CSA Customer Service Overview

May 28th, 2013

“When two railroad trains meet at a crossing, each shall stop and neither shall proceed until the other has passed.”  This is an actual law, still on the books in the State of Texas.  There are laws like this in Canada too, and some are in electrical law.  All areas of law have some items of legislation that haven’t been enforced for years, some that should’ve been removed already, some laws that are still on the books because they’re the pet projects of someone in the political system, and some laws of course, that are in conflict with other laws.  So what do you do when confronted with conflicting regulations?  How do you get the trains moving again?

In Canadian electrical law, the only source for interpretation of that law is the CSA.  If there is some aspect of electrical law whose interpretation is unclear or is in conflict with other electrical law, the only option is to seek clarification from CSA.  And they have a system for that.  Here is how it works:

To have your question answered, all you have to do is find Appendix I in CSA’s version of the Canadian Electrical Code (which means you have to buy it from them first, a $175 touch).  Appendix I is helpfully located on page 573.  But as you look for it you’ll find no mention of “questions” in the index, the only item listed under “Q” is, ironically enough, “Quality of Work.” 

Having found Appendix I, you’ll see a listing of questions submitted over the last three years.  In 2012 there are six of them.  There is no indication on this “interpretations” page of the format for question submissions, contact information for questions, etc.  Instead, one may note the subheading reference to “Clauses C9.10(b) and C9.11”.  One would be wise to look up both of these.

Upon arrival at Clause C9.10(b) and C9.11, it becomes clear that both clauses refer to “rewording of the Rule” rather than instructions for question submission.  The actual instructions for submission are located at Clause C9.2 - C9.6 inclusive.  Again, its not in the index, you have to find it above and in relation to Clause 9.10(b) and C9.11.

Clause C9.2 is a terrific example of unrestrained bureaucracy.  Quoting directly; “Requests for interpretation shall be submitted in writing to the Project Manager of the Committee on Part I in the form of a question that can be answered by a categoric ‘yes’ or ‘no’.”  Consider a few points:

First, note that RestoreCSA is courting yet another lawsuit by quoting a CSA publication. 

Next, there’s the problem of CSA only responding “yes” or “no” to requests for clarification.  Lets say you called directory assistance to ask for a phone number, but the operator could only answer with a “yes” or “no”.  How would that work for you?  Or perhaps you asked for driving directions to someplace.  How frustrating would it be to find the answer using only “yes” or “no” type questions?  This is precisely what people in the electrical trade face when dealing with CSA. 

Note also that their instructions to contact the “Project Manager” does not include the name of said manager, nor their contact information, nor the name of the department that they report to.  Its almost like CSA doesn’t want to be bothered with customers.  For amusement, one may also note that RestoreCSA just quoted two more words from a CSA publication, exposing us to another lawsuit.

Clause C9.4 advises that CSA won’t even consider questions about hazardous locations, electrical grounding, etc.  It is a bit odd really, that CSA, as a safety organization, won’t address questions about safety. 

Having complied with all of CSA restrictions, and if your question is deemed acceptable by the boffins of bureaucracy, then you’ll get to read your answer in the next edition of CSA Info Update or the next Electrical Code in three years’ time, whichever comes first.  Your answer from CSA will be either “yes” or “no”.  That should clear up everything for you.

In contrast, Ontario Tourism handles customer inquiries a bit differently.  To quote; “Ontario Tourism welcomes your questions about things to see and do, and places to stay, in Ontario. Ask the Concierge offers you a prompt response to your inquiry.”  As a customer, you are their focus, they accommodate your needs.  If Ontario Tourism handled customer inquiries like CSA does, they’d be using unlisted phone numbers and wouldn’t take your silly questions.  And if their goal was to avoid being bothered by pesky tourists, then the CSA approach would be a rather good one.  In CSA’s case it took three years to generate six questions.  Ontario would be in big trouble if over the same period they saw only six tourists.

RestoreCSA is committed to recovering the CSA organization as a regulatory entity in the public service.  In this process, we have received a lot of helpful information from those who have to deal with CSA.  We welcome your feedback and comments on your CSA experience.  This is all very valuable in our efforts to clean up CSA.

Sources:

Legal quote re: trains in Texas:  http://www.legalzoom.com/us-law/more-us-law/top-craziest-laws-still

Ontario Tourism quotation:  https://www.ontariotravel.net/TCISSegmentsWeb/main.portal?_nfpb=true&_pageLabel=gen_registration_pg&_nfls=false&fromWhere=login&targetURL=tt_contactus_pg

CSA CEC quotations are in-text noted.