Two years after a woman was electrocuted by a submersible pump in the backyard well of a Townsville home, the importer and online seller of the pump has been fined $1.2 million for failing to meet his obligations under electrical safety laws.
Zoran Kacavenda, sole director of online business the Pump Factory Pty Ltd pleaded guilty as an individual and as a business to breaches of the Electrical Safety Act 2002 which caused the woman's death.
The Townsville Magistrates court heard that in March 2016 the Pump Factory purchased hundreds of submersible water pumps from a Chinese manufacturer before selling them online into Australia under its own name and as Kasa Pumps and Kasa Factory.
The court heard that Kacavenda and the Pump Factory failed to ensure the devices were electrically safe and met the relevant Australian Standard before doing so.
Victoria Thomson, head of Queensland's Electrical Safety Office, which led the investigation into the death, said the ruling was a stark reminder for importers to ensure their products are safe before importing or offering them for sale in Australia.
“Anyone who imports electrical goods for sale in Australia must ensure they meet Australian standards and are tested to be electrically safe,” Ms Thomson said.
“The consequences of failing to meet this requirement are extremely serious – and in this instance, tragic.
“This is also a strong warning for consumers shopping online for electrical products. Make sure your seller is contactable, then make a point of asking them if their product meets Australian safety standards before you buy.
“Consumers have a right to be electrically safe when they buy electrical products, despite the enormous growth in online stores.
“Be very wary if you cannot verify the company's business details. You cannot think too much about safety when you're buying online.”
Ms Thomson said tested and compliant products would have this RCM mark on them, giving assurance that they meet Australian standards:
The ESO's investigation found the pumps were substandard quality and poorly designed, allowing internal wires to tangle, rip out of their connections and come into contact with the metal body of the pump. Of equal concern, the investigation also found the home had no electrical safety switch installed on the circuit the pump was plugged into, which could have prevented the tragic death.
“Despite your best efforts to buy wisely, there's still no way of knowing what work has been done on your home before you moved into it - or if any of your appliances are going to become electrically unsafe,” Ms Thomson said.
“The most effective way to protect against this risk is to have safety switches installed on all circuits in your home. Put simply, safety switches save lives.”
Most of the faulty pumps sold in Queensland have since been returned to the supplier, but anyone who owns one of them should cease using it immediately and contact Pump Factory Pty Ltd through email@example.com or 1300 718 025 to organise a refund. Read more at productsafety.gov.au.