OHS Canada Magazine

Electrical safety in the workplace: The role of standards

October 19, 2023
By CSA Group
Health & Safety csa group Electrical Safety

Photo: Adobe Stock

Any worker required to work on or near electricity is at risk of injury, even fatality. This is why it’s essential to implement an effective workplace electrical safety plan. Helping to ensure electrical safety within the workplace requires a multi-pronged approach—including the implementation of electrical standards, electrical equipment maintenance standards, and safety-related work practice standards.

It is crucial that occupational health and safety (OHS) professionals understand the ever-evolving landscape of codes and standards, as well as the guides and training available to them.

Candace Sellar, CSA Group

CSA Group’s Candace Sellar shares more about what OHS professionals can expect from CSA Group in the coming months as it continues to update and evolve its offerings which address electrical safety.

What role do standards and codes play in helping to ensure electrical safety in the workplace?

Standards and codes are vital in helping to ensure electrical safety in the workplace. They provide essential requirements and guidance that can help to prevent hazards, minimize risk, and support the creation of a safe work environment.

What are the key standards and codes that Canadian health and safety professionals with workers required to work on or near electricity should be aware of?

First and foremost, it is important to have a general understanding of the Canadian Electrical Code, Part 1 (CSA C22.1:21). It provides guidelines and safety requirements for electrical work, equipment, and installations across Canada, to help ensure that electrical systems are installed and maintained safely. First published in 1927, the code is managed by CSA Group and is updated regularly.


In terms of standards, CSA Group also offers three safety-related work practice standards. Primarily, CSA Z462:21, Workplace electrical safety specifies requirements for and provides guidance on safety management systems, safe work procedures, and selection of personal protective equipment and other safety devices for persons exposed to hazards associated with energized electrical equipment. In addition, this Standard sets out criteria for the identification and training of qualified electrical workers and for determination of hazardous work to be performed only by those qualified individuals. 

A little more specific, but equally important, CSA Z460:20, Control of hazardous energy – Lockout and other methods, provides requirements for controlling hazardous energy associated with potentially harmful machines, equipment, and processes.  CSA Z463-18, Maintenance of electrical systems, details requirements for the maintenance of both new and existing electrical equipment and systems.

Is the implementation of safety-related work practice standards like CSA Z462 mandatory across all workplaces in Canada?

Workplace electrical safety is usually governed by a combination of provincial/territorial and federal regulatory requirements. Depending on the province or territory, one or more of the CSA Group standards listed above may be referenced in OHS regulations making implementation mandatory.

While it would be ideal if all OHS standards were made mandatory by being referenced in regulation, voluntary implementation is still incredibly important as standards provide consensus-based expert guidance and leading practices that helps workplaces ensure the safety of their employees, customers, and the communities that they serve. With standard implementation, organizations can demonstrate their commitment to the well-being of their employees and the overall safety of their operations.

What are some best practices for successfully integrating electrical safety programs into an OHS management system?

To help ensure that their electrical safety program is as current as possible, it is important that employers do their best to actively monitor and stay up to date with changes in regulations, codes, and standards. OHS professionals can stay informed through industry associations, trade publications, their own networks, and by outsourcing assistance from reputable organizations. For example, CSA Group offers both instructor-led workshops in English and French, as well as self-paced online training for CSA Z462.

It is also crucial that OHS training programs focused on electrical safety are designed, maintained, and updated on a regular basis. CSA Group maintains a dedicated OHS space on CSA Communities including information about our OHS standards development activities and updates. CSA Group also offers several free Support Tools, including a short-self-paced learning on the basics of putting together effective OHS training for workers, and a handout on key considerations when building OHS training.

Most importantly, it is critical to check in with employees on a regular basis to see if they have any concerns and ensure they have a firm understanding of what needs to be done to help create and maintain a safe working environment.

How often should an organization’s electrical safety program be evaluated and how frequently should workers be trained?

Firstly, employers should complete regular Electrical Safety Program Audits. Choosing to follow a model like the Plan, Do, Check, Act (PDCA) may help organizations when changes arise impacting their policy, standards, work environment, equipment, and tools. It provides a simple and effective approach for solving problems and managing change.  It is an iterative process used by organizations to achieve continual improvement and can be applied to an entire OHS management system, or even just a single element in a program or project.

Employers should also train workers regularly, so they are aware of, and confident, in their knowledge of program changes, leading practices, and standards. Breaking training into digestible segments delivered more frequently may also help improve engagement and retention.

Is CSA Group planning on releasing any new standards and codes focused on electrical safety in the coming months?

CSA Group is currently working on the 6th edition of CSA Z462, Workplace electrical safety expected to be published in early 2024. The changes include a reorganization of the requirements related to electrically safe working conditions, new safety-related requirements for capacitors, and added guidance on assessing the condition of maintenance of electrical equipment and systems. These changes will be incorporated into the workshop and online training offered for this standard.

I’m also pleased to share that in spring 2024, CSA Group will publish a new edition of the Canadian Electrical Code, Part I, Safety Standard for Electrical Installations. Revised sections will include energy storage and renewable energy systems, health care, and electric vehicles.

Creating a safe work environment takes time and dedication. Luckily, the right tools and plenty of support are available. The Canadian Electrical Code and safety-related workplace standards like CSA Z462 serve as the foundation for a workplace that prioritizes safety. By implementing these codes and standards, organizations don’t just enhance their operational safety; they actively help to prevent accidents and protect lives.

For more information, visit: https://community.csagroup.org/community/ohs


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