On 18 September 2023 a qualified electrician was fined $4,000 in the Southport Magistrates Court for two breaches of section 40C of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (‘the Act’), having failed to comply with his electrical safety duties pursuant to sections 39(a) and 39(b) of the Act.
The defendant was a licenced electrician and a director of a company which was contracted to install solar power systems for two stores and the communal area at the ‘Ashmore Pitstop’, a commercial building located on Nerang Road in Ashmore.
Work commenced on 19 January 2021 with the installation of solar panels on the roof and the running of DC cabling in preparation for the electrical work to be carried out during a power shut down the following morning. As no electrical work was planned to take place on the 19th there was live power running to and from the switchboards.
At around 10:30am the defendant and another electrician entered the main switchboard room to determine what size cable needed to be purchased to complete the installation the following morning. The defendant approached the switchboard whilst the other electrician stood back, preparing the list of materials to be purchased.
The defendant removed the switchboard cabinet doors before unscrewing and partially opening the escutcheon panel to inspect the cables behind. The defendant was still unable to identify the relevant cable size and so proceeded to use a flat head screwdriver to remove the protective plastic cover shielding on meter two, exposing the live terminals and power cables.
Shortly thereafter this screwdriver either made contact with or came within close proximity to, the live cables, causing an ‘arc flash’ to occur, seriously injuring both the defendant and the other electrician.
The other electrician suffered deep superficial burns to his entire face and left hand along with psychological trauma and a diagnosis of PTSD. The defendant suffered the more serious physical injuries with burns to 20% of his total body surface area including deep dermal thickness burns to his face. The defendant was placed in an induced coma for 10 days and required several grafting procedures for his burns and donor skin for his face. The defendant also suffered psychologically with ongoing nightmares and depression.
The defendant plead guilty and was sentenced before Magistrate Bentley.
In sentencing, her Honour had regard to the circumstances of the offending, the relevant portions of section 9 of the Penalties and Sentences Act 1992 (Qld) and the cases referred to by the parties.
Her Honour considered the early plea of guilty and accepted it as being indicative of the defendant’s sincere and genuine remorse. It was accepted that the actions were not deliberate as demonstrated through the defendant undertaking the work himself when the incident occurred.
Her Honour also considered the serious injuries both physical and psychological suffered by the other electrician, along with the serious injuries suffered by the defendant himself and the distress this caused to the defendant’s family. Her Honour also noted the financial loss caused by the defendant being unable to conduct his business.
The offence occurred nearly three years ago with no charges since the incident and no prior convictions of a like nature. Her Honour further had regard to the fact that the defendant had to pay a fine of $1,000 as part of disciplinary proceedings arising from the incident and also that the defendant continues to work in the industry.
Her Honour imposed a fine of $4,000 for both offences and exercised her discretion not to record a conviction.
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Sections 39(a), 39(b), 40C of the Electrical Safety Act 2002