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Electricians concerned about non-trade certified work

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by Jessica Krippendorf

The Electrical Contractors Association of B.C. (ECABC) are expressing concern about non-trade certified electricians being permitted to perform maintenance and repair work on specific electrical systems.

The Electrical Contractors Association of B.C. (ECABC) are expressing concern about non-trade certified electricians being permitted to perform maintenance and repair work on specific electrical systems.

“The notion that this exercise is all about public safety is at best a red herring, taking the focus away from increased worker risk,” said Deborah Cahill, president of the ECABC.

“Certification of restricted licenses for electrical work under this agreement will, in our view, authorize workers who do not have the proper training and experience required to perform electrical work safely.”

The BC Safety Authority (BCSA) recently approved an application for a Recognition of Training for Limited Scope Electrical Workers submitted by the Applied Science Technologists and Technicians of B.C. (ASTTBC).

Recognition is subject to the verification of suitable training diplomas from recognized training institutions and continual oversight of performance by the BCSA.

Stephen Hinde, provincial safety manager for the safety authority, said contractors and operating permit holders will now have better tools to determine who is qualified to perform limited scope work.

“As well, recognition of these workers will drive better compliance to current requirements and will drive continuous improvement in the skills and knowledge in this segment of the industry,” he said.

Under the agreement, license holders could be working on live wiring, for example — a dangerous practice – according to a nine-year study of electrical injuries that found 53 per cent of all occupational death and injury by electrical contact was caused by working live.

Live work is subject to specific limitations, said Hinde.

For example, EL1 designation workers can work only within the maximum limits of 250 Vac, 200 A, 3Ph, or 150Vdc, 4,500 watts.

These limitations aren’t reassuring to the electrical contractors. They have a number of concerns that include inadequate field experience.

“Electrical injury statistics show that 79 per cent of all death and injury caused by electrical contact is attributed to non-electrical trades: millwrights, HVAC, elevator repair, etc.,” said Cahill.

“It is our view, and we are not alone in this position, that under no circumstances should untrained personnel work on or near electrical equipment or machinery, especially without the supervision of a trained experienced journeyperson.”

The contractor’s association said that inadequate consultation is another concern.

“Industry must be consulted and the proper authorities must be able to review course curriculum and evaluation methods,” Cahill said.

ECABC points to courses such as FIRE 1050 - Electrical and Electronics for Fire Protection Inspection, which is a prerequisite for the BCIT Fire Protection Inspection Part-Time Associate Certificate.

The course offers 48 hours of classroom training and may not include a final exam, Cahill said.

She compared it to the requirements for a journey person electrician, who must have 1,200 hours of in-class technical training and 6,000 hours signed off, on-the-job training.

“It is noted in that course outline that the requirement to take this course could be waived if the student can show they possess a general knowledge of fire alarm wiring, basic electricity and basic electronics,” she said.

“We contend this limited amount of electrical training is woefully inadequate for people working on, or testing of, life safety systems.  

“Lowering safety standards should not be an option.”

Hinde said the recognition contains no inherent risk and that the ASTTBC members will fall under Section 4 of the Electrical Safety Regulation which lists “a holder of a certificate from an approved training program” as individuals who may perform regulated electrical work limited to the scope of the credential held by the worker.

“The criteria presented (in the application) for training/experience and identification/monitoring provided equivalent safety to systems in place for currently recognized workers,” he said.

Part of Hinde’s responsibility in reviewing the application was to determine whether ASTTBC has an ongoing process for developing the training and experience components.

“The application should show that there is ongoing upgrading and evaluation of the worker and that the provincial safety manager is part of the monitoring process,” said Hinde, who found the ASTTBC application consistent with the Safety Standards Act.

He said the scope of work is limited to maintenance, testing, repair and alteration.

“These workers are not authorized to do installation work,” Hinde explained.

“This only applies to regulated electrical work and not to requirements under other acts, for example fire code.”

New courses won’t be developed to further train the restricted license holders because courses offered by institutions like BCIT and the Canadian Fire Alarm Association are adequate, said Hinde.

“Should any safety issues be brought forward, or non-compliance to any requirements of the recognition be found, a variety of actions can be taken against any individual performing regulated work or against ASTTBC, as the permission holder, and including sanctions up to and including removal of the recognition,” he said.

The recognition affects ASTTBC members, who hold EL1 (power systems) and EL2 (electronic systems and biomedical) designations, both of which apply to technologists or certified technicians, who commission, test or service existing electrical apparatus.

Technicians with FP1 (fire protection systems) designations testing, commissioning, or servicing existing fire protection or emergency lighting systems are also affected.

What do you think about the change in the recognition of training? Let us know at editor@journalofcommerce.com.

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