After posing as a licensed electrical contractor and doing illegal and dangerous electrical work, a Gold Coast handyman was found guilty of seven charges under the Electrical Safety Act 2002 in the Southport Magistrates Court recently.
As a result, the man was fined a total of $60,000 for performing unlicensed electrical work; conducting a business that included the performance of electrical work without holding an electrical contractor’s licence; and as a person conducting a business who had an electrical safety duty, failed to ensure that the business was conducted in a way that was electrically safe and that failure exposed individuals to a risk of death or serious injury.
Between 21 March 2019 and 20 October 2019, the former policeman provided general handyman services, which included electrical work. At no time did he hold an electrical work licence or electrical contractor licence.
The defendant promoted his services and obtained business via Airtasker and on 20 March 2019 he accepted a job advertised by a Southport homeowner to disconnect a stove and install a new one. He falsely claimed to have a valid Queensland electrical licence and completed the work
An inspection revealed protective external sheathing to the electric cable used in the oven had been incorrectly removed. This increased the risk of breaks or nicks to the single insulated cable which would result in the stove becoming live, exposing any individual who came into contact with it to the risk of serious injury or death.
Six months later, the defendant accepted a job in Currumbin Waters to install six ceiling fans, and replace existing ceiling lights, a power point and a roof aerial. Inspection of that work found one of the fans was incorrectly earthed, which, in the event of a fault, could have caused the conductive surfaces of the fan/light to become live, exposing anyone who contacted it to a risk of serious injury or death. There was also no Residual Current Device or safety switch installed for the ceiling fans, which, in the event of an insulation breakdown, could have resulted in an electrical shock.
In October 2019, the sole trader accepted a job advertised by an Upper Coomera homeowner to install a ceiling fan (with light), two sensor security lights, two power points and a television antenna. Again, the defendant falsely promoted he was appropriately qualified, licenced and insured. An inspection of that job revealed the cable junction of the wires from the sensor lights and the power outlet in the kitchen was not placed in a junction box and was located near the access point to the ceiling. This increased the likelihood of individuals contacting it, and without a junction box, there was a risk of exposure of the live wires, contact with which could have resulted in serious injury or death. The light switch for the sensor light had no wiring enclosure on the back, which, in the event of a conductor breaking could have resulted in direct contact with the conductive insulation material and started a fire.
In sentencing, Magistrate Louisa Pink noted the primary purpose of the penalty was deterrence, closely followed by community denunciation. Magistrate Pink stated it is important that, where work is conducted which poses a danger to the community of causing death and serious injury, those doing it understand the risks and that the community denounces those people who carry out the work regardless of the law.
Her Honour also noted the need for specific deterrence given the defendant continued to flout the rules despite being warned, with a series of infringement and improvement notices issued over a two-year period. The Electrical Safety Office also took out an injunction against him in March 2021.
Magistrate Pink remarked the people seeking the electrical work wanted it to be done safely and considered it aggravating that the defendant made false assurances as to his qualifications.
Her Honour further noted that as a former police officer, the defendant would have a good understanding of the law, more so than other people, and still made false representations that he had a licence. It was further considered a matter of aggravation that the defendant received two notices not to conduct electrical work on 25 February 2019 prior to the offending period and committed further offences regardless.
Magistrate Pink acknowledged the defendant had some electrical training at TAFE in New South Wales in 1987, but that this was over 30 years before the work in Queensland. However, he had never held any formal qualifications, and was not licenced at any stage.
In sentencing, her Honour made note of a number factors including the defendant’s reduced earning capacity both currently and into the future, a guilty plea and lack of any prior criminal history.
The defendant was fined a total of $60,000, plus court costs of almost $1,600. No conviction was recorded.
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