Code File, October 2020 – Electrical industry adjusts to Covid-19
By Nansy Hanna, P.Eng.
By Nansy Hanna, P.Eng.
October 26, 2020 – The pandemic has tested the electrical industry’s agility and responsiveness in a crisis. Acting as a team—made up of contractors, regulators, certification agencies, manufacturers and distributors—we’ve pulled together to tackle the challenges posed by Covid with professionalism and care, and an unwavering commitment to electrical safety for Canadians.
Our industry kept pace with a rapidly changing environment by implementing measured and tailored response strategies in a variety of areas, and it’s worth highlighting some of them.
Emergency healthcare facilities and shelters
Some regulators published guidance documents to support the expedited construction of Temporary Emergency Healthcare Facilities and Temporary Residential Facilities. With safety as a core pillar, the guidelines were developed and published to provide direction on CE Code requirements for such facilities.
It would have been an obstacle and unnecessary burden, for example, to apply the full requirements of Section 24 for Patient Care Areas to these temporary structures. The regulators leveraged their authority to allow deviations to the code while requiring an acceptable level of electrical safety. Swift direction—in tandem with government announcements—was provided to support industry, municipalities and government to expand the capacity of these facilities.
Industry, meantime, mobilized and started construction in a timely, safe and effective manner.
Essential medical equipment
Canadian manufacturers of essential medical equipment experienced a substantial increase in demand as the national healthcare system responded to the pandemic.
In early April, for example, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced a commitment to work with Canadian companies to manufacture 30,000 ventilators. To expedite the approval of this equipment, AHJs across Canada worked with the Standards Council of Canada and Health Canada to review approval requirements.
Two bulletins were issued under the Canadian Advisory Council on Electrical Safety (CACES) to inspection bodies and field evaluation agencies to facilitate the production of this equipment while maintaining safety and the need for approval. Over 10,000 ventilators have been produced, and Innovation, Science & Economic Development Canada released a video acknowledging the national efforts to produce these ventilators.
Cleaning products and electrical devices
As businesses and individuals work to keep high-touch areas clean and disinfected, there were reports of light switch failures which, ultimately, were caused by the spraying of cleaning or sanitizing liquids directly onto them.
Electrical equipment such as light switches and receptacles installed indoors are not designed to be subjected to direct streams of liquid. Additionally, the chemicals in cleaning agents—when applied in significant quantities—can lead to the failure of these devices, which may result in arcing or other deterioration, leading to the potential for electrical fires or shock.
Guidance was published in Ontario to caution the public about the use of cleaning or sanitization liquids on electrical devices installed indoors. Direction was also provided for repairing or replacing electrical devices when any signs of arcing or deterioration are found.
We also asked the public to consider replacing their existing switches with touch-free devices as a way to reduce these occurrences.
Moving forward, together
We have all adapted to a new reality since March 2020, which may change yet again as we brace for the second wave. As a community and as an industry, we must continue to adapt our work flow, remain connected and engaged, and continue to leverage different and innovative approaches for achieving our collective goals.
As each industry and individual remain committed and focused on everyone’s well-being, we will not only get through this together, but also advance and learn new ways of working together and enhancing safety.
Nansy Hanna, P.Eng., is senior director, Engineering & Regulations, at Ontario’s Electrical Safety Authority (ESA). She is also chair of the Canadian Advisory Council on Electrical Safety (CACES) and a member of the ULC Advisory Council, CSA Technical Committee on Industrial, Consumer and Commercial Products and CSA CE Code-Part I, Sections 24, 32, and 46. She can be reached at email@example.com.
This column—along with other great content—appears in the October 2020 edition of Electrical Business Magazine.