Enforcing compliance with safety regulations: A shared responsibility

It was like finding a ticking time bomb: a 240-volt electrical distribution panel with no safety cover under the back deck of a suburban home. Anyone accessing the panel would need to stand in an inch of water that saturated the ground under the deck. There was no lighting in this dark, damp area, so the danger was difficult to spot. It was also completely accessible through an unlocked door, posing a severe shock hazard to anyone who might come in contact with the panel.

A tenant in the home who was having electrical issues submitted a hazard notification to Technical Safety BC, and an electrical safety officer made arrangements with the property owner to conduct a safety assessment of the home’s electrical system. In addition to the distribution panel issue, the officer found numerous other hazards on the property including broken outlets and fixtures. All the work had been done by an unknown individual without the proper permits. Luckily these hazards were identified early, before a serious incident had taken place. The owner hired a licensed contractor and work was remediated under permit, with the appropriate declarations to Technical Safety BC.

While this was a concerning situation, Technical Safety BC safety officers are all too familiar with potential threats to lives and property due to hazards and non-compliance with safety regulations. In 2016, Technical Safety BC received over 400 notifications of hazards and people working without the proper certifications and permits.

“Our statistics show that work performed without a permit is approximately three times more likely to result in a serious hazard,” says Technical Safety BC's Eric Samuelson, Safety Manager, Compliance & Enforcement. Hazards found by safety officers range from insignificant to severe and provide a good indication of how well duty holders independently understand and fulfill their safety obligations within the safety system.

Technical Safety BC spends considerable time working with duty holders to help them understand their obligations. “We work hard to provide education, awareness and guidance,” Samuelson says. “But when the law is ignored—particularly in the case of repeat offences—we will take enforcement actions to protect public safety.” Safety is a shared obligation and lies not only with the person who performs the work, but also with equipment owners, contractors, operators and homeowners. Says Samuelson, “It’s everyone’s responsibility to ensure that work undertaken in the province is compliant with the law and is done safely and securely, in the manner laid out within the Safety Standards Act.”

More information about enforcement, permits and compliance is available here

This article was originally published in the 2016 State of Safety

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