ESA and MOL Inspectors Conversation Opening Panel Covers

So I went back to the regular job of building residential/commercial foundations for now because I am not quite making enough in the business to rely on it fulltime yet. But we are doing a couple custom homes in Toronto in the Islington and Chauncey area, and yesterday we recieved visits from both an Electrical Safety Authority Inspector and a Ministry of Labour Inspector at almost the exact same time.

I took advantage of this opputunity to ask about the controversial subject of us as Home Inspectors opening the cover of a live electrical panel and whether we would be at risk of fines. They were very nice and honest , they gave me their professional and personal opinions on the issue. They basicaly said that opening the cover of a LIVE electrical panel without the proper Protective Equipment would definately be a violation of both the Electrical Safety Act and the Occupational Health and Safety Act(if not just plain stupid).

They however did say that the likelyhood of an HI being fined for it would be slim to none because an ESA inspector is not likely to be in the residence during the course of the inspection and that a MOL inspector is only likely to become involved in the event that a Home Inspector wound up frying themselves in the panel and they were called in to investigate( then the fine is the least of your worries). They then asked why we just don’t turn off the Main Breaker prior to opening the cover to make it safe. I explained to them the issues with liability if something happens to the sellers home ( lost info on a computer, alarm systems,exotic aquariums, etc.). They both quickly advised me that there is no way that we could possibly be held liable for following the Mandated Legislation of the Electrical Safety Act and The Occupational Health and safety Act. The ESA Inspector said that how could they possibly hold us liable for something that would have occured in their home if there was a blackout or work done by the Hydro Company in their area, which would be the same as us turning off the main breaker in order to safely inspect the panel. I advised them that this is a common practice in the industry and that a lawyer or seller could argue that other inspectors do it this way and that I deviated from the standard practice of the industry. They quickly said that the Electrical Safety Act and Occupational Health and Safety Act overide any standard practice(especially when unsafe it is why this legislation was developed) and that you could not possibly be held liable for following GOVERNMENT REGULATIONS that we as business owners and workers are MANDATED to follow. They also stated that no lawyer worth their fee would dream of pursuing a case against you when you are required to follow Goverement Regulated Legislation as they would get wiped of the court room floor.

This post was a bit long but I think it is some info that many of you may be interested in, take from it as you wish. I do believe though that we need to re-evaluate why we open covers on live panels for the small fee that we receive.

Jerry,interesting comments,I agree that we should educate realtors that the main power to the house will be turned off for a few minutes while we look inside the panel,in reality this would be no different then if we had a power outage
Hopefully you will get back into the home inspection profession soon

Harry, I am still in it but in a part-time mode right now. It is fairly busy but just not quite to the point where I can make the fulltime jump yet.

Your guests referred to proper procedures. What are the proper procedures?
Is it simply for opening the main panel or do they have other procedures such and insulated gloves, etc?

When i was working in Ontario it require us to wear protective gear meaning Face shield, rubber gloves with leather outer gloves and a rubber mat , We even had a insulated bib to wear. I how ever felt it was a little extreme to remove a panel cover. We worked on a lot of switch gear though.

Vern, I wish I could advise you but it is the protective equipment as outlined in the Ontario regulations. But they both said forget the protective equipment simply turn off the main breaker and you should be fine. The regulations state that protective gear is required when the panel cannot be turned off for whatever reason but if it can be turned off then that is the preferred practice.

By turning the main breaker off, me will be in the dark!

Me think, I better get a head band light…

Thanks for the info Jerry and keep busy!

So far as I know there are no regulations for HI’s in Alberta. There was a major up roar 20 to 30 years ago because the power company in Edmonton forbid anyone except licenced electrcians licenced by the power company to touch any electrical stuff. In fact back in the 50’s and 60’ they did not even install main breakers to prevent the home owner doing any wiring or add new circuits. When the dust settled after the up roar Home owners living in the house could do their own wiring as long as they got a permitand had the work inspected.