Smart meter fires: union says electrical workers not at fault


The union representing installers of smart meters in Canada’s Saskatchewan province claims the electrical workers were not responsible for the fires linked to Sensus Generation 3 units used as part of SaskPower’s widespread rollout.

In a statement released last week, the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers (IBEW) Local 2067 said it is waiting to “see the root cause and analysis report” before commenting further, reported local media.

It also noted it would “co-operate with any and all investigative inquiries … to ensure the root cause is identified and corrected in the future, to prevent unnecessary safety risk to workers, public and property”.

The statement added: “We continue to support our installers and will work diligently, in a safe manner with SaskPower, to ensure the meters are removed and replaced.”

Exemption to regulations

The IBEW recently raised concerns about an exemption to Occupational Health and Safety regulations.

That exemption means a smart meter no longer has to be installed by a qualified electrical worker — merely someone deemed to be “fully competent”.

Since the change was made, there have been nine smart meter-related fires in Saskatchewan, along with one in Regina which SaskPower decided it wasn’t going to add to the tally, despite the fact Regina fire marshal Randy Ryba said crews found a smart meter that had overheated and caught fire.

In an October 2013 letter to Occupational Health and Safety, IBEW’s assistant business manager Jason Tibbs had expressed concerns over the regulation changes, saying, “it was disheartening to learn that an exemption was given when alternative measures could have been taken to ensure against possible injury to persons and property without the need to place unqualified electrical workers in front of possible and unnecessary hazards.”

IBEW Local 2067 originally fought the exemption, saying it had “serious reservations about the potential for injury or property damage and the lack of qualified supervision”.

Compliance with legislation

SaskPower responded to the allegations about the exemption last week saying it is in compliance with all legislation in the province related to electrical workers.

Spokesperson for the crown corporation, Tyler Hopson, told reporters SaskPower doesn’t know why the exemption was necessary or why it was lifted.

“That would be a question for the Ministry of Labour Relations. We were requested to make that exemption and so we followed suit and again we’ve been in compliance with legislation the entire time,” said Hopson.

The NDP also says the documents it obtained show that 150 unqualified workers were hired despite the fact that 50 electricians had applied to do the job.

Hopson responded to that saying, “there is a shortage of qualified electricians in Saskatchewan.”