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ELECTRICAL CODES AND STANDARDS FOR SAFETY

We have all used appliances in our kitchens or changed fuses in our basement electrical panels and noticed the C.S.A. or U.L.C. Certification stickers present on the various components. These stickers, markings, or stampings are there to indicate that the appliance or device has been designed, manufactured and tested to comply with relevant Codes and Standards.

All electrical installations and appliances in Canada are subject to a number of regulatory Codes and Standards. These various documents set forward minimal requirements for safe and useful installations and devices to eliminate or minimize shock, fire and failure hazards. Current Codes and Standards have been developed over time with complete and solid backgrounds to support their various requirements and tests.

All electrical wiring installations, whether in a home, a factory or a farm, are covered by the Canadian Standards Association (CSA) Canadian Electrical Code C22.1 and the corresponding provincial Codes in Ontario. The "Code", as it is usually referred to, outlines appropriate wiring methods, fixtures and wiring protection measures in addition to many other points in its 600+ pages.

If a loss has occurred due to an electrical wiring fault or failure, it is very important to have a qualified expert inspect the damaged system to verify the failure, to interpret the Code to see if the affected part was properly installed, and to offer an opinion as to whether any "non-compliance" caused or contributed to the loss. This additional investigation is necessary because not every non-compliant installation causes a problem. It is actually quite unusual to see any building, either old or new, that has been built and wired in 100% compliance with Code. Sometimes carelessness, unnoticed damage, and even outright negligence can result in non-compliant wiring that is missed when the inspector does his/her review (if an inspector was even advised of the installation!). Walters is currently involved with a case where a fire occurred in a new home shortly after some insulation work was done in the attic. Investigation found that the fire occurred as a result of a cable. However, the wiring installation was not up to Code and the fact that the cable was not properly protected or positioned permitted it to be easily damaged. Had the cabling been installed as per Code, there would have been no realistic possibility of the cable being damaged and of the fire occurring. The wiring installer/builder has been put on notice and actions are proceeding.

Separate electrical components and devices, ranging from the cable used in the previous example, to a toaster oven, to a CANDU nuclear reactor, must also comply with more specific Standards issued by organizations such as CSA and Underwriters Laboratory Canada (ULC).

These standards that put forward minimal performance and safety requirements for devices also outline very specific testing procedures for certification of the devices. For example, Standard CSA C22.2 No. 64 for Household Cooking and Liquid Heating Appliances sets forth requirements and tests for appliances ranging from coffee machines to deep fryers. This Standard was improved in 1991 to address numerous fire related failures of coffee makers manufactured in the late 1980’s. Standard CSA C22.2 No. 218.1 for Hot Tubs and Spas is very specific not only on the operational electrical safety of units but also on the safe control of the water temperature when in use. Walters personnel investigated an incident where a person suffered severe burns as a result of a spa’s water being too hot. Reference to this Standard found that the tub did not have the necessary temperature shut-off controls which permitted the water to overheat.

As with wiring failures, any failures relating to an electrical appliance should be properly investigated by a qualified expert and referenced to the applicable Standard(s) to determine if there were any deficiencies in design or manufacture that caused the failure and loss.

Deficiencies do occur in approved / certified appliances on a regular basis. Manufacturers are usually required to submit only a few prototype or sample units for testing in order to get "certified" for sale. Even the smallest design changes or a minor lapse in manufacturing quality control can cause a previously tested and certified appliance to become a hazard.

A fairly large recall of speciality electrical cordsets was recently undertaken (with Walters Forensic Engineering involvement) when a lapse in quality control at a subcontractor’s plant caused one of three wires in the cord to be "misplaced" by only 1.0 mm. This "minor" error made the previously tested and approved cordsets unsafe and caused at least two houses fires.

Walters Forensic Engineering personnel have been qualified as expert witnesses in electrical failures and fires in both civil and criminal legal proceedings.

 
The information contained in this web site is intended for marketing purposes only. It is not all-inclusive, and does not fully describe the many and varied services that the company provides, nor does it completely describe the education, training, skills, or expertise of our staff.

 
 
 

Walters Forensic Engineering | 277 Wellington Street West, Suite 800 | Toronto, ON M5V 3H2
Information contact: engineering@waltersforensic.com