On 10 June 2021, a textiles merchant was sentenced in the Brisbane Magistrates Court for breaching their primary duty, under section 30 of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (‘the Act’), to conduct their business in an electrically safe manner, exposing individuals to a risk of serious injury or death. The defendant was also charged under section 147(6) of the Act for failing to comply with an electrical safety protection notice (‘ESPN’) by reconnecting electrical equipment that was deemed unsafe by an inspector.
On 1 February 2018, an authorised electrical safety inspector attended the premises of the defendant in response to an employee complaint regarding unsafe electrical equipment. The inspector identified electrical equipment connected to a source of mains electrical power supply through a switchboard, which was not electrically safe. The electrical equipment in question was accessible to workers, subtenants, subtenant’s workers, customers, and any other persons accessing the premises, exposing them to a risk of death, or serious injury caused from electricity.
The electrically unsafe equipment comprised:
The inspector disconnected the light circuit of the electrical installation, placed a piece of insulation tape over the circuit breaker, and placed an ‘unsafe equipment’ tag on the circuit breaker. The inspector issued the company with an ESPN, directing it not to use the electrical equipment and requiring that it be installed in accordance with the Wiring Rules before any electricity is reconnected.
The following day, the inspector returned to the premises in response to another call from the employee. Upon returning, he observed that the lights he had disconnected the previous day had been reconnected and the circuit breaker was switched on.
During the investigation, the inspector spoke with numerous witnesses who stated they observed the director of the company performing electrical work at the premises, including the installation of lights, general power outlets and cabling. The director was not licensed to perform electrical work. In response to a notice to provide information, the defendant, via its director, mislead investigators as to who had conducted the electrical work.
In sentencing, Magistrate Nolan noted the intention of Parliament in setting penalties for the relevant offences, remarking that the significant maximum penalties are indicative of the seriousness of the offences and inform the requirement for general deterrence.
Despite some delay, his Honour regarded the defendant’s plea of guilty as timely. Mitigating factors taken into account in sentencing included the defendant’s lack of prior convictions, and the fact that no injury or incident resulted in this case.
The defendant’s conduct with respect to the failure to comply with the ESPN was regarded by the learned Magistrate as an aggravating factor, giving rise for the need for specific deterrence on this occasion. His Honour accepted that the defendant took action to rectify the unsafe equipment within a week of inspector’s visit, however commented that this demonstrated the ease with which the defendant could have rectified the equipment at any time prior to the inspection.
Magistrate Nolan imposed a global fine of $60,000 and declined to record a conviction.
OWHSP contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
Sections 30, 40C and 147(6) of the Electrical Safety Act 2002