ESA Manufacturer Registration in Ontario, Canada

Do you make electrical products sold in Ontario, Canada? Are you aware of the need to register your company with the Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) in order to sell your products legally? If not, spend some time and catch up on the new ESA Manufacturer’s Registry!

Electrical Safety Authority LogoThis story updated 4-Feb-2014.

Since February 17th, 2009, there has been an interesting discussion thread on the PSES‘s EMC-PSTC list on the new Manufacturer’s Registry in the Province of Ontario, Canada. Since there was so much interest, I decided to try to summarize things here.


Ontario is the second oldest and the most populous Province in Canada, with 12,160,282 people as of the 2006 census. Canada has 10 Provinces and three Territories. Ontario is Canada’s manufacturing heartland and is often a leader in new legislation.

ESA, or the Electrical Safety Authority as they are more properly known, is the Authority Having Jurisdiction (AHJ) in the Province of Ontario, Canada. This means that they are authorized by the Government of Ontario to regulate electrical safety in the Province. ESA was formerly the inspection arm of Ontario Hydro, a crown corporation dissolved in 1998. ESA provides building and equipment electrical inspection services to the public and industry in the Province, and publishes the Ontario Electrical Code. The Code is adapted directly from CSA’s Canadian Electrical Code – Part 1 (CSA C22.1), with Provincial deviations.

On 1-Aug-07, the Ministry of Small Business and Consumer Services filed Ontario Regulation 438/07, Product Safety. This new regulation enables the Electrical Safety Authority to regulate the safety of electrical products and equipment sold and used in Ontario.

The regulation was phased in to ensure that ESA and stakeholders had enough time to develop technical guidance to support the regulation.

  • On 1-Oct-07 the sections of the regulation that govern approval of electrical products (currently contained in the Ontario Electrical Safety Code) and that allow notice be given to the public of unsafe electrical products came into effect.
  • On 1-Jan-08 other sections relating to ESA’s investigative and order-making powers came into effect.
  • On 1-Jul-08 sections of the regulation requiring organizations to report serious electrical incidents or defects came into effect.
  • On 1-Apr-09 the Registry will open and manufacturers can begin to register with ESA. For manufacturers currently selling products in Ontario, registrations must be completed by 30-Aug-09. This requirement is currently postponed. For more information, see this article. If your company wants to begin selling products in Ontario, the company must register before products can be sold.

What is the Registry?

Recent Changes in the Ontario Electricity Act have increased the requirements for reporting of “serious incidents” with electrical origins. These requirements are found in Ontario Regulation 438 on Product Safety. In the past, significant numbers of injuries caused by either unapproved equipment, or fraudulently marked equipment have occurred. When ESA has investigated the equipment, they run into problems with finding the originator of the gear, and therefore the person or company who bears responsibility for the problem. The new additions to the regulation address this by requiring reporting of severe injuries caused by electrical equipment. In order to improve traceability of electrical products sold in Ontario, ESA introduced the Manufacturer’s Registry, and made it mandatory under their authority as the AHJ in Ontario. See the Ontario Regulation. Registration begins 1-Apr-09. Registration must be completed by 30-Aug-09. The mandatory Registration deadline has been indefinitely postponed. A fee of $350 Canadian dollars must be paid in the first year, with a reduced fee in each following year.

Manufacturers of electrical equipment for sale in Ontario are required to register with ESA, regardless of whether they are located in Ontario or elsewhere. Failure to register will mean that certified or labeled electrical products will be deemed to be unapproved and non-compliant with the Ontario Electrical Code. Under Regulation 438, it is illegal to sell, display or use unapproved electrical products [Section 5]. Under the Industrial Establishments regulations (part of the Ontario Occupational Health and Safety Act), it is illegal to use unapproved electrical products in the workplace [Section 40]. Similar requirements are also found in the Construction Regulations (Ontario Regulation 213, Section 185).

More information on the Registry can be found on the ESA web site in the Product Safety area. There are a number of FAQ’s available from this page as well. They include:

The registration is per manufacturer and NOT per product, so once you have registered your company you do not need to re-register for every product.

Recognized electrical safety marks

ESA provides a list of all of the Certification and Inspection marks that are recognized in the province. As long as your product or the products you are selling bear one of these marks, the product can be displayed, sold or used in the Province, presuming the manufacturer is registered.

View the list of Recognized Marks and Field Evaluation Labels.

What is a ‘serious incident’?

Regulation 438 defines a serious incident in Section 1:

“serious electrical incident or accident” means an electrical incident or accident that,

(a) results in death or serious injury to a person,

(b) has the potential to cause death or a risk of serious injury to a person, or

(c) causes or has the potential to cause substantial property damage.

Reporting Requirements

Once your company has registered with ESA, any serious incidents occurring anywhere you market your products becomes reportable, but only for products sold in Ontario.

Quoting from Regulation 438:

8. (1)  A manufacturer, wholesaler, importer, product distributor or retailer that becomes aware of a serious electrical incident or accident or a defect in the design, construction or functioning of an electrical product or device that affects or is likely to affect the safety of any person or cause damage to property, shall report to the Authority as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the serious electrical incident or accident or defect.

(2)  A certification body or field evaluation agency that becomes aware of a serious electrical incident or accident or a defect in the design, construction or functioning of an electrical product or device that was the subject of a report given by the certification body or field evaluation agency that affects or is likely to affect the safety of any person or cause damage to property shall report to the Authority as soon as practicable after becoming aware of the serious electrical incident or accident or defect.

There is more to Section 8 of the regulation than quoted. Additional subsections include information on what needs to be in the report and who needs to be involved in the investigation. If you need to make a report, check the rest of Section 8 first.

For example, say that your company manufactures a widget, Model 1523. Model 1523 is sold in the USA, Ontario Canada, Mexico and India. The company also manufactures a different widget, Model 2000, sold in the USA and Mexico.

At some point, reports of electrical shock and fires caused by Model 2000 start to come into your Product Safety department. Do you need to report this to ESA? NO – Model 2000 is not sold in Ontario, so severe incidents caused by that model do not require reporting to ESA.

Model 1523 has a clean record, so no reporting is required there. After manufacturing Model 1523 for a few years, a key component is changed for a cost reduced version from a different supplier. Six months after the change, reports come in from Mexico and India that users have been killed by electric shock received from units of Model 1523. After investigating the reports, your Product Safety department determines that the faulty units used the new component. Do you need to report this to ESA? YES – because Model 1523 is sold in Ontario.

Here’s another example. Your company imports electrical products from a number of countries and sells them wholesale to large retailers, some of whom have stores in Ontario. Do you need to register? NO – But you cannot legally sell products from manufacturers who are not registered in Ontario.

What if the products are imported into Ontario but are not sold to users in the Province, and are only warehoused and wholesaled to retailers or other distributors outside of Ontario? Do you need to register? NO – But you must comply with the requirements in the other jurisdictions where the product is sold. Check with the AHJ in each Province or Territory where your products are sold to determine the requirements.

What if I become aware of serious incidents that are occurring with products I sell in Ontario? You MUST report them to ESA, whether you make the product, import, distribute or retail it.

What Products are Covered by the Regulations?

  • Consumer electrical products;
  • Commercial electrical products;
  • Electrical Medical Devices;
  • Industrial electrical products;
  • Wiring devices and products;
  • Battery-operated devices used in Hazardous Locations;
  • Battery chargers used with battery operated products;
  • Hardwired and plug-in life safety products like Smoke Detectors and CO Detectors;
  • Certified components used in any of the above.

Will this become a Canadian National System?

This is not yet known. There are discussions going on with the other Provinces and Territories, however these are very preliminary stages. ESA has stated that they are supportive of a National Program should it be developed, but at this time these requirements exist only in Ontario.

Tax Grab?

Some people have expressed the opinion that this is simply a way to mask a new tax, since registration fees are payable on an annual basis. In fact, a means is required to fund the registry, and the fees collected are to be used for that purpose. See the Funding Model Report. Since ESA’s mandate is to protect the people of Ontario from electrical hazards, and since there are increasing numbers of serious incidents occurring where the products turn out be be unapproved or fraudulently marked, this is a reasonable way for the Authority to gain control over the products entering the marketplace, and to hold everyone in the supply chain responsible for ensuring that only approved products are sold in the Province.

Since there is no new marking requirement, and since reputable manufacturers are already certifying or labeling their products for sale, and furthermore since the registration fee is quite small for any organization selling any quantity of product in the Province, this is not an onerous requirement. You are still free to have any SCC accredited body whose mark is recognized in Ontario do the certification work.

Will it work?

This is the big unknown. Canadians are known for creating registries in response to a perceived need to control something. Notable failures include the National Do Not Call registry was supposed to allow Canadians to register their phone numbers with the government, who was then requiring Canadian based telemarketers to scrub those numbers from their calling databases. Unfortunately this only provided numbers to off-shore telemarketers who are using the DNC Registry lists as a way to get numbers to call.

It’s unfair to group this registry with the previous example for a number of reasons. The implementation of this registry is different from the previous example in intent and execution. Compliance is monitored by the entire supply chain. It probably stands a pretty good chance of working. Time will tell!

Update on this story


Since this story was originally written in March of 2009, all mention of the Manufacturer’s Registry has disappeared from the ESA web site. When I have tried to contact people involved in the original roll out of the Registry, they do not respond. I have asked for the opportunity to interview one person in particular and have yet to receive any kind of reply.

It would seem that this program has been allowed to quietly die, however the legislation that permitted it to be created in the first place remains unchanged. Depending on the mood of those in charge, it could theoretically be brought back to life again.