Toowoomba business fined $42k for unsafe electrical work

A TOOWOOMBA concreting business and its sole director have been fined a total of $42,500 in the Toowoomba Magistrates Court for unsafe electrical practices, exposing people to risk of serious injury or death. 

SNA Enterprises Pty Ltd was contracted to pour a concrete driveway and housing surrounds in Glenvale.

Before the pour the sole director of SNA Enterprises, Stephen Russell Jacob Campbell, hired an electrician to disconnect and later reconnect electricity to two air conditioning units.

SNA was subsequently ordered by the Queensland Building and Construction Commission to rectify defects in the concreting work, which required the same two air conditioning units to again be removed and electricity to them disconnected.

On or about August 14, 2017, and after unsuccessfully obtaining a licensed electrician to remove the air conditioners, Campbell disconnected the electrical supply himself, removed the units and completed his concreting work.

This constituted electrical work, for which Campbell did not hold a license. 

In doing the work himself, Campbell left two sets of electrical supply wiring exposed and improperly terminated with duct tape placed around the end of the exposed wires for 24 to 48 hours.

After that, Campbell returned to the property and attempted to cover the wiring from one of the units. 

There was no evidence to establish the wires were live at the time Campbell left the residence, although this could've happened via activation of the nearby isolator switch and the relevant circuit breaker in the switchboard.

When an Electrical Safety Inspector visited the property on October 20, 2017, the circuit breakers in the main switchboard supplying both isolators were in the on position, although the isolator switches were off.

This presented a risk of death or serious injury to any person who came into contact with the wiring. 

In sentencing, Magistrate Kay Ryan took into account the need for general deterrence and the defendant was solely to blame for the offence, although fortunately there was no injury or death in this case.

Magistrate Ryan also noted the defendant had no history of previous offending, had cooperated with the investigation and entered an early guilty plea.

Her Honour took into consideration there was no evidence the wires were left in a live state and some efforts had been made by Campbell to reduce the risk.

The steps the company should have taken to minimise the risk was to get a licensed electrician to do the work. 

Magistrate Ryan ruled this was at the lower end of the offending captured by Category 2 offences and took into account that SNA was only in existence at the time for prosecution and would "die a natural death" after court proceedings were completed.

The company had been deregistered at the initiation of ASIC after the prosecution commenced and then reinstated at the application of the complainant.

In light of this, her Honour determined the fine to be imposed would be not as high as it would have been if the company was still officially operating. 

No conviction was recorded, with SNA Enterprises Pty Ltd fined $35,000, plus legal and professional costs of almost $850.

In sentencing Campbell as director of SNA Enterprises, her Honour considered there was no evidence the wires were live and some efforts had been made by the defendant to reduce the risk. 

She noted Campbell knew he should not have done this work, he did not have an electrical license, and had since left the concreting industry. 

Campbell was fined $7,500, plus legal and professional costs of almost $850.

No conviction was recorded.

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