ESA Manufacturer Registration in Ontario, Canada

Electrical Safety Authority LogoThis sto­ry updat­ed 4-Feb-2014 and 11-Jun-18.

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 web­site. When I have tried to con­tact peo­ple involved in the orig­i­nal roll­out of the Reg­istry, they do not respond. I have asked for the oppor­tu­ni­ty to inter­view one per­son in par­tic­u­lar and had 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.

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 14,193,384 peo­ple as of 1-Jul-2017. Cana­da has 10 Provinces and three Ter­ri­to­ries. Ontario, along with Québec, form Canada’s man­u­fac­tur­ing heart­land. Due to Ontario’s pop­u­la­tion and con­tri­bu­tion to Canada’s GDP, the Province is often a leader in new leg­is­la­tion.

The 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 organ­i­sa­tions 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. If your com­pa­ny wants to begin sell­ing prod­ucts in Ontario, the com­pa­ny must reg­is­ter before prod­ucts can be sold. This require­ment has been post­poned. For more infor­ma­tion, see this arti­cle.

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 CA$350 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 labelled 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 web­site in the Prod­uct Safe­ty area. There are some FAQ’s avail­able from this page as well. They include:

*If the links fail to work, please see the down­load links at the end of this arti­cle.

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 to 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 recog­nised in Ontario do the cer­ti­fi­ca­tion work.

Will it work?

Will the Reg­istry actu­al­ly reduce the inci­dence of fraud­u­lent­ly marked or unmarked prod­ucts on store shelves, there­by improv­ing elec­tri­cal safe­ty in the Province? 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!


Author: Doug Nix

Doug Nix is Managing Director and Principal Consultant at Compliance InSight Consulting, Inc. ( in Kitchener, Ontario, and is Lead Author and Senior Editor of the Machinery Safety 101 blog. Doug's work includes teaching machinery risk assessment techniques privately and through Conestoga College Institute of Technology and Advanced Learning in Kitchener, Ontario, as well as providing technical services and training programs to clients related to risk assessment, industrial machinery safety, safety-related control system integration and reliability, laser safety and regulatory conformity. For more see Doug's LinkedIn profile.