HISTORY OF ELECTRICAL SAFETY INSPECTION

History of Electrical Safety Inspection

SERVING CANADA FOR NEARLY A CENTURY

ESA (Electrical Safety Authority) and its forebears – Ontario Hydro, and before that, the Hydro Electric Power Commission – have played a significant role in the safety of electrical equipment for the people of Ontario and Canada. For close to a century we have been a leader in the evolution of electrical equipment approval; helping to create the safe environment that exists for people today.

In the 1890s, steam-driven generators made it possible for the majority of Ontario villages with more than 3,000 residents to have access to electric streetlights. It was only a year or two later when the Toronto Incandescent Electric Light Company was established, that that electrical safety equipment became a big issue in Canada. The initiative for electrical safety inspections came from the Canadian Fire Underwriters Association (CFUA). The CFUA was concerned about the massive financial liabilities its members could face from structural fires caused by electrical equipment. In 1892, CFUA appointed an inspector to ensure that all electrical equipment was installed in accordance with CFUA requirements.

The convenience of electrical power had caught the fancy of consumers, and nowhere was this more evident than in the City of Toronto. Scores of contractors and builders came forward to meet the demand with inferior, often bogus, and clearly dangerous equipment. To offset growing concerns, significant amendments were made to the Power Commission Act in 1912 and 1914 to ensure that electrical equipment was safe. In 1915, ESAFE’s precursor the Hydro Electric Power Commission in Ontario was born.

In 1918, the Hydro Electric Power Commission (HEPC) established an Approval Laboratory to test electrical equipment to determine its adherence to specific and stringent guidelines. The Approval Laboratory resulted in the establishment of Rules and Regulations for testing and approving electrical materials, devices and fittings. The initial labels that were applied were actually solid bronze metal. Products that met the guidelines were declared “HEPC Approved” and later “Hydro Approved”. This process was generally accepted by the electrical industry across Canada. The purpose of this function was to provide standards and testing of electrical equipment to avoid risk of injury or fire to persons or property. This approval process was considered so significant that by 1924 the HEPC was empowered to prohibit the sale of electrical equipment considered to be unsafe for public use.

Soon, HEPC was testing products for all of Canada. When other provinces requested the use of the HEPC Approved designation and started to include that approval in their legislation, it quickly became evident that there was a need for a national testing body. In 1940, HEPC created the Canadian Standards Association Testing Laboratory. The CSA certification process began as self-contained, self-supported unit. HEPC continued to approve small qualities of equipment and specialized equipment that could not be done under certification – what we now call a field evaluation. Over the years, HEPC became Ontario Hydro, and Ontario Hydro’s product inspection group evolved into ESA. While most electrical equipment in North America today is certified by organizations like CSA, field evaluation through ESAFE, is still the most time and cost efficient approval process for small quantities and specialized equipment.

ESA is proud to carry on its tradition of field evaluation excellence through ESAFE.