How To Check if Your Electrical Contractor Is Licensed and Insured

Hiring an unlicensed electrical contractor can be tempting, especially if you’re on a tight budget. However, the risks of doing so usually outweigh the marginal benefits. You put yourself at serious risk for injury, catastrophic property damages, and even death in some cases.

Hiring an unlicensed contractor does not guarantee sufficient knowledge and proper training to carry out the job safely.  Unfortunately, since electrical wiring is not seen or smelled regularly, many fail to realize its dangers. In reality, the work of unlicensed contractors usually results in electrical hazards hidden beneath the walls leading to electrocution and fires. NFPA reports that the second leading cause of household fires in the US from 2012 to 2016 are electrical failures or malfunctions.

Besides safety risks, hiring an unlicensed contractor may void your insurance policy. Insurance does not cover fire-related damages if an unlicensed contractor performed the initial work. Inspectors would more likely rule negligence as the cause of the fire. Moreover, you will also be held responsible if an unlicensed electrician suffers an injury while on the job.

Lastly, keep in mind that hiring an unlicensed contractor is illegal. Sadly, many building owners still fall prey, especially when these unlicensed electrical contractors perform scams where they show a business occupational license number. They make you believe that they are allowed to provide electrical contracting services, when in fact, this business permit is not tantamount to a regulatory license to provide such services. You are at risk of violating laws and compromising the integrity of your project. In the end, you might end up spending more money than you hoped.

Given that many people still fall for these scams, it is essential to determine if your electrical contractor is licensed and insured. This article will discuss how you can choose and verify the right electrical contractor to avoid becoming a victim. We will also look at the differences among licensed, registered, and certified electrical contractors, so let us start!

What is a licensed and insured contractor?

Each state in the US has its own licensing requirements for electricians and electrical contractors alike. Generally, a contractor’s license is needed to hire licensed professionals, bid on projects, and apply for every project’s necessary permits.

The state of Minnesota requires that any person or entity be licensed before they can offer electric work services such as repairing, altering, maintaining, installing, and wiring any devices, equipment, or appliances. In its simplest form, a licensed electrical contractor is anyone who has proven his or her abilities, passed a rigid examination, and continuously taken education and training.

So what does a company need when getting a license? Before applying for a new license in Minnesota, a contractor shall have a business structure and a registered business entity. The requirements are as follows:

  • License fee;
  • Assumed name verification;
  • License application form (accomplished);
  • Disclosure of business owners, partners, officers, and members form (accomplished);
  • Bond (for new contractors, changed bonding companies, and changed business structures only)
  • Certificate of responsible licensed individual or Master Electrician
  • Certificate of liability insurance
  • Certification of Compliance with Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Law

If a contractor has multiple projects in different states, it usually needs to obtain a contractor’s license in each of those states. Apart from that issued by the state, there are also counties and cities requiring and issuing another contractor’s license.

Typically, contractor’s licenses are valid for a year, so they need to be renewed annually.

Moreover, a contractor shall obtain a surety bond of $25,000. The applicant shall sign the original document with a power of attorney attached.

Lastly, electrical contractors in Minnesota also need to file an examination application and pass the said examination.

Keep in mind that there are different types of contractors. An electrical contractor is required to have an electrical contractor’s license to carry out its function. However, general contractors and construction firms that partner with licensed electrical contractors to perform electrical work do not need to have an electrical contractor’s license.

  • Educational Requirements

A contractor cannot obtain its license without a licensed professional onboard its team. So now, let us discuss the requirements that electricians shall meet to get their licenses.

Note that there are various license types for electricians. To obtain each license, an electrician shall meet the minimum requirements, especially in terms of experience. Below are the different license types and minimum experience required:

  • Class A Master Electrician (60 months)
  • Class A Journeyworker Electrician (48months)
  • Maintenance Electrician (48 months)
  • Lineman ( 48 months)
  • Class A Installer (12 months)
  • Class B Installer (12 months)
  • Power Limited Technician (36 months)

Under each license type, there are necessary skills in which an applicant must be well-versed. There is a certain maximum credit allowance for each skill to ensure that licensed electricians are well-rounded and knowledgeable in different applications. Aside from meeting the minimum experience requirements, an applicant shall pass the examination to obtain the license.

  • Responsibilities of an Electrical Contractor

So what exactly does an electrical contractor do? Generally, it is responsible for all the electrical work in a construction project. This work involves the installation, altering, repairing, planning, and installing electrical apparatus, wiring, and equipment for various systems in a structure.

Other specific responsibilities include the following:

  • Ensure that all its electricians are actively licensed or registered.
  • Ensure that unlicensed workers are always supervised by licensed electricians when performing electrical work.
  • Keep records of the work experience of all unlicensed workers performing electrical work and provide such records upon request.
  • Inform the Department of Labor and Industry (DLI) of the loss of the electrician-in-charge within 15 days.
  • Obtain all the necessary electrical work permits before the commencement of any electrical work.
  • Conduct necessary inspections.
  • Ensure that its license number appears on all company vehicles at all times.
  • Ensure timely responses to requests for information from the DLI and other authorized inspectors.
  • Renew license in a timely fashion.

Licensed Contractor vs. Registered vs. Certified

Often, we hear about a contractor being “licensed” or “registered” or “certified,” but what exactly do these terms mean? Are there differences, or do they all mean the same? Let us discuss in-depth below:

  • Licensed/Certified

When we say that an electrical contractor is licensed or certified, it means that the company has met all the requirements to obtain a state-wide license. With this license, it can carry out its services throughout the state.

  • Registered

When we say that an electrical contractor is registered, it implies that the company is registered to provide its services in the county or municipality where it is registered. A registered electrical contractor has a certificate of competency granted by the Electrical Contractors’ Licensing Board. It can only provide its services in the counties and municipalities where it has a registration

How to Avoid Falling Victim to an Unlicensed Contractor

Here are some of the most important things you need to do to avoid falling prey to the scams of unlicensed contractors:

Check the website.

The fastest way to learn more about an electrical contractor is through the internet. It is the best place to start, as it allows you to check their certifications, services, and other credentials. A good website also shows a contractor’s past projects. If it has a rich portfolio, be it of big or small projects, you can be confident that it provides quality services that many people trust.

Verify license and insurance.

Licenses and insurance policies are in place for several reasons. Firstly, they ensure the safety of all electrical work carried. Secondly, they guarantee that all electricians have the relevant experience needed to perform such work. More importantly, they protect your interests as a customer. Particularly, the bond assures you that you will be compensated for damages if an electrical contractor leaves the project unfinished. Meanwhile, the insurance guarantees that you are covered even if incidents or accidents happen while the project is ongoing.

Positive feedback and word of mouth are not enough proof that an electrical contractor is licensed and insured. You need to dig deeper and look at the credentials yourself. The foolproof way to verify a contractor’s license and insurance is to ask for the evidence. If it hesitates, you already have reasons to doubt that it is licensed and insured. However, you can still check with a local licensing board to find out more about the company.

Ask about the training of electricians.

A legit electrical contractor cares about the growth of its employees because it means good for business. It invests in its human resources to make sure that it maintains its reputation. It is a very technical job that requires years of experience, so regular training and capacity-building activities are necessary. Do not hesitate to ask the electricians directly about the training they get from the company. If the contractor provides none, you might want to reconsider hiring the said contractor.

March is Ladder Safety Month

Did you know March is National Ladder Safety Month?

Celebrated from February 22nd up to March 31st, the National Ladder Safety Month is a movement dedicated to ladders’ safe use at work and home. The celebration seeks to raise awareness regarding the safe and proper use of ladders to decrease ladder-related injuries and fatalities.

The American Ladder Institute (API), the only approved developer of safety standards for the ladder industry in the United States, seeks to spread awareness about the importance of planning, training, and continuous enhancements of ladder designs to prevent ladder-related accidents.

Why Ladder Safety for Construction Worker/ Electricians Is So Important

Workers like electricians have to use ladders when accessing homes and buildings, which leaves them prone to accidents. So if there are job sectors heavily concerned with ladder safety, that would be construction and electrical.

In this modern age, ladder accidents still happen a lot. Each year, more than 500,000 people are treated in the United States because of ladder-related injuries. What’s even more alarming is that 300 Americans die each year because of injuries sustained through ladder accidents.

Ladder injuries have an estimated cost of around $24 billion each year if all the related costs are factored in. The saddest part in all of this is that all of these can be easily avoided. With better ladder safety and safer ladders, the number of accidents can be cut drastically.

The disappointing stats just shows where the National Ladder Safety Month plays a significant role.

The Focus of the National Ladder Safety Month

For this year’s celebration of the National Ladder Safety Month, each week has a theme. The following are the planned themes for each week:

March 1 – 11: Overall Importance of Ladder Safety

For the first week, the emphasis will be on informing the public about the need for a month-long celebration of ladders’ safety. Most people are still unaware that there is this kind of celebration, and even for those who have heard about it, they may not have thought about its significance to them.

The public should be aware that ladder safety is not just about safety in the workplace. It’s also about safely using ladders at home.

March 12 – 18: Ladder Safety at Work

Ladders are commonly used in construction sites and other workplaces. Improper use of ladders can lead to some serious accidents. This is why the second week of Ladder Safety Month focuses on the idea of ladder safety at work.

The aim is to reduce ladder-related accidents and injuries. The sad truth is that most of those accidents and injuries are entirely preventable.

March 19 – 25: Ladder Safety at Home

Homeowners sometimes perform home maintenance tasks using ladders. The most common example of this is when they clean gutters. There are other uses for ladders in a home setting and it’s always essential to maintain safety standards whenever using them.

That’s why ladder safety at home is the focus of the third week of Ladder Safety Month.

March 26 – April 1: Ladder Inspection and Disposal

Many ladder-related accidents happen because of old and defective ladders. No matter how careful you are, if the ladder you are using is faulty, you could still get hurt. This is why proper ladder inspection should be taught.

It’s essential to know the things that should be checked on a ladder. How can one tell that it is no longer safe to use? When does it have to be replaced?

Those are the themes for the weeks making up the National Ladder Safety Month. Electrical contractors can join the celebration by posting information regarding the month on their social media accounts. They can also share some safety tips for the proper use of ladders.

Ladder Safety Tips

Ladder accidents are more common than what some people might suppose. This is why it helps if there are ladder safety tips to educate the public regarding this.

Here are a few ladder safety tips that we can use:

Tip #1: Pick the Right Type of Ladder

You need to choose the right kind of ladder that you can use. Types of ladders include stepstools, stepladders, and self-supporting types. You need to pick the type that matches the use you have in mind for it. You may have to use a platform ladder when you are doing some electrical work on the ceiling. It provides more stability for you to perform your work.

Tip #2: Ladder Height Requirements

There are also some safety rules that you should remember concerning the height of ladders. You must get a ladder that will allow you to perform your task while staying balanced and secure. If you get off-balanced when you are using a ladder, that means it’s not the right one to use for that task.

Never stand and work while on the top two steps of a step ladder, nor should you work on the top four steps of an extended extension ladder. A ladder should be extended beyond 3 feet the support or the base for it to be balanced appropriately.

Tip #3: Duty Rating

Ladders are given duty ratings which determine the kind of task or work where they can be used. Make sure that you are aware of the duty rating of the ladder that you are using to know that you are safe.

The highest rating is Type 1AA, which has a maximum weight of 375 lbs and can be used for heavy jobs.

Tip #4: Follow the Right Way of Climbing Ladders

There is a right way of climbing ladders. It’s essential to maintain the three points of contact all the time. The climber must also stay within the rails.

A worker should also not carry tools when climbing. Those can be carried on harnesses, or they can be pulled up after the worker has climbed.

These are just four ladder safety tips that can reduce the number of accidents significantly if everyone followed.

Ladder accidents are still common, but they are preventable. Electricians and other workers should be conscious of the safe way of using ladders all the time.

If you want to know more about safety in the workplace, check out what Power Partner MN has to offer.