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.

Background

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

© 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

4-​Feb-​2014

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.