Aug 15, 2022
While the rate of electrical fatalities is trending downwards, electrical injuries as a whole are not as rare as we’d hope. From the underground electrical economy to DIYers taking on home renovations, electrical safety accidents have increased over the last two years. Josie Erzetic, President and CEO of the Electrical Safety Authority, told us how her organization is working to combat these issues and protect consumers from dangerous acts. Listen to our chat during this thinkenergy Summer Recharge.
Do you work in a construction related industry? Call or email ([email protected]) the ESA to learn about their spring startup sessions. They are happy to send somebody out to educate your workers about the potential hazards around powerline contact.
To subscribe using Apple Podcasts:
To subscribe using Spotify:
To subscribe on Libsyn:
Subscribe so you don't miss a video: https://www.youtube.com/user/hydroottawalimited
Check out our cool pics on https://www.instagram.com/hydroottawa
More to Learn on https://www.facebook.com/HydroOttawa
Keep up with the Tweets at https://twitter.com/thinkenergypod
Dan Seguin 00:06
This is thinkenergy. The podcast that helps you better understand the fast changing world of energy through conversations with game changers, industry leaders and influencers. So join me, Dan Seguin, and my co-host, Rebecca Schwartz, as we explore both traditional and unconventional facets of the energy industry. Hey everyone, welcome to the summer rewind edition of the thinkenergy podcast. While we recharge our batteries during these lazy hazy days of summer, we're bringing back some blasts from our podcast past. We'll be reintroducing some of our most popular interviews that garnered a lot of attention and interest. There's been a lot of talk about the future electrification of energy on the path to net zero. The episodes we've selected are very future focused with themes around green innovation, renewable energy, and our impact on the environment. So I hope you enjoy the summer rewind edition of today's episode. In the meantime, have a happy summer. And we'll be back on August 15th to kick off another exciting season. Cheers.
Dan Seguin 00:50
Hey, everyone, welcome back. This is the ThinkEnergy podcast. And in today's episode, we'll be talking about safety in this increasingly, electric world. I'm dancing.
Rebecca Schwartz 01:02
And I'm Rebecca Schwartz.
Dan Seguin 01:04
Electricity is everywhere. It has become a necessary part of our lives powering the way we live, work and play. Rebecca, how much of a headache is it when the power goes out?
Rebecca Schwartz 01:19
Hmm, it's a huge headache, Dan. And let me tell you, as a social media coordinator, I know firsthand that our customers feel the pain.
Dan Seguin 01:28
Yep, I'm the same way when the power goes out, we notice but apart from those moments, it's easy to take for granted. Likewise, with it being such a critical resource that already has many safeguards in place, it's easy to forget just how dangerous it is
Rebecca Schwartz 01:45
so true. And well, most of us have likely experienced an electric shock of some kind. Hopefully, for most people, just a small Static Shock, you know, from walking across your carpet with socks on and touching the closest victim in proximity to you. But I digress. static shocks like these are of little consequence. However, when it comes to the electric current running through our homes, businesses and communities via wires and powerlines incidents involving electric shock are anything but amusing.
Dan Seguin 02:15
Unfortunately, the sobering reality is that electrical injuries are not as rare as you and I or the Electrical Safety Authority would like. According to the Ontario electrical safety report, there have been a 135 electrical related fatalities in the past 10 years. 52 of those deaths were a result of electrocution, or the effects of an electrical burn, and 83 were a result of electrical fires. The silver lining is that the rate of electrical fatalities is actually trending down. fatalities have dropped 13% Compared to the previous 10 year period.
Rebecca Schwartz 02:59
And the organization behind this downwards trend is the Electrical Safety Authority. They serve to regulate and promote electrical safety in Ontario, improve safety for the well being of all Ontarians and ultimately to reduce electrical injuries and fatalities to zero.
Dan Seguin 03:16
So Rebecca, here's today's big question. How has the electrical safety authorities strategically evolved, its approach to safety in this modern and increasingly electric world? Special guest, Josie Erzetic, Chief regulatory officer and General Counsel for the Electrical Safety Authority is here with us today to help ground us with a greater understanding of the dangers behind electricity, and how we can protect ourselves, our loved ones, and our colleagues from injury. Hey Josie, Welcome to the show. Perhaps you can start us off by telling us more about your organization, your role as a regulator, and what fuels your passion for working there?
Josie Erzetic 04:12
Thanks so much, Daniel. I'm really happy to be on the show. So Thanks for inviting me. I guess what I'd start off with is just talking about ESA's mission, and that is to promote electrical safety across Ontario. So in fact, our vision is an Ontario where people can live work and play safe from electrical harm. So we're talking about electrical safety at home, as well as in the workplace. So how do you do that? We basically have carriage four regulations in the province. So the first one being the one people probably associate most which with us, which is the Ontario Electrical Safety Code. The second one is that we license all of the LEC's and ME's, that's master electricians and licensed electrical contractors in the province. Thirdly, we regulate electrical product safety. And finally, we regulate the safety of all licensed distribution companies in the province. And that would be, for example, Ottawa Hydro. So we regulate safety in that regard as well. And we're constantly just scanning the market for new areas that we perceive present an electrical safety risk to consumers to Ontarians. And we promote education, electrical safety education. So what what fuels my passion you asked? It's basically that safety and consumer protection mandate, I find it very, very meaningful work to do this. So that's what gets me up in the mornings. And I'm really fortunate to just work with a really, really great group of people.
Rebecca Schwartz 06:01
with safety and risk mitigation top of mind how the accidents increased or decreased in the last five to 10 years. And how do you measure this?
Josie Erzetic 06:10
it's a really good question. And I'm very happy to report that over the last 10 years, overall, the state of electrical safety in Ontario has improved. There's been a 42% reduction in critical injuries that result as a result of electrical incidents, and there's been a 30% reduction in electrical fires. Overall, as well over the past decade, there's been an 11% decrease in electrical related fatalities. When it comes to power lines, specifically, there has been an 8% decrease in the last 10 years in power line related fatalities. So how do we know this? we track all the data. So we look very carefully at electrical fatalities, as well as critical injuries. And we really sort of hone in on where they're coming from. So I'll give you an example. For example, dump truck drivers a number of years ago, we recognized that there were a lot of electrical contact with power lines as the result of dump truck drivers keeping the box on their truck in an elevated position. So as a result of that we really focused in on that problem and started to do a lot of work with that industry. So what did we do? we created a whole campaign around, look up, look out. So we posted these types of signs all around construction areas, we posted power line safety posters. We delivered safety talks to industry associations to students to construction workers. And we worked in partnership with the IHSA, which is the infrastructure Health and Safety Association. And we also translated some of our safety materials into other languages, including French, Portuguese, Punjabi, to make sure that people understood the message. And as a result of it, what's happened is that the number of powerline contacts from that industry has decreased by 28%, when you compare five year periods. So having said all that, there's still a lot of work to be done. And we're again tracking data to look at where we might see other risk areas so that we can really focus in on those.
Dan Seguin 08:53
Now let's move on from data to reports. I know you recently released an annual safety report. What is that telling you?
Josie Erzetic 09:01
So our annual safety report is called the Ontario electrical safety report or OESR. It's the only document of this kind in Canada. And what it really does is help us identify emerging risk areas. So this this last month, we released our 20th edition. And what it's telling us on the homeowner side certainly is we've seen an increase in power line contacts reported from the public. So this is not what I was referring to earlier in terms of fatalities per se, but it's just an increase in the numbers of contacts, which of course could lead to serious injury or fatality, so we want to really think about data like this and try to send our safety message to the public. So where are we seeing contact? we're seeing it in areas like tree trimming or cutting. We're seeing it in things like kite flying or home improvement. work. For example, if you think about it, you're working around your home, you're moving around a ladder, let's say, to clean your eavestroughs, anything like that. And we're potentially seeing power line contact as a result, yard renovations. So we noticed that, especially during this pandemic period, where people are doing a lot of their own renovation work, there's a potential there for power line contact. So what we've done is we're shifting a lot of our campaigns online, and we're sending out messages like stop, look and live, we find that people are going online, when they're thinking about doing renovations when they're hiring contractors to help with some of those renovations. So we want to send out those messages that make sure you're aware of powerlines, you're aware of what you're doing, and that you stay far enough away. Another example is pools and pool clearances or hot tubs. So in that sense, we've sent out messages saying make sure you keep yourself and your equipment, for example, pool skimmers, which can be quite long, far away from overhead power lines, and our recommendation is at least three meters away. So that's on the homeowner side. And if we want to switch it now to the work side, on the occupational side, I point to the fall of 2019. Were in the span of about 24 hours, we were notified tragically of two critical injuries and two deaths as a result of powerline contact. And those were four separate incidents. So one was a crane construction worker. The second one was arborists that were it was a team of two arborists that were involved in tree trimming. The third one involved a TTC worker. So that's the Toronto Transit Commission in Toronto. And, and the fourth one was a drill operator. So this was a really tragic day where you had a number of incidents just occurring in very close temporal proximity. But it was also a catalyst for us to think about redesigning our power line campaign. And so what we're doing as a result is we have campaigns twice annually so that we make sure it's at the start of construction season, as well as in the fall months. We're also working closely with the Ministry of Labor to understand all of the circumstances behind those incidents. And we also work with our industry partners to make sure that we educate workers who are at high risk, and I mentioned arborist as an example. So we want to again focus in on those occupations that we think are at high risk of powerline contact. We've also observed a rise in incidents involving young workers. And as a result, we have specialists who go to the colleges to ensure that students young workers involved in things like heavy machinery operation in the arborist industry, get the information about the potential hazard around power line contact, so to ensure that they're well educated on that. And we also encourage any companies. So anyone who is listening to this podcast, who you know works in a construction related area, if you want to give us a call about our spring startup sessions, we're happy to send somebody out to educate your workers about the potential hazards around powerline contact. And you can do this by just emailing us at [email protected] And we'd be happy to do a spring startup session for folks.
Rebecca Schwartz 14:11
Thanks, Josie. We'll make sure to include that in our show notes. So we read that the Electrical Safety Authority is striving to be a modern risk based electrical safety regulator for Ontarians. What exactly does that mean?
Josie Erzetic 14:25
Yeah, it's a great question. And I often think about that, myself, what does it mean to be to be a modern regulator, so it can mean a lot of things to a lot of people, but I'll sort of give you the key elements of it for us. So it really, it means to us to use something that we call risk based oversight. It means leveraging technology and really fostering the capabilities of our people. So when we say risk based oversight, as you can imagine, trying to be a safety regulator. The complex world we live in today in a in a province, as populous as the province of Ontario is a difficult task, you can't be everywhere all at once. So we use risk base to really prioritize and focus on the highest risk electrical installations, we actually have an algorithm that helps us understand which installations are the high risk ones, and we prioritize those and have a whole system for prioritization. So we're basically putting the most time in the highest risk areas. Along those lines were also through. And we did this through the COVID period, we're really piloting the use of what we call remote inspections. So that in other words, rather than an inspector attending at each installation, there's the possibility for a licensed electrical contractor to send in photos or videos. And we put job aids around that and given instruction to the industry about what we're looking for. So again, so low risk installation, and in the inspectors discretion, they can accept photos or videos, which you can imagine, makes it more efficient for us doing our job. And it's also, you know, potentially an efficiency value to the contractor as well to submit photos rather than having somebody attend in person. So that's another thing where we're moving forward as a modern regulator, I'd say, in terms of leveraging technology, we've really moved digital, I think, as have a lot of companies at this time. So example, where we used to have all our master exams happening in person, they can now happen virtually. So we have a system where we can do virtual proctoring of exams, so you can do your exam online, we can do online training, which is either synchronous or asynchronous, which is which is terrific for folks. If it's synchronous, then you might have an instructor with you asynchronous, you're watching videos, or you're going through PowerPoint on on your own time. So it's, it's leveraging technology for us, but also for the folks that we service. And another big thing we've done is our plan review group, which looks at electrical drawings, for complex electrical installations. So say, for example, for a car manufacturer or a large industry, rather than having these clients submit hard copies of complicated electrical plans, they can now do so digitally through our electronic plan review portal. So that's something again, that's very good for clients and good for efficiency purposes. For us, we also have a new scheduling tool that provides customers better notice of when an inspector is going to arrive, which is again, a real win from a from an efficiency standpoint, and we're now launching a project that would allow master electricians and licensed electrical contractors to submit documents online, so time saving there. And the last area I'd say is focusing on fostering new skills. So where our employees need to augment skills or develop new skills, we're very supportive of continuing education and, and skills broadening. And we're also looking at where do we have gaps? Where is technology? Or is our sector evolving, and we need to ensure we're evolving with it. So an example I give you there is what we've just been talking about, which is around data analytics. So we've recognized that we need to improve our capability in that regard. And as a result, we've hired a couple of new people to help us in that regard. And we're also augmenting skills of folks that we already have working for us. I think I'd be remiss if I didn't mention diversity and inclusion. I think a lot of employers are thinking about that right now, as are we. And so we do have what we call an idea strategy, which is inclusion, diversity, equity and accessibility. And I think that is a very important part of being a modern regulator. And I would say that, you know, I'm really happy to report that 80% of our executive team is now women. So I think we're making some real advances in that area, but you know, I'll be honest with you, I'd like to see more so We're continuing to work on that. So I guess that's in summary, what I really see is being a modern regulator.
Dan Seguin 20:08
That's very interesting. Thanks, Josie. Now, wondering if you could tell us about your organization's new corporate strategy at a high level? Can you walk us through the four strategic goals and why they're so important?
Josie Erzetic 20:23
Yeah. So it's, it's a very good question. And some of these goals we have maintained from previous years and others we've really expanded upon. So I would say the, the first of the four main goals is really safety. And that's one that's always been a focus of our organization. But having said that, we can all see the rapid evolution of technology in the sector. So we're really maintaining a close focus on that, and working with industry partners in that regard. So examples I give you there are things like the adoption of electric vehicles or energy storage technologies. So in the example I give you is that I'm currently sitting on a council that the Ministry of Transportation has set up around Evie adoption. So we want to participate on councils like that, that look at this one is on the electrification of the transportation sector. So that's an important part important pillar in the strategy, and an important part of what we're doing. So we do things like we anticipate new risk areas, we have something called the harm lifecycle, which really has a scanning the market, looking at potential for new technology, new harms that we should be monitoring and assessing. And then we decide, is this a high risk area that we would like to pilot a program in as an example? Is this something we should be partnering on? Like the example I just gave you with what MTO is doing? Is this something that we want to continue as a program, once we have achieved our goals in it? Is it something that we exit from so we have a whole lifecycle and how we look at risk. So I think that's an important part of the new strategy around safety. And then compliance, that's also something that we have carried over from our previous strategy. But I think, if anything, I would say we're almost amping up what we're doing in this area. So we work closely with our licensed communities, for example, the licensed electrical contractor community, and we educate the public in terms of ensuring that they hire a licensed electrical contractor, rather than, for example, going to unlicensed individuals. And we refer to that as the underground economy. So I would say that this new strategy really emphasizes the importance of getting at that underground economy or, you know, I'd like to put it as like, just let's take a bite out of that underground economy, let's reduce what's going on there. So we want to educate homeowners to not hire unlicensed individuals. And we will take enforcement action, where it's required against those people who are working illegally and not taking out licenses or permits because there are real safety and consumer protection risks around that type of work. And we've got some real active campaigns around that. For example, we have a Kijiji Blitz, where we are actively looking for people advertising services illegally on Kijiji and forcing those to come off Kijiji. Our third goal is operating with organizational agility. And I think, as a lot of companies are doing today, and as we talked about earlier, we're trying to leverage technology to make ourselves more efficient, and reduce, you know, burden for the licensees. So whether those are licensed electrical contractors, or LDCs, such as Hydro Ottawa, we're trying to reduce burden for our clients. And I think the last area is really around public accountability. We want to be seen as a publicly accountable transparent regulator So we do regular surveys of our customers to identify areas for improvement. You know, what are our strengths? But what are our weaknesses? And how can we do better? I think ESA has a culture of continuous improvement, which we're very proud of.
Rebecca Schwartz 25:18
Thanks for the reference to the underground economy, it seems like there's a black market for everything, even electrical services. Has there been a story that's stuck with you in regards to an electrical incident resulting in a serious injury that could have been prevented? Or is there a safety tip that you wish everybody knew?
Josie Erzetic 25:37
Yeah. So thank you for that question. And something that is real top of mind for me lately, is something called lichtenburg generators. So we've had a number of serious injuries and some deaths involving these devices. And my safety tip is stop using these devices. They are devices that they can either be made. So people were seeing people doing them as do it yourself projects, or they can be purchased. However, they're not a product that's either approved or certified by any certification body, and they're extremely dangerous. So we're aware of at least five fatalities and one critical injury that have taken place over the last three years. And a couple of those fatalities occurred earlier this year. And what these things are, I don't know if you've ever heard of them before, but they are used to create art. So they're like a wood burning type device. So you create it by burning designs into wood or acrylic. But they're a lot of them are homemade. And people take parts out of microwaves, for example, to put these things together. And they have a lot of accessible wiring components. So they're very unsafe to handle. And so and particularly on social media forums, we're seeing that individuals are posting videos, and they're instructing each other on how to build these devices. So right now we have a very comprehensive public safety awareness campaign to educate the public about the dangers of using Lichtenberg generators. And we're specifically targeting that sort of do it yourself, community and those who are interested in things like woodworking so what we're finding it's primarily men aged between 20 and 40, to not carry out this type of hobby and not use these types of devices. And if anyone is aware of advertising of this kind of advice, we would encourage them to call us at 1-877-esa-safe or visit us online. And and make us aware of this because we are asking, particularly YouTube to try to get these How To Videos removed. So the safety tip again, is don't use these devices. They're very dangerous.
Dan Seguin 28:20
Now your organization has a vision, a big vision to create an Ontario where people can live, work and play safe from electrical harm. During the pandemic, have there been any particular challenges or opportunities in achieving this?
Josie Erzetic 28:37
Yeah, it absolutely, because as I'm sure you both have found, people were at home. That means, among other things, a lot of on at home online shopping. So we want to make sure that people are very aware that electrical products that you're looking at, make sure they've been approved by a recognized certification body. So from both a safety awareness point of view, but also a consumer protection point of view, we want to make sure that people are buying approved products, as you both know. Online, it's so it's a global problem. You can buy products from anywhere in the world now and have them shipped directly to your house. So again, as a regulator, it's hard to be everywhere all at once. So the best thing is to have consumers aware themselves that when you're buying electrical products, you will want to ensure that it's either CSA certified UL certified, that you've got an approval mark on that product and you look for it when you're buying it on these online platforms. We share jurisdiction here with Health Canada, so I know Health Canada is all so concerned about this problem. So what we've done is we've set up a task force and we include ourselves on it, Health Canada, our own ministry, provincially, which is the ministry of government and Consumer Services. We've got manufacturers working with us distributors, consumer advocates, we've got bricks and mortar stores as part of the task force. But we also have online retailers. And we're all discussing the problem of consumer awareness, consumer protection and safety, because it's an all our interest to make sure people are safe. And we're putting resources into follow up on any reports we see, or we receive about unsafe consumer products. So we have been and we will follow up on 100% of reports we receive where somebody says, Look, I bought this thing it's unapproved, you know, I found that it sparked or there was a flash, when I tried to plug it in, we will follow up on all these things. We're also really enhancing consumer consumer awareness efforts, especially around this time of year, we're heading into holiday shopping season. And so we do have a holiday safety campaign. That's where we see a lot of people online, a lot of people looking at electrical products. So this campaign really focuses on consumer safety. And this year, in particular, we're encouraging folks who, you know, may be doing a lot of holiday decorating, they may be getting together to do this type of thing. So they're putting more emphasis on it this year, I don't know maybe more so than last year, when nobody came over. We're saying, you know, look closely at your your lights, right, your holiday lights that you're buying, make sure they're approved, make sure you use them correctly. Make sure if you have old ones that you're digging out of your basement, that there's no damage to cords, so just you know, be careful.
Rebecca Schwartz 32:04
Josie, you mentioned amateur DIY is like the dangerous Lichtenberg wood burning video on YouTube. Has there been other instances where the Electrical Safety Authority has seen an increase in electrical accidents? Or what about new areas of concern?
Josie Erzetic 32:20
Yeah, it's, it's a really, it's a good question. And again, particularly through this pandemic period, where people are looking for new hobbies, or, you know, they're at home, they're thinking about ways to renovate their house, maybe they cannot find a contractor or someone says to them, okay, it'll be months and months before somebody can get your house. So they just, they feel like, Oh, well, I could I want to do it myself. Right. So in that sense, we really remind homeowners consumers, that electricity is something that is dangerous, that you need to hire a professional to do it, there is the potential homeowners can do their own work. But in our view, it is better to hire a professional because there are safety risks inherent in the work. If homeowners are doing it themselves, then we certainly would remind them that they must take out the proper notifications with ESA, because that then has an inspector coming to their house to inspect the work. So at the very least, you want to ensure that happens. But we would say primarily, look, leave it to the professionals. So hire a licensed electrical contractor. And only a licensed electrical contracting business can be hired to do this. So when you're hiring people, we also remind folks to ask to see the accurate slash ESA license number. So that should be ever it should be on the estimates you get. It should be on their their trucks, their business cards, their ultimate invoice if you're not seeing that you could be hiring somebody that's in that underground economy that we talked about earlier. So be very careful about who you're hiring. And in this regard, obviously, ESA puts out a lot of its own information. But we also now are partnering with the Mike Holmes group. And you'll probably remember Mike Holmes He's done a lot of work on television. He does a lot of work also through social media. So he has a very large following. And so as a result, we're able to amplify the message by working with that group with Mike Holmes and his family to really get out that message that this is something maybe you don't want to take on on your own because of the safety risks. So certainly, both Mike his son, Mike Jr, and Sherry have posted both on YouTube as well as their other social channels about the importance when you're thinking about renovating to hire a licensed electrical contractor, and also the importance of ensuring you ensuring that you have ESA inspect the work. So you want to make sure at the end of the job, you get an ESA certificate of acceptance when the job's complete. So you know, it's done right. The other thing we've been noticing recently, and we've really made an effort to get the word out on this, so maybe I'll mention it here on this podcast as well, is the difference between a licensed electrical contractor, a master electrician, or what we call a C of Q, Certificate of Qualification holder, a certified electrician. Sometimes people think, oh, this person is an electrician, I'll just hire them directly know, who you need to hire is a licensed electrical contractor, because they are a business. And they were required by us to have $2 million in liability insurance, as well as the WSIB insurance coverage. So how this works is the licensed electrical contractor employs Master electricians who are responsible for overseeing the work of certified electricians, so you don't hire those folks directly. You hire the LEC, and it's important for consumer protection, because that way, if there's an injury, God forbid, or something happens in your home, then there is insurance that covers that. And the homeowner, him or herself is not responsible. So we're really working to increase awareness on the differences between the licensed electrical contracting businesses, which are who you hire, versus the master electricians or the certified electricians. I think that's very important.
Rebecca Schwartz 37:17
Great tips Josie and gotta love Mike Holmes, perhaps now a little bit more broadly, pandemic times or not what are some of the biggest challenges and opportunities that are facing the Electrical Safety Authority right now in general?
Josie Erzetic 37:32
I think I I go back to the underground economy and underground work that we we talked about earlier. So and I think we mentioned that it's just it's such a big problem, not just for our sector. But overall, I think, Rebecca, that you mentioned that you can, you know, almost buy anything in the underground market now. So you really, I think Statistics Canada estimates the underground economy is over $16 billion. That's with a B in Ontario alone. So it's just it's a big problem. And we as I said, I'd like to start a new slogan, like, let's take a bite out of the underground economy, like we really need to ensure with something like electricity, there are such safety and consumer protection issues, that this is not something you want to fool around with and leave to someone who's non licensed and not take out proper permits in this area. There's just too much at risk both with your personal safety and the safety of your home. There could be a fire that results from this. So what are we doing to really tackle this i and Daniel, I think you mentioned it earlier too. It's the Kijiji work so we're actually working a lot of people go online to find contractors. We are online and looking at those ads on Kijiji, and we will send notification to advertisers who we think are unlicensed businesses offering these types of services. If we don't get a voluntary response to take down that ad, Kijiji will forcibly remove it so big shout out to Kijiji for working with us and taking those ads down. And and if we still get repeat offenders, you wouldn't believe this people will come back and advertise again. We're prosecuting them. So we now have 20 charges pending before courts. So I would say that number one consumers do not hire unlicensed people. Be careful about who you're hiring online. We're out there we're working on it, but be careful as to see those licenses people who are doing this work illegally. I would say we are working hard to pull your ads off. Do not do this come into the licensed community. If you want to do this work, then get a license and do it properly. or we will also be looking to prosecute. So we this is important. The other thing we noticed with a high level of EV adoption, we undertook an EV charger Blitz. So we noticed that some EV charging systems that you put in your home in order to charge your vehicle were being done by unlicensed individuals and being done without permits. So we had our inspectors go out and inspect and alert both homeowners because sometimes homeowners don't know that was put in improperly and alert us to where we saw, charters being put in without permits are being put in by unlicensed contractors. And as a result, we've noticed this the period that we were looking at it this year, compared to last year, we've had almost a doubling of the amount of notifications that were taken out. So it makes a big difference when people know that we're out there. We're inspecting these things, and we expect them to be done properly and safety. And we also have an anonymous online reporting tool. So I would even say to your listeners, if you think there could be unlicensed activity going on somewhere, please let us know about it. So you can go online, you will, it's anonymous, but we do appreciate details. So we can do the follow up and investigate, you go to esasafe.com. And we found that this has been a very effective tool since we launched it in April 2020. To get reports, and I will tell people that we do follow up on 100% of the leads we get about unlicensed activity.
Dan Seguin 41:47
Okay, we've covered challenges and opportunities. What about the rise of digital communication? Has it changed your organization's ability to communicate safety messaging?
Josie Erzetic 41:59
Yeah, I'd say it, it really, really has. And we've shifted a lot of our educational campaigns on to social media, because as we alluded to earlier, we do find that is where people are looking, for example, to hire contractors, they're looking for ideas, say on renovation, you know, people will follow certain interior designers, they they will follow renovators on things like Instagram, or they'll follow them on Twitter. So we're leveraging platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Google, Google, YouTube, all of those, because we find that that's where people are going now. But we also find there are potential dangers lurking there as well. And so we really have to monitor and be on top of those. So I'll give you an example of something that was a tic toc challenge that that we were made aware of in early 2020. And this was a challenge where that was issued over tick tock and it was basically about plugging in a phone charger. And then using either was a penny or a nickel or something to drag across the exposed prongs. And it results in in smoke and sparks and but it can also result in fire. So it this is obviously a really dangerous activity. So we became aware of it on social media. And then we use social as well as traditional media in order to educate, you know, basically parents and kids who were doing this, that this was unsafe, and they shouldn't be doing it. And we that was a very successful campaign. And we had more than 15 million views on that. And so we're very, very grateful. And, and we actually we won some awards for what we were able to do with with social media just in terms of identifying a risk and then educating people that they shouldn't be carrying engaging in this activity. And and I guess I should say to that we're also we're leveraging some new new opportunities, like a podcast like what you guys are doing here, which I applaud you for, by the way, we're trying to do the same thing.
Rebecca Schwartz 44:21
Now Josie, our listeners have made it this far. And now they want to know some ways that they can keep their electrical safety knowledge up to date. How can they do that?
Josie Erzetic 44:30
Yeah. So one way to do it is exactly what the two of you are doing with your podcast. We have our own podcast and it's really focused on electrical safety. So it's called Grounded in Ontario, and you can find it on our website at ESAsafe.com/podcast, but you can also go to typical platforms where you'd find podcasts like Apple podcasts or Spotify and located there. So we have new episodes coming out basically monthly. And we talk about things like what we've talked about here and more. So we've had an episode on pools and hot tubs and safety issues relating to that those EV supply equipment. So electrical vehicle chargers, which we also alluded to here, we also talk about arc fault and ground fault circuit interrupters. And we have a new episode that's just coming out on the underground economy, which we've also talked about. So that's a great place to get information. Also, our website has a lot of information and talks about things like do it yourself, renovations, talks about holiday safety talks about home and work safety. So I would, you know, recommend listeners go there. And I'd also always encourage people that if there are safety concerns, or you want to report activity, please go to our website, or please call us and I can give you the number, it's 1-877-372-7233. So we'd love to hear from people.
Dan Seguin 46:12
Okay, as it relates to your podcast Grounded in Ontario, I'll make sure that we post a link in our show notes, well Josie How about you close us off with some rapid fire questions? Are you ready?
Josie Erzetic 46:26
Dan Seguin 46:27
Okay. What is your favorite word?
Josie Erzetic 46:30
I have to say I, I you know, obviously top of mind for me. workwise is safety. But just one of my favorite things to think about is also chocolate.
Dan Seguin 46:40
Now, what is one thing you can't live without?
Josie Erzetic 46:45
Dan Seguin 46:45
What is something that challenges you
Josie Erzetic 46:48
with Rebecca, my love of chocolate? Because then I have to make sure that I you know, keep exercising or something?
Dan Seguin 46:55
If you could have one superpower, what would it be?
Josie Erzetic 47:00
I think the superpower question is always a really is a really great one. And I always I like picking flying for this one. Because then I figure it makes the commuting easier. And it would just be would it be great to just zip to your cottage fast or you know, zip to Europe or something. Especially these times where you know, travel is so difficult.
Dan Seguin 47:22
Josie This is my favorite one here. If you could turn back time and talk to your 18 year old self. What would you tell her?
Josie Erzetic 47:29
Okay, this one, this one I am going to answer very seriously, I would say something that I say to my my kids now who are 19 and 16. And that is believe in yourself. Believe in yourself believe in what you can do. You know, trust, trust yourself. So that that I think is very important for young people to remember.
Dan Seguin 47:53
And lastly, what do you currently find most interesting in this sector?
Josie Erzetic 47:59
Um, so I would say it's it's the pace of change. I just think our sector the energy sector is just fascinating. Right now we've talked about things like electrification of transportation, and the speed of the adoption there. We think of things like energy storage, the growth of renewables, I think of distribute, you know, distributed energy resources. I think it's fascinating. We're all concerned about climate change. So we're thinking about how we can reduce our carbon footprint, what, what role does energy play in that? What What will it look like 2030 4050 years from now where we might have entire communities that are doing things like net metering, we might have, you know, renewable generation, within a smaller community, or just you'll have solar panels on your roof, you'll have an energy storage system in your basement, you'll have an Eevee charging outside. So I think that is fascinating. I think energy is so fundamental to how we live and maybe how we'll deal with fundamental global issues like the climate crisis. And so ESA is part of that. I think it's so exciting, because you need to have all of that working safely. So the role we play is fascinating. So that's what I just find hugely fascinating and challenging about our sector.
Rebecca Schwartz 49:25
Well, Josie, we reached the end of another episode of The think energy podcast. Thanks so much for joining Dan and I today. We hope you had fun.
Josie Erzetic 49:33
I had a great time with you guys. Thanks so much. Really appreciate it.
Rebecca Schwartz 49:38
I sure hope you enjoyed this episode of The ThinkEnergy podcast. If so please head over to our iTunes SUBSCRIBE And leave us a review.
Dan Seguin 49:46
Now For show notes and bonus content visit hydroottawa.com/thinkenergy. Also, be sure to tell your friends and colleagues about us. Thank you for listening.