On 4 November 2020, an electrician was sentenced in the Townsville Magistrates Court for multiple breaches of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (‘ES Act’). Mr Steven Anderson pleaded guilty to one offence against section 56(1) of the ES Act for carrying out a business or undertaking that included performance of electrical work without holding an electrical contractor’s licence, and to four offences against section 55(1) of the ES Act for conducting work on several occasions without holding an electrical work licence.
Mr Anderson was a sole trader electrician and conducted electrical work at domestic residences and commercial premises. Across a three-year period from 5 May 2016 to 27 May 2019, Mr Anderson undertook unlicensed electrical safety work on at least 18 occasions at 11 different residences in the Townsville area, including a school. During this period, Mr Anderson carried out the business or undertaking of electrical works while he did not hold an electrical contractor licence. Additionally, on four occasions between December 2017 and August 2018, Mr Anderson performed electrical work without holding an electrical work licence. This work included the installation of electrical wiring, cabling and conduit as well as the installation of electrical equipment including air conditioning units, light fittings, solar panels, kitchen equipment, electric roller shutters and power outlets.
Investigation by inspectors from the Electrical Safety Office (‘ESO’) determined that there were no allegations of safety concerns with the electrical work undertaken, but revealed that Mr Anderson had two prior convictions for conducting work without holding an electrical contractor licence in contravention of section 56(1) of the ES Act.
Following the offending, Mr Anderson obtained both an electrical contractor’s licence and an electrical work licence necessary to perform any electrical work and to conduct a business or undertaking involving the performance of electrical work.
In sentencing, Magistrate Steven Mosch acknowledged that there were no allegations of safety concerns with respect to the electrical work undertaken. His Honour noted that the central issue appeared to concern Mr Anderson’s failure to undertake the necessary paperwork to obtain or maintain the licenses, rather than a lack of qualifications or eligibility to hold the licenses.
Reference was made to the aims of the ES Act, which provides protection for the safety of all persons and ensures appropriate licensing, competence and qualifications of persons providing electrical services.
His Honour took into account Mr Anderson’s early guilty plea and confirmed the significance of the two prior occasions for similar offending.
When considering the penalty to be imposed, his Honour had regards to specific deterrence and denunciation as the community expects electrical workers to be licensed and should be confident when engaging them, although no allegations of unsafe electrical work arose in this matter. In particular, the Magistrate highlighted that it remained critical for licensing obligations to be met, and that members of the public were entitled to the protections offered by a regulatory regime that included licensing particularly given the potential safety risks of unlicensed electrical work.
In recording a conviction, the Magistrate acknowledged that the third appearance of Mr Anderson for offences against the ES Act rendered the conduct objectively serious such that a conviction was warranted. Magistrate Mosch imposed a fine of $11,500, notionally apportioning a sum of $7,500 for the offence against section 56(1), and $4,000 for the four offences against section 55(1).
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Sections 55(1) and 56(1) Electrical Safety Act 2002