On 20 March 2024, the defendant company was sentenced in the Cleveland Magistrates Court for failing to comply with an electrical safety duty, and in doing so, exposing an individual to a risk of death or serious injury.

The defendant was company which installed, replaced and repaired air-conditioners.

The defendant during August 2020, was contacted by a veterinary clinic at Capalaba to replace three air-conditioning units at the clinic.

The defendant had employed a worker for 15 years. At the time of the offending, the worker had a licence to replace, install, commission, service or repair air-conditioners. The worker’s licence to disconnect and reconnect the electrical equipment on air-conditioners was expired (and had been expired since 25 September 2017). The defendant was aware that the worker’s Restricted Electrical Licence was expired on account of a database it had that recorded such matters.

Separately, the worker was not authorised or qualified (and had never been) to carry out any electrical installation work. Electrical installation work included installing or altering electrical wiring and electrical components (such as isolators).

During August 2020, another employee of the defendant, a sales manager, went to the veterinary clinic to complete a quote. The sales manager did not attend to the roof of the veterinary clinic to inspect the outdoor component of the air-conditioners that were to be replaced.

Consequently, the worker was tasked to go to the veterinary clinic and replace the air-conditioners, and his tasking did not identify whether any electrical installation work was required to be performed to complete the job. Electrical work was required to complete the job at the veterinary clinic because isolators on the air-conditioners needed to be relocated.

On 28 August 2020, the worker went to the veterinary clinic and installed two new air-conditioners with the assistance of an apprentice. The worker performed electrical work. The worker did not have a licence to do so.

On 1 September 2020, the worker returned to the veterinary clinic by himself and began installing the third and final air-conditioner. The worker performed electrical work again.

On that day, the worker asked the defendant for help, because he had difficulties completing his tasks while the veterinary clinic was working (and was powered) below him. However, the worker was rebuffed by the administration staff for the defendant.

The work that the worker was doing was hazardous because it carried a risk of electrocution.

The defendant had a safety procedure which was not followed, but stated that it would:

  1. Ensure that any work involving the risk of electrocution was identified and that risk assessments were completed and implemented to manage that risk;
  2. Consult with workers about electrical hazards, risks, and ways to manage those risks;
  3. Ensure that all workers were trained, competent and fully supervised at all times when there was a risk of electrocution while working.

The sentence proceeded on the basis that the defendant could have eliminated or minimised the risk of death or serious injury, so far as was reasonably practicable by:

  1. Identifying what specific tasks were required to complete the job;
  2. Identifying what licences and competencies were required to carry out each task for the job;
  3. Identifying what licences and competencies were held by the person they sent to the job;
  4. Identifying what needed to be done differently should the person they sent to the job not be licenced and competent to complete the job.
  5. Consulting with workers about the scope of each job and the job’s hazards and risks and ways of managing that risk.
  6. Preventing a worker from performing a task that the worker was not licenced and competent to perform.

By its plea of guilty, the defendant accepted that it failed to comply with its primary duty of care to ensure that its business was conducted in a way that was electrically safe because it did not implement those reasonably practicable control measures.

At around 3:30pm on 1 September 2020, the risk of death or serious injury materialised when the worker was electrocuted while installing the third and final air-conditioner at the veterinary clinic.

Magistrate Sarra considered the facts of the matter, the maximum penalty, the material that was tendered (including an impact statement made by the family of the deceased worker) and the submissions made by the parties.

Magistrate Sarra considered that there was a need to focus on the risks involved where electricity is present, and that the defendant had failed in its duty in respect of managing those risks. Essentially, the defendant had a system in place that would have managed the relevant risk but that system was not carried out, and that the worker had been let down and failed by that system.

Magistrate Sarra acknowledged the deep impact that the offending had on the family of the worker.

Magistrate Sarra took into account the defendant’s early plea of guilty, that the defendant, over the course of 25 years in practice, had no history of offending, and that the defendant had taken extensive steps to rehabilitate its position (including implementing a whole host of procedures after the incident, which were identified after it engaged a third-party expert consultant to undertake a ‘gap’ analysis of the safety systems in place).

Magistrate Sarra also took into account that the defendant had surrendered its electrical contractor’s licence and that it had faced some consequences already for the offending including an electrical contractor’s licence disqualification and a small fine for disciplinary proceedings arising from the incident.

Ultimately, Magistrate Sarra imposed a $150,000.00 fine to be referred to SPER. No conviction was recorded.

Costs of $1,500 and a filing fee of $101.40 were also ordered.

OWHSP contact: enquiries@owhsp.qld.gov.au

Court Report

Electrical and air conditioning
Date of offence
Cleveland Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Sarra
Decision date

Section 40C, 30 Electrical Safety Act 2002 (Qld)

$150,000.00 fine
Maximum fine available
$1,500,000.00 fine
Professional and legal costs
Court costs
In default period
Referred to SPER
Time to pay
Referred to SPER
Conviction recorded