Electrical Panel Inspections - Here we go!

OntarioACHI recently had a call from an inspector that was threatened with reporting to the ESA for opening an electrical panel to perform a visual inspection.

We contacted the Ministry of Government and Consumer Services (MGCS), for comment on how, given the fact that our profession is being regulated to protect consumers, then can condone the omission, by a suitably trained inspector following safe practices, of a critical component for consumer safety from a Home Inspection.

We asked how this could even be considered when the laws allow for a non-trained Home Owner consumer to not only open a panel but to actually change fuses and breakers.

The contact at the MGCS came back and said *"Under the Licensing of Electrical Contractors and Master Electricians regulation, only certain individuals, such as a homeowner or a licensed electrical contractor are legally allowed to do electrical work in a home that falls within the scope of the Ontario Electrical Safety Code. *Interacting with electrical equipment (e.g, removing a panel cover) could create a safety hazard. If electrical hazards are left at a home, this would be a concern for the ESA."

I responded suggesting that this reply created yet more questions.

I responded that while the comment that suggested “with electrical equipment (e.g,removing a panel cover) could create a safety hazard.” may have some truth in it “a safety hazard could already exist behind that panel cover.”

I went on to explain:
"Frequently Home Inspectors that do open these panels and find things including:* * dangerously tapped breakers and neutral buses;** * burnt connections;** * undersized wiring for the breakers/fuses;** * incorrectly wired GFCI and AFCIs;** * incorrect marrets (twist-on wire connectors) for pig-tails;** * white conductors used for “hot wires” without the requisite red/black tape or marking.*Failure to remove the consumer distribution panel front, by a suitably trained and protected Home Inspector, to visually inspect (and photograph) the condition of the interior of the panel, creates far more of a risk to consumers."
The second part of the MGCS reply added implications for Home Inspectors and their ability to protect the consumer is the “Electrical Equipment” phrase.

According to the Ontario Electrical Safety Code, “Electrical equipment” is defined as “any apparatus, appliance, device, instrument, fitting, fixture, luminaire, machinery, material, or thing used in or for, or capable of being used in or for, the generation, transformation, transmission, distribution, supply, or utilization of electric power or energy, and, without restricting the generality of the foregoing, includes any assemblage or combination of materials or things that is used, or is capable of being used or adapted, to serve or perform any particular purpose or function when connected to an electrical installation, notwithstanding that any of such materials or things may be mechanical, metallic, or non-electric in origin.”

That being the case, and if opening a panel to visibly inspect the interior is considered “working” on the equipment, Home Inspectors would be similarly not allowed to open the inspection panels on a number of other items in the home, one in particular, being an HVAC furnace, the HVAC disconnect cover, the main fused disconnect (to identify the fuse ratings on the main feed).

I explained this seemed to be in opposition to the CSA A770-16 requirement that a Home Inspector, as part of the Electrical System Inspection, inspect

  • “The electrical service, main disconnect, and earth grounding system shall be inspected. The inspection shall include, but not be limited to, an examination for a) improper location of equipment; b) inadequate service capacity; and c) safety issues.” (Section 5.7.1) and
  • Distribution panels shall be inspected. The inspection shall include, but not be limited to, an examination for a) improper location of equipment; and b) safety issues (Section 5.7.2) and
  • Distribution wiring and circuitry shall be inspected. The inspection shall include, but not be limited to, an examination for safety issues, including improper wire type (Section 5.7.3) and
  • Lighting, switches, receptacles, and junction boxes, including in each room, attached garage, and the exterior, shall be inspected. The inspection shall include, but not be limited to, an examination for a) improper location; b) improper function; c) the absence of necessary equipment; d) non-functional lighting, ceiling fans, and switches; e) inappropriate switch locations; and f) safety issues. (section 5.7.4).

The response to this was that the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) had been contacted and they will provide a written response. That was last week.

Since then, we received an email from one of our members who copied me on a reply to another person who had obviously been asking the same question directly of the ESA. The response from the ESA was “The questions the home inspector industry have raised has precipitated a great deal of discussion within ESA… As a result, ESA will be providing regulatory direction as to what constitutes “electrical work” in relation to specific activities that are undertaken by home inspectors in single family residential dwelling units in the near future. In the interim please consider the following information for the application of the Ontario Electrical Safety Code in relation to home inspection practices. I have also included information related to the CSA A770 Home Inspection Standard and considerations of the regulatory relationships that need to be understood by the home inspection industry.”

In the meantime, I leave you with what Robert Mitchell, Safety and Technical Program Advisor at the Electrical Safety Authority stated *“Home Inspection Regime and other jurisdictions - It is important to note that the Ministry of Labour and the Ontario College of Trades play an important role in defining the scope of work for trades and determining who may work on electrical equipment and under what conditions.**ESA recognizes that there may be a number of work practices and scope-of-work considerations of a home inspector that require further contemplation through the upcoming home inspection regime being created by Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. Determining how the upcoming home inspection regime will interact with existing legislation (i.e. ESA, OCOT and MOL jurisdiction) will provide additional clarity on how the ESA and home inspectors can work cooperatively to ensure the safety for the people of Ontario.”*It appears that regulation of the Home Inspection Profession in Ontario may be about to open up a can of worms that is going to take some time to sort out.

More as I get it.

Thanks you for posting this on the open forum so all are able to read this .

Great info Thanks for the post .

[FONT=Times New Roman]Subject: **Fwd: **[/FONT]

I wanted to follow up with you regarding your message, the questions the home inspector industry have raised has precipitated a great dealof discussion within ESA which has impacted the timeliness of my response. As aresult, ESA will be providing regulatory direction as to what constitutes“electrical work” in relation to specific activities that are undertaken by home inspectors in single family residential dwelling units in the near future.In the interim please consider the following information for the application of the Ontario Electrical Safety Code in relation to home inspection practices. I have also included information related to the CSA A770 Home Inspection Standardand considerations of the regulatory relationships that need to be understoodby the home inspection industry.

In addition to ESA’s response to the attached email I have also addressed issues raised by Bob Tellier in this matter as follows;

Rule 2-032 Damage and Interference

In accordance with the Ontario Electrical Safety Code Rule 2-032 (Damage and Interference), it may be interpreted that interacting with electrical equipment, in this exampleremoving a panel cover, could create an unsafe electrical condition.
Based on the OESC requirements, if a home inspector is opening a panel and interacting / interfering with the electrical equipment, it could createan electrical hazard. This would be of concern for ESA.

Please note the following from Rule 2-032 Damage andinterference:

  • Noperson shall damage or cause any damage to any electrical installation orelectrical equipment.
  • Noperson shall interfere with any electrical installation](http://javascript<b></b>:popup(‘ESA25ED00185’)) or electricalequipment in the course of alterations or repairs to non- electricalequipment](http://javascript<b></b>:popup(‘ESA25ED00184’)) or structures except where it is necessary to disconnector move components of an electrical installation, in which event itshall be the responsibility of the person carrying out the alterations orrepairs to ensure that the electrical installation is restored to asafe operating condition as soon as the progress of the alterations or repairs permits.

Rule 2-304 Disconnection

The requirements of the Ontario Electrical Safety Code provides for the protection of installations and persons under Rule 2-304 Disconnection which prohibits working on electrical equipment while it is energized unless it is not feasible.

2-304 Disconnection (seeAppendix B)

  • *No repairs or alterations shall be carried out on any live equipment except where complete disconnection of the equipment is not feasible. *
  • Three-wayor four-way switches shall not be considered as disconnecting means.
  • Adequate precautions, such as locks on circuit breakers or switches, warning notices,sentries, or other equally effective means, shall be taken to prevent electrical equipment from being electrically charged when work is being done.

Generally the benchmark for feasibility is difficult toachieve. The Appendix B note to Rule 2-304 provides some guidance in regards toactivities that may be undertaken on energized equipment as follows;

Examples of tasks that are notfeasible when electrical equipment has been completely disconnected aretroubleshooting of control circuits, testing, and diagnostics. It is intendedby this Rule that persons performing maintenance, adjustment, servicing, or examination of energized electrical equipment adhere to all applicable safework practices around the energized electrical equipment.

It also directs code users as follows:

See Section 0 for the definitionof Qualified person.
From Section 0: Qualifiedperson: one familiar with the construction and operation of the apparatus and the hazards involved.

And,

CSA Z462 provides assistancein determining severity of potential exposure, planning safe work practices,and selecting personal protective equipment (PPE) to protect against shock andarc flash hazards.

When the requirements of Rule 2-304 are considered incontext to the information provided by the Appendix B note and the definitionof a qualified person one should understand the interaction with electrical equipment represents a level of risk that should be considered in the planningof work. What needs to be understood prior to work planning is the qualification (competency) of the individual in their understanding of the evaluation of hazards present and the risk associated with those hazards which usually relies on evidence of some level of training and certification. To understand the level of risk one must consider the likelihood of an incident occurring and the severity of the event if an incident were to occur. The assessment of likelihood and severity requires an individual to have aknowledge of the electrical equipment and its associated system which includesconsideration of installation and maintenance practices, the characteristics of the system and if there are any evidence of potential failure.

The CSA A770 Home Inspection Standard

CSA Standard A770, Home Inspection, does not make considerations of work practices as it is a process standards and does not provide detailed practices for executing home inspections in regards to safety or qualification. The A770 Standard states that it is intended to be anon-invasive as identified in Clause 0.4 Home Inspections. The standard also does not limit the user to its exclusive use in the practice of home inspections.Clause 1.3 Exclusions also states that the standard does not address issuesrelated to competency, qualification or certification of individuals performing home inspections. What should be understood is that other standards and regulations must be referenced in determining qualifications and safe workapproaches when using the A770 Standard.

Home Inspection Regime and other jurisdictions

It is important to note that the Ministry of Labour and the Ontario College of Trades play an important role in defining the scope of work for trades and determining who may work on electrical equipment and under what conditions.

ESA recognizes that there may be a number of work practices and scope-of-work considerations of a home inspector that require further contemplation through the upcoming home inspection regime being created by Ministry of Government and Consumer Services. Determining how the upcoming home inspection regime will interact with existing legislation (i.e. ESA, OCOT and MOL jurisdiction) will provide additional clarity on how the ESA and home inspectors can work cooperatively to ensure the safety for the people of Ontario.

Please do not hesitate in contacting me if you require anyfurther information.

Regards,

RobertMitchell
Safetyand Technical Program Advisor
Electrical Safety Authority
155A Matheson Blvd. West, Mississauga, ON L5R 3L5
Tel: 905-712-7810| Cell: 905-745-0232
robert.mitchell@electricalsafety.on.ca
www.esasafe.com](http://www.esasafe.com/)

Interesting…

So, I’ve been doing inspections for +++ years. Except on a few very rare occasions have I heard of this, nor has this ever been an issue. Why now?

Licensed electricians and the ESA have known what we do all along.Even loud mouth I’m all about code, Mike Homes would have known… he knows everything, right? The rules quoted are not new. So, what’s this all about allof a sudden? Are home inspectors being hurt on site opening panels? Or, is the ESA more concerned because it conflicts with their NEW inspection services they are offering and the related $300+ per inspection revenue stream?

At the very least, they’ve acquiesced until this point.

What are other provinces facing? .

I not a registered electrician I dropped my Electrical license when I retired from the trade and became a Home inspector

I think you are getting close to the truth here Roy. I’m also concerned about the “College of Trades” reference. Double licensing coming up?

They’ve been arguing about this issue in BC for at least the last 10 years.
The issue isn’t about opening the panel but about shutting the power off before the panel cover is removed. As I understand it, WorkSafe BC’s position is that
home inspectors need to turn off the power before opening the panels. That raises several issues about shutting down running computers and tripping security alarms. The same rules apply to electricians. But that’s easy for them because on existing dwellings, the owner would be present. I have not heard of any home inspector being injured simply by virtue of removing the cover. There flashback stories but not generally on 240 V systems and certainly not with people who do not stick metal objects inside the panel.
I think it’s all about trade protectionism. The rules were written by electricians and for electricians and I’m sure they would like nothing more than to get a piece of the real estate transaction pie. Besides, how is it enforceable?

Just my take - it’s also about the interpretation of what constitutes “work”. Now I see the term “electrical work”, does that mean working in the panel, or basic residential panel cover removal that a handy homeowner could accomplish?

On another point what about those that have been trained to remove an electrical panel cover, or those certified “workers” under the Occupational Health & Safety Acts?

By the way Leonard, homeowners are allowed not to just change fuses or breakers but they are allowed without a permit thus no inspection on completed work to change the main panel itself ie a fuse panel to a breaker panel, provided it is not an upgrade of service.

You could have floored me when I called for a permit to change out my home 125 amp fuse panel to a 125 amp breaker panel and was told by esa no permit or inspection required. They were assigning me a time slot for meter disconnect and would reconnect when I called back or on scheduled time span. Go figure.

Bruce, it appears things have moved on since then. https://www.esasafe.com/consumers/home-buying-selling-and-renovating/do-it-yourself/
They say you can still do the work yourself, but if something goes wrong it’s on your head.
%between%

Did it 2 years ago just before I moved so it may be different now. Still I was shocked to find that some how that work anyone in the business would believe didn’t need a permit.

It has always been on the owners head when they do the work but no big deal if you get the work inspected. I put in the service where I moved to and no problems once it is inspected the inspectors stamp goes on the panel.

https://www.esasafe.com/consumers/permits-and-inspections/what-you-need-to-know

Returnto top](https://www.esasafe.com/consumers/permits-and-inspections/what-you-need-to-know#top)

****3. Take out a Permit/Application forInspection ****

Virtually all electrical work requires apermit from the Electrical Safety Authority. An electrical “permit” (alsocalled an Application for Inspection) needs to be taken out before or within 48hours of when the electrical work starts.

Permits must be taken out by the party who isdoing the work. As the homeowner, if you’re doing the electrical work, you needto take out the permit. If you’ve hired a Licensed Electrical Contractor to dothe work, they’re required to take out a permit, and they’ll also take care ofthe inspection process for you as well as calculate permit fees (see who is permitted to do electrical work in your home).Do not take out a permit on behalf of a contractor or anyone else.

Electrical permits are not the same as abuilding permit. If you have a building permit, it doesn’t mean you have anelectrical permit.

If you’re doing your own electrical work:
To confirm permit requirements and to get your permit, call 1-877-ESA-SAFE(372-7233). The fee for an electrical permit varies according to the type ofwork being done.

Learn more about permit fees here](https://www.esasafe.com/consumers/permits-and-inspections/fees)

There are [FONT=“Arial”]two ways that homeowners oroccupants* of a home can apply for a permit:[/FONT]

  1. Download](https://www.esasafe.com/consumers/permits-and-inspections/inspection-forms)the applicable Application for Inspection form.
  2. Contact our Customer Service Centre at 1-877-ESA-SAFE (372-7233) to speakwith a Customer Service Representative.

*An occupant is:

  • someone living in a residence or using premises, as a tenant or owner.

aperson who takes possession of property which has no known

This is an interesting conundrum, which is why we are discussing it with the MGCS, MoL and ESA. It looks as though we may also have to bring the OCOT into the discussions.

While the current Ontario Electrical Code states that it applies only to “Electrical Work” and neither that term, not the term “Work” is defined, the Occupational Health and Safety Act of Ontario, and the regulations under it state "
182. (1) No worker shall connect, maintain or modify electrical equipment or installations unless,
(a) the worker holds a certificate of qualification issued under the Ontario
College
of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009
, that is not suspended, in the trade of,
(i) electrician — construction and maintenance, or
(ii) electrician — domestic and rural, if the worker is performing work that is limited to the scope of practice for that trade; or
(b) the worker is otherwise permitted to connect, maintain or modify electrical equipment or installations under the Ontario College of Trades and Apprenticeship Act, 2009 or the Technical Standards and Safety Act, 2000. (O. Reg. 627/05, s. 4; O. Reg. 88/13, s. 2.)

The question here arises, is the physical act of opening and closing a panel considered “maintaining” or “modifying”?

If it can be proved than an inspector removed the screws in the panel, and did not put them back in the same place as before, one might assume there would be a very flimsy case for the second.

The argument I would put to the Ministry of Labour is, “If Home Inspectors are not considered able to open and close an electrical panel, then why is it, under the WSIB classification we are aligned with the Electrical Testing group”

This might appear to be a more than fair question that needs answering.