A concreting company has pleaded guilty to a Category 2 offence under s.40C of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (the Act) at a hearing at Toowoomba Magistrates Court on 25 March 2020,for failing to conduct its business in a way that was electrically safe and exposing people to a risk of serious injury or death.  That offence related to a failure to comply with an electrical safety duty under s.30(1) of the Act.The sole director also pleaded guilty to a breach of s.55 of the Act, for conducting electrical work without an electrical work license. The company was fined $35,000 and the director was fined $7,500.

The defendant company was contracted to pour a concrete driveway and housing surrounds in Glenvale. Before the pour, the director hired an electrician to disconnect and later reconnect electricity to two air conditioning units. The company was subsequently ordered by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to rectify defects in the concreting work, which required the same two air conditioning units to be removed again and the electricity to them disconnected.

On or about 14 August 2017, and after unsuccessfully attempting to obtain a licensed electrician to remove the air conditioning units, the director disconnected the electrical supply himself, removed the units and completed his concreting work. This constituted electrical work, for which the director did not hold a license. In doing the work himself, the director left two sets of electrical supply wiring exposed and had improperly terminated the exposed wiring by placing duct tape around the end of the exposed wires for 24 to 48 hours.  The director later returned to the property and attempted to cover the wiring from one of the units.

While there was no evidence to establish the wires were live at the time the defendant left the residence, this could have occurred via activation of the nearby isolator switch and the relevant circuit breaker in the switchboard. When an Electrical Safety Inspector visited the property on 20 October 2017, the circuit breakers in the main switchboard supplying both isolators were in the on position, although the isolator switches were off. This presented a risk of death or serious injury to any person who came into contact with the wiring.

In sentencing both defendants, Magistrate Kay Ryan took into account the need for general deterrence and that the defendants were solely to blame for the offences.Her Honour noted that fortunately no injury or death had resulted in this case.

Her Honour took into consideration there was no evidence the wires were left in a live state and some efforts had been made by the director to reduce the risk. In order to minimise the risk, the company should have obtained a licensed electrician to complete the work, although this may have caused inconvenience in the form of possible delays to the progress of the concreting work.

Magistrate Ryan held that the company’s actions were at the lower end of offending captured by Category 2 offences. Her Honour took into account that the company continued to exist solely for the purpose of the prosecution and would “die a natural death” after court proceedings were completed. The company had been deregistered at the initiation of ASIC after the prosecution commenced and then reinstated at the application of the complainant. In light of this, her Honour determined that the fine to be imposed would be not as high as it would have been if the company was still operating.

In sentencing the director in relation to the s.55 offence, Magistrate Ryan noted that he did not and had never held an electrical work license, and that he knew he should not have done this work. Additionally, her Honour noted that he had since left the concreting industry and was now a ‘fly-in fly-out’ worker.

In determining not to record a conviction for each defendant, Magistrate Ryan noted that both defendants had no history of previous offending, cooperated with the investigation and entered an early guilty plea.

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

Court Report

General
Industry
Construction
Date of offence
Court
Toowoomba Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Kay Ryan
Decision date
Company Officer 1
Legislation

Section 55, Electrical Safety Act 2002

Plea
Guilty
Penalty
$7,500.00
Maximum fine available
$40,00
Professional and legal costs
$750
Court costs
$97.95
In default period to pay
N/A
Conviction recorded
No
Company
Legislation

Section 40C, duty 30(1), Electrical Safety Act 2002

Plea
Guilty
Penalty
$35,000.00
Maximum fine available
$1,500,000
Professional and legal costs
$750
Court costs
$97.95
In default period to pay
Levy in distress
Conviction recorded
No