On 19 January 2023, a 26-year-old electrician who ran an electrical business was sentenced in the Holland Park Magistrates Court for breaching the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (Qld) (“the Act”) on multiple occasions by failing to comply with his electrical safety duty pursuant to section 30, and for using a drill on asbestos without complying with the requirements of the Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld). He was charged with six Category 2 (section 40C) offences, together with a regulatory breach, for which a global fine of $99,600.00 was imposed by way of penalty. The defendant had already faced a disciplinary hearing in 2021 before the Electrical Licensing Committee (“ELC”), where his electrical work licence was cancelled for five years, and his electrical contractor licence was cancelled for 10 years. He had already also been fined $8,000.00 by the ELC.
Over a 12-month period, between February 2020 and February 2021, the defendant undertook work at multiple properties in South-East Queensland which resulted in the Electrical Safety Office (‘ESO’) receiving numerous complaints in relation to the work performed, including reports of individuals receiving an electric shock. The ESO subsequently commenced an extensive investigation and carried out inspections at many properties where the defendant had performed electrical work. The investigation revealed multiple defects in the defendant’s electrical work, in particular that he repeatedly failed to comply with Australian Standard AS/NZS 3000:2018 (known as the ‘Wiring Rules’), including:
As a result of the defendant’s failure to comply with his electrical safety duty, individuals at six properties were exposed to a risk of death or serious injury, due to, for example, the risk of fire or electric shock. As well, at one of the properties the defendant failed to control the risks of exposure to asbestos when using a power tool as part of the electrical installation of downlights in the ceiling.
In sentencing, Magistrate Ganasan took into account the defendant’s timely plea of guilty, together with the purpose of the Act, which is directed at eliminating the human cost to individuals, families and the community of death, injury and destruction caused by electricity. Her Honour accepted that the defects in the defendant’s work not only exposed individuals to electric shock, but that the customers also suffered financial loss by being required to expend additional funds to correct the defendant’s work.
Her Honour placed emphasis on the sentencing principles of proportionality, deterrence, denunciation and the protection of the community, and remarked that fortunately no one was seriously injured. Her Honour made clear that while the defendant’s financial position was of relevance, she had to balance the burdensome nature of any fine against the maximum penalty, the lengthy period of offending and the fact that the defendant did not desist from his conduct despite medical issues, many complaints being made, and him being issued Infringement Notices, remarking that he only had himself to blame. Her Honour found that the offending fell within the middle range of objective seriousness for this type of offending.
In mitigation, Her Honour considered the fact that the defendant had already undergone disciplinary action from the ELC. Ultimately, Her Honour determined that, given those penalties, there was no basis for the recording of a conviction, but that, if the defendant had not already come before the ELC, the penalty would have been much higher.
Her Honour also noted the defendant’s medical issues (epilepsy diagnosis) and that he was in receipt of a disability pension, but noted that given his age (26 years), he still had capacity to get back into the workforce. In light of these factors, Her Honour convicted the defendant and ordered a global fine of $99,600 be imposed (comprising $16,000 for each Category 2 offence and $3,600 for the regulatory breach), along with $1,905.60 in costs, all of which was referred to SPER.
OWHSP contact: email@example.com
Section 30 and 40C of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (Qld); Section 446(3)(a) Work Health and Safety Regulation 2011 (Qld)