defects?

Trevor Tremblay: Throughout our inspection process, we record everything we find in the form of defects, postponement warnings, that sort of thing. And the contractor gets these notices typically same day or the next day. So we record these in our database so we can use for a future date. Defect ratios for contractors, trends in the industry, what's working, what's not, maybe we have to change things. And we also have a database for electrical incidents, which is a requirement to report to ESA under rule 2007.

Karen Ras: And we collect that information that feeds into our Ontario Electrical Safety Report, correct?

Trevor Tremblay: Yes. We use this information mostly to deal with trends, seeing where people are getting hurt so we can target our resources to more effectively protect the people of Ontario.

Karen Ras: And we'll make sure that we post a link to the latest OESR report on the podcast page. Now, I understand that the defect list you're going to take us through is in no particular order. What would you like to bring up first?

Trevor Tremblay: One of the most popular defects that we have every time we'd run this report, it comes up as number one consistently for the last probably couple years is AFCI requirements for branch circuits. This has been expanded over the years, started in bedrooms, and now it's pretty much to any general purpose receptacle in the house. There's only really four exemptions, four AFCI requirements, which is your kitchen countertops, your fridge in a kitchen, your sump pump, and your receptacle that's required to be one meter from the sink in the bathroom. A lot of defects do come from kitchen or receptacles that people deem for fridges. If it's not in the kitchen, it's not AFCI exempt. So if you put a receptacle say in your laundry room for a fridge, it still has to be on an AFCI.

Karen Ras: Now we're not seeing the usual or typical kitchens any longer. Sometimes you have a prep kitchen. People are adding kitchens to their basement. Sometimes there's a question about whether or not those types of installations fit the definition of a kitchen. Can you provide clarity around that aspect?

Trevor Tremblay: We're seeing many creative ways of trying to say things are kitchens. A lot of times now people are putting things in their basement, like a countertop with a fridge, that sort of thing, and a sink. They're assuming that's what they call a kitchen. So for us, we really require all the electrical requirements if you're going to call it a kitchen. So you need your countertop receptacles, your range receptacle, your dedicated fridge, receptacle, or circuit.

And that would be the only way you actually get to be exempt from the AFCI requirements. If it actually meets all those requirements for a kitchen, and you should have food prep areas, sink, that sort of thing. It's very hard to tell because it's especially at the rough end stages. So please consult with your inspector to make sure that you're not running just a dedicated circuit or thinking it's exempt when it might not be.

Karen Ras: And I remember you talked about nuisance tripping and AFCIs and GFCIs on the third episode of the Grounded in Ontario podcast. And listeners can go back to check that out time for a refresher. Trevor, can you remind our listeners about filing an AFCI product assistance report?

Trevor Tremblay: Yes, so on our website, if you just went there and typed in AFCI, our nuisance type thing, it'll bring up a report form, which would send you to the Electoral Federation website. And what it does is actually identifies the brand of breaker and the piece of equipment that's tripping it. And they'll send that to the manufacturer of the breaker and they'll try and solve the problem. And we really need that information because without it, there's no way things can change to get better, because we are aware there is some nuisance stripping and we want to try and solve that. If the contractors aren't filling this out, we can't really impact change because if there's not a great enough number of these things happening and reported, we won't be able to change things. So we really need your help to make sure these things are reported.

Karen Ras: Okay, good to know. Regarding defects, is there anything about GFCIs?

Trevor Tremblay: GFCIs are also a very common defect in our top 10 defect list. There's requirements for GFCI’s outdoors. In the current code version, the outdoor receptacles only had to be GFCI in residential and dwellings. Now it's been expanded to everywhere. Our receptacles installed outdoors up to 2.5 meters. So it's going to make it easier for contractors essentially now it's just GFCI everything outdoors up to 2.5 meters. It could cause a few issues say for parking lot receptacles, because now they have to be GFCI protected.

When you're planning it out, you might not want to have two block heaters on one receptacle because the block heaters may cause some tripping due to some leakage. So you might have to plan it out a little better and have one receptacle per block heater type thing. And the nice thing is it's up to 2.5 meters and that's from grade. So essentially, if you have a balcony over 2.5 meters, the grade doesn't start at the balcony height, it starts still from grade outside so-

Karen Ras: From the ground level.

Trevor Tremblay: Yeah.

Karen Ras: And what about those newer bathroom designs? I know I would love a shower that takes up the entire room, but how is the code related to the GFCIs in this instance?

Trevor Tremblay: This is a tricky one. We're seeing very interesting styles. Now, like you said, the whole shower is the room, the sink is in the shower. So how do we put a receptacle when you can't have a receptacle within one meter from the bath or a shower stall? So those ones we're going to deal with on a case by case basis because there's no real clear cut answer.

Karen Ras: And I know we all wish situations were clear cut, but they aren't. So we all have to adjust and I know trends like these are one of the reasons why we update the code every three years so we can address the safety concerns of new designs, products and even changing weather conditions. So what is next on our defect list?

Trevor Tremblay: The next one too, it's probably a touchy subject for contractors and inspectors is access. We have to get in. You can't conceal the wiring. So a lot of times you may schedule an inspection. The homeowner might step out, we get there, there's no one home. It's one of those things we have to deal with. And again, nothing can be energized until we look at it or give your permission to energize. So again, it's very hard. Something that we're working very hard trying to make sure the contractors make it a little easier for them, make it easier for the inspectors.

Karen Ras: And I know that we're trying to do some work with our municipal partners as well to make sure there's a more seamless process we can get in at the appropriate time. But there's also an awareness issue I'm sure. Now, and in 2020 we launched risk based oversight, which allows ESA to shift efforts to focus more on higher risk installations and safety activities. I understand there are a handful of defects that RBO can help with. I'm just wondering if you can elaborate on that.

Trevor Tremblay: Under RBO, essentially, we are trying to see more complex installations, so just be very accurate on your description of the work. So when it gets into our database, a computer automatically comes up with a risk level, and we'll try and spend more time going to those more complex situations. And again, not go to some of the low risk areas, which also helps you in scheduling. So under RBO, there are more options now for scheduling, and you can also be on some of our pre-auth connection orders, some of our programs for generators and pools, that sort of thing.

Karen Ras: And you were telling me about a recent example about a hospital. One of our inspectors had to go to a hospital. I'm just wondering if you could share that with our listeners.

Trevor Tremblay: Yes. So it's really hard sometimes when you go to a building and it's huge. So when you get a notification saying three receptacles and an address, you show up at it and it turns out to be a pretty huge building like a hospital, and you walk into the front and say, "I'm here to see three receptacles." It makes it very hard for the inspector or the people working there to actually direct you in the right location. 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, especially if it's in a building like a hospital and that sort of thing. Makes it a lot easier on everyone.

Karen Ras: Well, those are definitely good reminders. I know time is money, but certainly not at the expense of safety. So the more details that the LECs and homeowners can provide, certainly the better. Now, that tally's up to four that we've gone through so far in the list. This last one is one that every electrical professional and homeowner can relate to. I'm just wondering if you can share with the audience defect number five.

Trevor Tremblay: Number five is complete panel directory. In the past, we would always accept maybe receptacles lights. Now we have to be more specific. We want to know what kind of rooms, receptacles in the Northwest corner of the house, main floor. We don't want it to be just very generic just to make it easier for people identifying stuff, because we want to encourage people to turn off the power before we use it. Every time there's a renovation, sometimes panels are full with the full size breaker, so they switch to minis. So then all of a sudden the whole panel of directory gets changed and people, a lot of times, don't mark their panel and update it. So it makes it very frustrating for the next person going to work on it.

Because I've been there, I've been sitting with two people, one upstairs, one downstairs, and you start the first breaker. You click it off and they're like no, click the cycle one, no. Third one, no. Fourth one, no. It's usually one of the last ones they go, "Yeah." It's very frustrating. And you want to make sure for safety purposes that it's identified and it goes not just for panels, it's switch gear, everything, MCCs. When I was in the trade, there was a time where I guess something was marked incorrectly. So they did turn it off. They said, "Okay, we're turning this cubicle off." It was high voltage. And this was before the proximity tester sat on off switches.

So when they opened up the high voltage cubicle, they opened the door and they started walking towards it. The third guy in the line, actually his proximity tester started ringing. So he said, "Whoa, whoa, let's stop here." So they actually went into the wrong cubicle because it was marked wrong. So that's lucky. They would've been today, he might not have had that proximity tester, and someone could have got seriously hurt or killed.

Karen Ras: I think that is a good lesson for everybody. Now, proximity testers, is that something that every electrician should be using or is that mainly for high voltage only?

Trevor Tremblay: Most electricians carry them or should. They're a tool. I wouldn't fully trust them for the absence of voltage, but it's a good tool just to say, "Okay. Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah." But always confirm afterwards before you work on anything with a multimeter on a known source.

Karen Ras: Okay. Well Trevor, I really appreciate you taking us through these defects and important reminders for our listeners. Thank you so much, but be sure to check out part two of this episode, and we'll be going through equipment specifications and more. But before we close, I do want to ask you one last question submitted by a listener, Mike, from Sudbury, he wrote, "With the changes in the new code, do we require a multi cable staple for wood studs when running an NMD90 on the side of the stud."

Trevor Tremblay: With the recent code changes, it's going to be a little harder to run your wire because of this rule, because it's like he said, it has to be 32 millimeters from the front of the stud, which a surface covering can be put on so they can put it to the back of the stud if it's against the outside wall where no one's going to put a surface covering so they can either move it to the back. If they have to run in the middle, they can use those standoffs or there's actually protection plates that are made specifically for protecting the cable running alongside the stud. I do agree with the rule because it's doing a little bit of drywall in my own home. I don't always hit the stud. So sometimes if you run your cable too close to the front, there's a good possibility you might hit one and not even know it.

Karen Ras: That's good information. And for those of you who are interested, check out our previous podcasts at And please continue to send in any questions you have, and we will be tackling them on a future episode.

Thanks for listening to Grounded in Ontario. If you have any questions on this topic or any other electrical safety topic we want to hear from you. Email us at We plan to answer some frequently asked questions in future episodes. Make sure you follow this podcast wherever you get your audio content so that you'll get notified about new episodes. 

Until next time, be safe, work safe, and stay grounded.