Industrial Electricians - What They Do

Industrial electricians install, maintain, test, troubleshoot and repair industrial electrical equipment and associated electrical and electronic controls. They are employed by electrical contractors and maintenance departments of factories, plants, mines, shipyards and other industrial establishments.

Job duties

This group performs some or all of the following duties:

  • Read and interpret drawings, blueprints, schematics and electrical code specifications to determine layout of industrial electrical equipment installations
  • Install, examine, replace or repair electrical wiring, receptacles, switch boxes, conduits, feeders, fibre-optic and coaxial cable assemblies, lighting fixtures and other electrical components
  • Test electrical and electronic equipment and components for continuity, current, voltage and resistance
  • Maintain, repair, install and test switchgear, transformers, switchboard meters, regulators and reactors
  • Maintain, repair, test and install electrical motors, generators, alternators, industrial storage batteries and hydraulic and pneumatic electrical control systems
  • Troubleshoot, maintain and repair industrial, electrical and electronic control systems and other related devices
  • Conduct preventive maintenance programs and keep maintenance records
  • May install, maintain and calibrate industrial instrumentation and related devices.

Job titles

  • industrial electrician apprentice
  • industrial electrician
  • plant maintenance electrician
  • electrician, shipyard
  • marine electrician
  • mill electrician
  • mine electrician
  • plant electrician
Employment Requirements

This is what you typically need for the job:

  • Completion of secondary school is usually required.
  • Completion of a four- or five-year industrial electrician apprenticeship program or A combination of over five years of work experience in the trade and some high school, college or industry courses in industrial electrical equipment is usually required to be eligible for trade certification.
  • Trade certification for industrial electricians is compulsory in Prince Edward Island, Quebec and Manitoba and available, but voluntary, in Newfoundland and Labrador, Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, Ontario, British Columbia and the Yukon.
  • Additional construction electrician certification may be required for industrial electricians when the employers are not owners of the industrial electrical equipment.
  • Red Seal endorsement is also available to qualified industrial electricians upon successful completion of the interprovincial Red Seal examination.

Essential Skills


  • Read instructions and warnings written on signs, labels and packaging, e.g., read signs to learn about noise and electrical shock hazards. (1)
  • Read short text entries on technical drawings and forms, e.g., read entries on job hazard assessment forms to learn about unsafe conditions. (1)
  • Read instructions, e.g., read detailed instructions listed on work orders to learn about tasks to be completed. (2)
  • Read notices posted on bulletin boards covering topics such as health and safety policy updates and upcoming events. (2)
  • Read email messages, e.g., read email messages from supervisors that provide detailed information about malfunctions that require troubleshooting. (2)
  • Read safety-related information, e.g., read Material Safety Data Sheets (MSDS) to learn how to safely use controlled products such as adhesives and lubricants. (2)
  • Read magazine and website articles to learn about new products and stay informed about industry practices. (3)
  • Read technical service bulletins, e.g., read technical service bulletins issued by equipment manufacturers to learn about faulty wiring harnesses. (3)
  • Read a wide variety of operating, repair, maintenance, testing and quality control manuals, e.g., read manuals to learn how to install, maintain and repair equipment. (3)
  • Read and interpret electrical codes, standards and regulations, e.g., read codes issued by regulatory committees, associations, safety code councils, and municipal and provincial governments to learn required practices for electrical installations and repairs. (4)

Document use

  • Read labels, e.g., read labels on product packaging, equipment, drawings and panels to locate safety and certification information, operating specifications and identification numbers. (1)
  • Read meters and digital readouts to locate data such as energy readings, settings, error codes and the number of hours equipment has been operating. (1)
  • Take information from pre-maintenance work orders to determine the location and the type of work to be done. (2)
  • Complete a variety of safety-related forms, e.g., complete equipment lockout forms prior to repairing equipment. (2)
  • Study shift, operating and maintenance schedules to locate the dates and times of upcoming repair and maintenance tasks. (2)
  • Complete a variety of forms, e.g., enter data, such as dates, identification numbers, times, specifications and costs to complete work orders and permits. (3)
  • Locate data such as specifications, classifications, material coefficients and identification numbers in complex tables, e.g., scan tables in the Canadian Electrical Code for specifications, such as the size of wire needed in relation to the length of run and size of motor. (3)
  • Use scale drawings, e.g., use elevation drawings and floor plans to locate measurements and the position of equipment and support structures. (3)
  • Use a variety of assembly drawings, e.g., use assembly and exploded view diagrams of complex equipment components to plan installations and troubleshoot faults. (3)
  • Interpret a variety of schematic drawings, e.g., study wiring schematics to locate electrical system components such as circuits and to troubleshoot equipment faults. (4)


  • Write short comments in log books, e.g., write short comments in log books to inform co-workers about progress being made on installations. (1)
  • May write email messages, e.g., write email messages to supervisors and managers to provide details of the work to be undertaken during the next scheduled shut-down. (2)
  • May write reports to describe events leading up to workplace accidents, e.g., write about injuries and events when completing reports for workers' compensation boards. (2)
  • May write detailed service reports that include descriptions of problems and their solutions. (3)


Money Math

  • Not a requirement for this occupation.

Scheduling, Budgeting and Accounting Math

  • May total and report the cost of small projects and repairs. (2)
  • May schedule the completion of concurrent installation and repair tasks by considering project tasks, lead times and the availability of labour and parts. (2)

Measurement and Calculation Math

  • Take a variety of measurements using basic tools, e.g., measure length of cables and the dimensions of equipment using tape measures. (1)
  • Calculate electrical requirements, e.g., calculate current flows, resistances and voltages, and troubleshoot electrical faults. (2)
  • Calculate summary measures, e.g., calculate the average amount of power used by large installations. (2)
  • Calculate requirements using formulae, e.g., use formulae to calculate the parameters for conduit fills and three-phase electrical circuits. (3)

Data Analysis Math

  • Compare measurements of energy, dimension, speed, temperature and torque to specifications, e.g., compare the numeric values from gauges and digital displays to standard or required specifications found in operating and installation manuals. (1)
  • Calculate summary measures to monitor the progression of faults, e.g., average multiple energy readings to determine the condition of electrical components. (2)
  • Analyze multiple energy readings to evaluate electrical system functions and troubleshoot faults, e.g., compare electrical resistance measurements to calculated or predicted values at various points in a circuit to identify the location of a ground fault. (3)

Numerical Estimation

  • May estimate times and costs for equipment repairs and installations. (1)
  • Estimate the register or range of values that will correspond to the correct reading on the sensing or control instrument when installing and calibrating programmable logic controller systems. (2)
  • Estimate the useful life remaining for equipment components such as motors. (2)

Oral communication

  • Speak with suppliers to learn about products, prices and delivery schedules. (1)
  • Exchange information with co-workers, e.g., speak with other tradespeople such as millwrights to coordinate activities and schedules. (2)
  • Exchange information during meetings, e.g., discuss safety issues and procedures during meetings with co-workers. (2)
  • Talk to operators about equipment and machinery breakdowns, e.g., ask operators detailed questions to troubleshoot faults and provide complex instructions to avoid similar breakdowns. (3)
  • Exchange technical repair and troubleshooting information, e.g., discuss unusual electronic control module faults with co-workers and help desk technicians. (3)
  • May provide detailed explanations, e.g., provide detailed instructions to apprentices about electrical troubleshooting techniques and safe work practices. (3)


Problem Solving

  • Are unable to install or repair equipment because specifications and instructions are unavailable. They consult manufacturers, co-workers, suppliers and colleagues for advice and research websites to locate useable information. (2)
  • Face disruptions of work schedules, timelines and budgets when project designs are found to be faulty and when specifications are changed after projects have already started. They assist in the development of new designs and perform other work until projects are restarted. (3)
  • Encounter intermittent faults in equipment. They run diagnostic procedures and test the telephones during peak usage periods. They call customers for more information and scan service bulletins from manufacturers to see if any of them refer to intermittent service. (3)

Decision Making

  • Decide order of tasks and their priorities, e.g., decide when to begin a time-consuming job based on the probability of being interrupted. (2)
  • Decide that a piece of equipment should be repaired rather than replaced. They consider capital, material and labour costs. (2)
  • Decide to shut down a machine because of a pending malfunction. They consider the costs associated with the unexpected shutdown, the potential for damage and the risk of injury to workers if the machine is not serviced. (3)
  • May select materials and suppliers, e.g., decide which brands and types of materials to use by considering specifications, warranties, costs and ease of use. (3)
  • Decide how to deal with emergency situations, e.g., decide how to contend with serious equipment malfunctions that have the potential to injure workers and cause significant property and environmental damage. (3)

Critical Thinking

  • May evaluate the performance of apprentices. They consider apprentices' abilities to complete electrical installations, and diagnose and troubleshoot faults. (2)
  • Evaluate the safety of work sites. They observe elements such as overhead wiring, lockouts, confined spaces and fall hazards. They take note of potential hazards such as iced walkways and improperly stored tools. (2)
  • Evaluate the severity of equipment faults. They consider criteria such as readings, specifications and the risks to safety, property and the environment. (3)
  • Assess the quality and neatness of installations before leaving work sites. They check the equipment for proper labelling, confirm that cables are properly anchored and connections are tight, and review test results. They compare completed installations to drawings and other project documents to ensure equipment has been installed as planned. (3)

Job Task Planning and Organizing

Industrial electricians coordinate their work with other trades and production staff, each having different needs and priorities. (2)

They organize the most effective use of their time within the framework of assigned tasks. Routine tasks are generally assigned by supervisors or dictated by a procedure established by the employer. Much of their other work is in response to broken or malfunctioning electrical installations and cannot be scheduled. They often have to re-prioritize tasks several times a day. (2)

Significant Use of Memory

  • Remember a system's basic parameters and operating tolerances.
  • Remember the faults associated with error and trouble codes for various types of equipment.

Finding Information

  • Find motor specifications by looking on tags and identification plates, and by referring to manuals and technical drawings. (1)
  • Find requirements for non-routine installations by consulting with co-workers and electrical engineers, and by reading electrical codes. (2)
  • Learn how to troubleshoot and repair difficult faults by reading operation manuals, conducting Internet research, seeking information on Web forums and blogs and by speaking with other tradespeople, electrical engineers and manufacturers. (3)

Digital technology

Word Processing

  • May write letters to customers, police and insurance brokers to present the results of mechanical inspections. (2)

Spreadsheet Software

  • May use spreadsheet software to tally costs for job estimates and invoices. (2)

Bookkeeping, Billing and Accounting Software

  • Not a requirement for this occupation.

Communication Software

  • Use communication software to exchange email with suppliers and help desk technicians. (2)

Data Bases

  • Use databases to enter repair information and retrieve equipment maintenance histories. (2)
  • May use databases to retrieve and print scale and assembly diagrams. (2)

Presentation Software

  • Not a requirement for this occupation.

Graphics Software

  • Use graphics software, e.g., use graphics software incorporated in scanning tools to access data displays such as signal values. (2)


  • Use the Internet to access training courses and seminars offered by training institutions, unions, suppliers and employers. (2)
  • Use Internet browsers and search engines to access technical service bulletins, electrical codes, specifications and troubleshooting guides. (2)
  • Use Internet browsers to access and share information on Web forums and blogs. (2)
  • Search through Internet websites and navigate several menus to locate technical data such as pin assignments on integrated circuit chips. (2)

Programming and System Design

  • May install and service Ethernet, peer-to-peer and wireless networks. (3)
  • May install and service process control systems, such as distributed control systems (DCSs) and programmable logic controllers (PLCs), to control the speed and output of machinery. (3)

Project Management Software

  • May use project management software for complex equipment installations to schedule lead times and the completion of project milestones. (3)

Other Digital Technology

  • May use personal digital assistant (PDA) devices to access regulatory codes and complete numeracy-related tasks, such as calculating material requirements. (1)
  • Use hand-held electronic devices to access equipment error codes and operational data such as electrical readings. (1)

Other Essential Skills:

Working with Others

Industrial electricians work as part of a team that includes other tradespeople and professionals to install, repair and maintain industrial electrical systems and equipment. They usually work independently, co-ordinating their work with others. For large jobs, they work with a partner or crew.

Continuous Learning

Industrial electricians often receive in-house safety training to update their certifications, such as Workplace Hazardous Materials Information System (WHMIS), Transportation of Dangerous Goods (TDG), first aid and cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR). They also receive training to safely operate equipment, such as forklifts. They learn about new equipment on-the-job by reading manuals and through hands-on experience. They obtain computer training by taking courses off-site.