What is CSA Z462? (Plus: 2 Huge Assumptions You Might Be Wrong About)

By Jeff MacKinnon, P.Eng., PE

Laws vs. Standards: Who Cares?

Last week I talked about how CSA Z462 may not be written law in Canada, but it is still the industry standard

So - if there is an incident at your workplace, it will be the standard that the courts will use to evaluate the workplace electrical safety program. Simple and to the point, yes? Now think back to an occasion (pick one!) where you or someone you know somehow diminished or in some other way equivocated by using the "well - technically it's not the law" semantics-laden argument for self-serving (not safety-minded) reasons. Bottom line is: who cares? It's still the standard the courts are going to hold you to.

Today I will explain what CSA Z462 is, and a couple of ways that it can be applied so that you can ensure your employees will go home with no injuries every day.

Before getting into that though - let's deal with the elephant in the room. Let's talk about these mistaken notions you so often hear at outside training courses, youtube and from PPE manufacturers and clarify what CSA Z462 is not.

CSA Z462 is NOT an electrical safety program


Say it again. This should be a nice, deep cleansing breath for you - "CSA Z462 is not an electrical safety program." There. Doesn't that feel better?

The definition of a square can fit for a rectangle because it is a quadrilateral with 4 right corners. However, the definition of a square does not fit for a rectangle because a rectangle doesn't have four equal sides. Bearing this in mind, if I ask if I can see your electrical safety program, don't tell me "We follow CSA Z462" and think that'll be the end of it. There's much more to the definition of an electrical safety program than the standard that it might happen to include. You're right insofar as you think that:

  • CSA Z462 is what best sets up the framework for an electrical safety program
  • Its what lists the requirements that are needed in an Electrical Safety Program in general terms

BUT you're wrong in applying the definition of the standard (rectangle) to a program (square) that has more specificity and detail required. Consider that the standard does not have:

  • A comprehensive list of tasks
  • Well defined and documented procedures
  • Risk analysis on tasks (and other things) needed at your plant or facility.

If you're just getting started, or if you're just realizing that perhaps your Program could use a little TLC, it doesn't have to be that daunting of a task.

  1. Define the specific tasks that everyone will be doing
  2. Define the general roles and responsibilities of those involved
  3. List out all the hazards related to those tasks
  4. Develop a consistent risk analysis for each of those tasks and the corresponding hazards.

Depending on your capacity you may find that outsourcing this work is a better path, but if you do, be sure you clearly lay out your expectations for what you will get based on the above.

CSA Z462 is NOT an Arc Flash Standard


To be sure, one of the hazards that will be evaluated is in fact the Arc Flash Hazard, but that's but one component (albeit an important one) and doesn't "ipso facto" make it the standard itself. This is a subtle yet critical error in logic that many firms make, and many find out only after it's too late and they find themselves in a world of trouble.

This misconception likely owes it's origin to when the 2006 Canadian Electric Code came out. At the time, it stated simply that Arc Flash Hazard Labeling was needed on electrical equipment. Six years later the first edition of CSA Z462 was released with an emphasis on arc flash hazard analysis.

CSA Z462 is on whole Workplace Electrical Safety, not just the single hazard of Arc Flash

What CSA Z462 IS

So you get the gist - the standard is more than the sum of some of it's more familiar parts. Titled the "Workplace Electrical Safety Standard", it deals with shock, lock-out-tag-out, and much more. CSA Z462 outlines the various hazards that may exist at your facility, specifically shock and arc flash, and provides suggestions as to how to control these hazards. The standard outlines what the committee believes is required to establish a electrically safe work environment for all workers, but specifically electrical workers.

CSA Z462 states that the company shall have an electrical safety program and outlines what this includes in the appendix. It also states that if there is to be energized work, an energize work permit shall be developed to outline the hazards that are associated with the work at hand, including shock, arc flash, other energy sources, etc; the risk analysis and the control methods used to reduce the risk of injury to the worker and any employees that may be in the area.

In future posts we will detail each of the chapters in CSA Z462 and discuss the "Why" behind some of the statements in there. It is always more important for the employer and employee to understand the why. With the why the worker and employer can understand the controls that are put in place and have a greater respect for them