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No shortcuts to electrical safety

Licensing requirements are in place to help protect consumers
Monday, October 1, 2018
By Zandile Chiwanza

On April 5, 2014 faulty electrical work by Pro-Teck Electric, a former electrical contractor business in Niagara Falls, Ont., left an elderly man dead. Following an investigation by the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) it was found that the floor system’s heat sensor had not been installed and the heating system was wired to an incorrect voltage level. The defendant pleaded guilty to multiple charges and was fined $537,500.

This is the largest fine in the history of electrical contractor licensing in Ontario.

Over the course of the trial and sentence hearing, the defendant tried to shield himself from the fines by transferring the corporation’s assets into a newly created corporation. Normand Breton, registrar and director of contractor licensing at ESA said the recent successful appeal to recover fines from the owner sends a strong message that an individual can be held personally liable for fines imposed against a corporation and prosecution cannot be dodged in this way.

Fines are just one of the potential penalties for someone who’s doing electrical work unsafely or illegally. The courts have also given out jail time. When hiring someone to conduct electrical work, businesses are reminded to take the following steps.

Get informed

“As it relates to the facility industry, owners and management should know what the law says so they can follow it for their own protection as well as the protection of the people that may be working or living in that facility,” Breton said. “If something does go wrong there’s a lot of risks associated with that.”

Contractors arriving at a work site are obligated to have a permit in order to do the work. They should display their license numbers on their trucks, quotations and business cards, making them easily identifiable.

When the work is complete it should be subject to inspection. Facility managers have the right to ask for or a certificate of inspection.

The underground economy

Breton warns that the ESA takes the “underground economy very seriously” and pursues charges against people who are undertaking work without a license.

“Often the work [done] is unsafe and there are consumer protection issues to consider,” he said.

Facility managers should also ensure that it the holder of the valid electrical contractor licence who undertakes the work, not an unaccredited employee or subcontractor.

“If a facility manager is having trouble locating a contractor in his area, ESA does have a lookup tool on its website,” Breton added.

You can also use this lookup tool to look up a contractor by licence number.

Meeting all safety standards

Facility managers will also need to comply with insurance and WSIB requirements and other regulations under Ontario’s Occupational Health and Safety Act.

“Be aware of all the regulations, beyond just contractor ones,” Breton advised. “All of these things are part of our process so that a facility manager ensures he’s hired the right professional and done the job correctly.”

Zandile Chiwanza is the online editor of Facility Cleaning and Maintenance

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