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Electrical
Safety Guideline for the Live Performance Industry in Ontario

  • Issued: August 2005
  • Revised: March 2017
  • Content last reviewed: March 2017
  • See also: Performance Industry

Disclaimer: This resource has been prepared to help the workplace parties understand some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and regulations. It is not legal advice. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations. For further information please see full disclaimer.

Introduction

This guideline deals only with those issues that involve either the temporary elements of a show moving into a permanent facility, or the setup of a temporary performance venue.

Employers have a duty under section 25(2)(h) of the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA)  to take every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of a worker. Some of the measures in this guideline represent best practices within the industry. Ontario Ministry of Labour (MOL) inspectors may refer to these measures in determining whether employers have taken every precaution reasonable in the circumstances for the protection of workers as required under the OHSA.

Where a specific aspect of the installation is not clearly dealt with in the Ontario Electrical Safety Code (OESC), the installation should use alternative methods to achieve an equivalent or higher level of safety while creating the desired effect.

Electrical equipment must, by law, be approved by and bear the certification mark of a certification organization accredited in accordance with the Standards Council of Canada Act.

MOL inspectors have the right to enter any workplace for the purpose of enforcing the OHSA and its regulations. An inspector may shut down any equipment or systems that do not comply with the OHSA or its regulations.

The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) enforces the OESC and may enter and inspect, at any reasonable time, any premises that use electrical power and may shut down any equipment or systems which do not comply with the Code and which present a hazard to the public.

Definitions

Note: These definitions are provided for clarity and guidance only and, unless otherwise noted, are not definitions found under the OHSA or its regulations.

Ampacity [as defined in the OESC]
The current-carrying capacity of electric conductors expressed in amperes.
Ballast
A resistor, transformer or electronic circuit used to limit the current to a discharge type of light source. Typically used with fluorescent tubes, HID, HMI, CID, XENON, etc. luminaires.
Bonding [as defined in the OESC]
A low impedance path obtained by permanently joining all non-current-carrying metal parts to ensure electrical continuity and having the capacity to conduct safely any current likely to be imposed on it.
CAM-LOK*(TM)
A trade name that has become generic. A brand of single pin locking connectors with molded rubber or Santoprene*(TM) insulators, commonly used for main portable power distribution on stage, studio and location projects.
Competent person [as defined in the OHSA]
A competent person means a person who,
  • (a) is qualified because of knowledge, training and experience to organize the work and its performance;
  • (b) is familiar with the Occupational Health and Safety Act and the regulations that apply to the work; and
  • (c) has knowledge of any potential or actual danger to health or safety in the workplace.
Electrical cable
A flexible cord used to supply electrical power.
Electrical distribution box
A device that permits the branching of power to two or more loads or additional distribution boxes. Usually consists of breakers or fuses feeding 120V single-pin female connectors (line, neutral and ground). (See Appendix B of the Electrical Safety Authority Spec 003 [PDF].
Ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI): [as defined in the OESC]
A device that functions to interrupt a circuit or portion of a circuit, within a predetermined time, when a current to ground exceeds some predetermined value that is less than that required to operate the overcurrent protective device of the supply circuit.
Grounding [as defined in the OESC]
A permanent and continuous conductive path to the earth with sufficient ampacity to carry any fault current liable to be imposed on it, and of a sufficiently low impedance to limit the voltage rise above ground and to facilitate the operation of the protective devices in the circuit.
Luminaire [as defined in the OESC]
A complete lighting unit designed to accommodate the lamp(s) and to connect the lamp(s) to circuit conductors.
Ontario Electrical Safety Code (OESC)
The standard for temporary or permanent electrical installations in Ontario. The standard is comprised of the current version of CSA Standard C22.1 Canadian Electrical Code Part 1.
Power source
Anything that can provide voltage and electrical current, that is, electrical power.
Single-pin connectors
An approved locking outdoor-rated connector with one pin, rated up to 400 amps. Generally colour coded to designate phasing. (See Equipment in this Guideline and OESC 66-456(2)).
Temporary installation
Any electrical installation that is not fixed to a facility. For example, equipment that is rented, or equipment that is installed for a production, to be removed when such a production is over or moved.

General

  1. Ensure that all electrical installations are acceptable to the ESA. This may be determined by a direct inspection, or by other arrangements that have been made with the ESA.
  2. The ESA offers a Continuing Safety Services program. It may be helpful to contact the ESA for further information about this program.
  3.  All electrical equipment shall be approved (OESC 2-024) (Reg. 851 s. 40).

  4. All workers involved with the use of electrical equipment shall be trained and supervised in the job they are required to perform (OHSA s. 25 (2)(a)).
  5. No repairs or alterations shall be carried out on any live equipment (OESC 2-304(1)) (Reg. 851 s. 42) (O. Reg. 213/91 s. 190).
  6. Proper protective equipment shall be worn and used (CSA Z462 - Workplace electrical safety) (Reg. 851 s. 42.1) (O. Reg. 213/91 s. 192 and 193).
  7. Before work has begun, a competent person should plan the work (using inquiry, observation and measurement) so that no person, tool or machine is placed in a hazardous situation, electrical or otherwise.
  8. Workers and other people in the area should be warned to stand clear when a temporary installation has its power supply connected and activated for the first time.
  9. For repairs or maintenance, lighting and other electrical fixtures shall be disconnected or de-energized, locked out and tested for zero energy with adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) before being opened (OESC 2-304, ESA Spec 3 2.4.20) (Reg. 851 s. 42) (O. Reg. 213/91 s. 190).
  10. Lamp (bulb) replacement should be done with the power supply to the lamp turned off. If replacing the lamp would expose a worker to a possibly energized bare part of the electrical equipment, the equipment shall be de-energized, locked out, and tested for zero energy before re-lamping takes place (OESC 2-304) (Reg. 851 s. 42) (O. Reg. 213/91 s. 190).
  11. Each receptacle should identify the circuit that powers it. Each connector in a multiple-circuit cable should identify the circuit to which it is connected.
  12. Equipment and tools used outdoors or in damp or wet locations shall be suitable for those conditions. The power supply in such locations shall pass through a Type A ground fault circuit interrupter (GFCI) (portable electric tools, Reg. 851 s. 44.1). If the work is being conducted at a project, (portable electric tools, Construction Projects Regulation (O. Reg. 213/91, s. 195.2).
  13. Temporary stages shall be bonded to ground (OESC 10-906, ESA Spec 3 2.4.27).

Temporary power distribution

  1. Continuous bonding shall be provided throughout any electrical distribution system. No down-stream bonding of the neutral shall be permitted (OESC 10-906).
  2.  Portable dimmers should be:
    • accessible for emergency power down;
    • located so they will not obstruct any exit; and
    • protected from damage from objects or persons that are near or must pass near them.
  3. Care should be taken not to walk on or drive over electrical cables. All cables subject to vehicular or extensive pedestrian traffic shall be protected in an appropriate manner.
  4.  Where premises are serviced from two electrical sources, the electrical sources shall be bonded together (OESC 2-2.12, OESC 3-2.7).
  5. The power supply panel should be readily accessible to allow power shutdown.
  6. All power feeds should be covered or guarded to avoid a tripping hazard in pedestrian walkways.
  7. All distribution boxes, electrical outlets, and cable connectors shall be rated for the locations in which they are installed (OESC 66-400).
  8. Portable distribution panels and dimmer packs should:
    • be properly connected to an approved fuse or breaker supply panel;
    • be connected with a cable of sufficient size and ampacity to carry the full rating of the supply fuse or breaker; and never be connected to bypass the fusing of the supply panel.

Equipment

  1. Equipment connected to a power source shall bear an electrical approval label (OESC 2-024, ESA Spec 3 Appendix D, E, F, L) (Reg. 851 s. 40).
  2. The ESA maintains a list of recognized certification marks and certification agencies.
  3. Electrical equipment should be inspected before use and should have regular inspection and maintenance. The employer must ensure that all equipment provided is maintained in good condition (OHSA s. 25 (1)(b)).
  4. At no time should grounded equipment have the connector ground pin bypassed or removed (OHSA s. 25 (1)(b).
  5. All electrical devices that become hot during operation should be shielded or kept a suitable distance from potentially flammable materials.
  6. Electrical equipment should be protected from exposure to excessive moisture, gases, vapours, fumes, liquids, heat, cold or other agents which could have a deteriorating effect on the electrical insulating qualities of the equipment.
  7. Electrical equipment shall be installed only in locations for which it is approved, unless suitable precautions are taken to protect it from inclement weather. (OESC 66-402(5), ESA Spec 3 4.36, 4.37).

Lighting

  1. Scaffolds and other metal grids/pipes/structures used to support lighting or power distribution shall be effectively bonded (ESA Spec 3 2.4.27).
  2. Lighting fixtures, lamp holders, lamps, props and receptacles or other electrical equipment should not have live parts exposed.
  3. Workers using high voltage or high pressure light sources (HMI, HID, CSI, neon and fluorescent fixtures) should:
    • be trained in their use;
    • be familiar with the ballasts used; and
    • ensure that all safety devices are in proper working condition.
  4. When changing and handling any lamp, workers should follow all the manufacturer’s safety recommendations.
  5. Any open-faced lighting fixture using a quartz halogen lamp, or other high pressure lamp, should have protection against the shrapnel effect caused by an exploding lamp. Such protection may be in the form of a safety glass or safety screen. The safety device must be reinstalled properly after re-lamping or adjustment.
  6. A suitable secondary restraint (e.g. safety chain, safety cable, baling wire) should be used to prevent a fixture or its accessories from falling. The restraint should have a breaking strength great enough to stop the dynamic load of the falling fixture and/or accessories. The distance that a fixture may fall before being stopped by its restraint should be such that no strain would be placed upon its electrical cord.
  7. Emergency lighting shall conform to Section 46 of the OESC.
  8. GFCIs used on the output of dimmers shall be of the type utilizing a separate control voltage, as specified for the device (ESA Spec 3 2.4.11). Residential GFCIs should not be used on dimmed circuits.

Electric cables

  1. All electrical cables and connecting components:
    • should be provided by an approved manufacturer (OESC 2-022, 2-024);
    • shall be approved for the purpose (OESC 2-034);
    • should have polarity identified;
    • should be grounded; and
    • should be properly assembled.
  2. Connectors and cabling of single pin distribution systems shall be provided with standard colour coding: ESA Spec 3 4.7(a)

    Green:  Ground
    White:  Neutral
    Red, Blue, Black:  Live

  3. Electrical cables shall be adequately secured so as not to put strain on the connector or cause undue wear or damage to the cable, insulation of the cable, terminals of any electrical apparatus, devices, or joints as per OESC 12-100, for Types of Conductors and OESC 12-120, for Supporting of Conductors.
  4. Where single conductor cables are used, they shall be colour coded at both ends of each cable before the cables are connected (OESC 66-456(2b)).
  5. Electrical cables shall be in good repair (OESC 66-400(3)) (OHSA s. 25 (1)(b)).
  6. Electrical cables shall be protected from wear and damage such as crushing, abrasion and shearing. If electrical cables or the insulating casing are found to be damaged they are to be removed from service (OESC 66-400(2)).
  7. Electrical cables should not be fastened or suspended in such a way that the insulating cover could be damaged.
  8. Splicing is not an approved method of connecting cables.

Environment

  1. Ladders made of conductive materials must not be used when working on or close to energized equipment (Regulation for Industrial Establishments/Reg. 851 s. 43; Regulation for Construction Projects/ O. Reg. 213/91, s. 187). Use fiberglass ladders where possible.
  2. In outdoor locations, particular care should be taken to bond to ground any structures that support electrical equipment (ESA Spec 3 2.4.27).

Emergencies

  1. No repairs or alterations shall be carried out on any live equipment (OESC 3.4) (Reg. 851 s. 42) (O. Reg. 213/91 s. 190).

Resources

The Ontario Electrical Safety Code (OESC) deals in detail with permanent and temporary theatrical electrical installations. This Live Performance Safety Guideline highlights sections of the OESC that apply to the temporary and innovative nature of the live performance industry.  

The Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) was established in 1999 with the mandate to enhance public electrical safety in Ontario. ESA is an administrative authority, an independent, not-for-profit corporation acting on behalf of the Government of Ontario with specific responsibilities for electrical safety. As part of its mandate, ESA administers regulations in four areas: the Ontario Electrical Safety Code; licensing of Electrical Contractors and Master Electricians, electricity distribution system safety and electrical product safety.

The ESA has produced a booklet of guidelines, known as Television, Film, Live Performance and Event Electrical Guidelines (ESA Spec-003 R7 July 2013) [PDF].

See the Electrical Safety Authority website for examples of current certification organizations.

The Infrastructure Health and Safety Association provides a variety of electrical safety awareness programs for electrical and non-electrical workers. For example, the Electrical Safety and Awareness training program familiarizes participants with electrical oriented operations and pinpoints both general and electrical hazards. An Electrical Lockout/Tagout training program is also available.

The Entertainment Electrical Safety Committee of Ontario is committed to developing and maintaining safe electrical standards and working practices for the entertainment industry.

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Disclaimer: This web resource has been prepared to assist the workplace parties in understanding some of their obligations under the Occupational Health and Safety Act (OHSA) and the regulations. It is not intended to replace the OHSA or the regulations and reference should always be made to the official version of the legislation.

It is the responsibility of the workplace parties to ensure compliance with the legislation. This web resource does not constitute legal advice. If you require assistance with respect to the interpretation of the legislation and its potential application in specific circumstances, please contact your legal counsel.

While this web resource will also be available to Ministry of Labour inspectors, they will apply and enforce the OHSA and its regulations based on the facts as they may find them in the workplace. This web resource does not affect their enforcement discretion in any way.