On 16 March 2022, a worker was sentenced in the Cleveland Magistrates Court for breaching the Electrical Safety Act 2002 (“the Act”) by failing to comply with his electrical safety duties as a worker pursuant to section 39 of the Act, and performing electrical work without holding an electrical work licence. He was charged with two Category 2 (section 40C) offences, one Category 3 (section 40D) offence and eight offences against section 55. A global fine of $50,000 was imposed by way of penalty. No conviction was recorded.

  • The first Category 2 charge arose out of electrical work performed by the defendant at a residential property in North Ipswich in late 2018. The electrical work performed was subsequently inspected and found to not comply with the requirements of the Wiring Rules in several respects. Live parts within the switchboard were left exposed and the general power outlets were not properly affixed to the walls, causing them to fall forward and expose live wires. The electrical work performed was found to be so defective as to expose persons at the property to a risk of serious injury or death. In relation to this conduct the Electrical Safety Office (‘ESO’) Licensing Committee had previously taken disciplinary action and fined the defendant $4,000.
  • The second Category 2 charge concerned work performed by the defendant in October 2019 at a residential property in Morayfield. That work involved replacing the safety switch on the switchboard. The electrical work performed ultimately bypassed the safety switch and the protection it afforded, exposing persons at the property to a risk of serious injury or death. In relation to this conduct the ESO Licensing Committee had also previously taken disciplinary action and fined the defendant $4,000.
  • The Category 3 charge related to electrical work, namely the replacement of two ceiling fans, performed by the defendant at residential premises in Mount Coot-tha in August 2020. The installation of the fans did not comply with the Wiring Rules, in that the fans were not installed in a manner that would prevent water from entering the fan’s energised components.
  • The eight section 55 charges each concerned instances where the defendant performed electrical work when he did not hold a current electrical work licence. The defendant had previously held a licence authorising him to perform electrical work in Queensland. That licence was suspended from April 2019 following disciplinary action by the ESO. The licence was reinstated in March 2020, before being cancelled again from August 2020. From that time, the defendant was prohibited from holding an electrical work licence for a period of 10 years. The last of the section 55 charges concerned unlicensed electrical work performed by the defendant approximately 11 months after the cancellation of his work licence, and after the first of the charges against him were brought.

Magistrate Sarra observed the defendant had conducted his work in a manner contradictory to the spirit of the Electrical Safety legislation, which was there to protect consumers from electrical discharges. His Honour emphasised the need for the defendant to have conducted himself professionally and to have a healthy respect for electricity, as taking shortcuts can have fatal consequences. Consumers relying on the defendant’s expertise were entitled to be confident that the work they required would be performed properly. The seriousness of the defendant’s conduct was aggravated by the fact that the defendant continued to operate despite the involvement of the ESO Licensing Committee.

His Honour had regard to the need for any sentence imposed to serve the purpose of general deterrence, noting the dangers associated with electricity, but observed there was a lesser need for specific deterrence in this case. The defendant otherwise had no criminal history, and had ultimately co-operated with the investigation, participating in multiple voluntary interviews, and making admissions. The plea of guilty by the defendant was timely.

In determining the appropriate penalty to impose, his Honour had regard to the defendant’s personal circumstances, including his having emigrated to Australia and his strained personal circumstances at the time of the offending, including his wife having been denied re-entry into Australia and one of his children having sustained serious injuries in a motor vehicle accident.

In fining the defendant $50,000, his Honour noted this sum was reached allowing $15,000 for each section 40C offence, $8,000 for the section 40D offence and $2,500 for each section 55 offence, before deducting $8,000 from the total sum on account of the penalties already imposed against the defendant arising from ESO disciplinary proceedings.

His Honour acknowledged that the nature of the offending by the defendant within the broader community was a matter that may have warranted the recording of a conviction. However, having regard to the defendant’s antecedents and the further adverse impact that the recording of a conviction would have on the defendant’s ability to pay the fines, his Honour exercised his discretion to not record a conviction.

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

Court Report

Electricity, gas, water and waste services
Date of offence
Cleveland Magistrates Court
Magistrate or judge
Magistrate Zachary Sarra
Decision date

Sections 40C, 40D and 55 of the Electrical Safety Act 2002

Section 40C: $15,000 per offence; Section 40D: $8,000; Section 55: $2,500 per offence.
Maximum fine available
Section 40C: $150,000 per offence; Section 40D: $50,000; Section 55: $40,000 per offence
Professional and legal costs
Court costs
In default period
Time to pay
Conviction recorded