ESO: ‘Unsafe electrical work will not go unpunished’

Recent prosecutions in Queensland’s Industrial Magistrates Court serve as a powerful reminder to those putting lives at risk by not working within the law.

In one case, a laundry business was fined $5000 after a worker was burned when he contacted the live wires of a rigged up series test lamp. The business owner had wired the lamp to the 240 volt AC terminals of a washing machine drain solenoid to see why the machine was not draining properly. Despite being instructed not to reconnect the device, the owner later did so, once again exposing employees to electrical risk.

In another instance, an individual was fined $7500 for performing electrical work without a licence. He completed several electrical tasks for a friend of a friend for $300, but the homeowner became suspicious and reported his work to the Electrical Safety Office. Under investigation, he admitted he performed the work without a licence, despite two previously issued infringement notices for unlicensed electrical work.

In a third case, a company was fined $125,000 after a worker was fatally electrocuted. Two workers were removing and installing advertising skins (billboard advertising) from an elevated platform. One of the workers was electrocuted when the 6.5 metre uninsulated metal pole he was using contacted live powerlines. The business owner had a safety system in place at the time, however had failed to properly record the proximity of powerlines or establish exclusion zones.

People can request that the Electrical Safety Office commences a prosecution if they believe a category 1 or 2 offence of electrical safety laws has occurred, and a prosecution hasn’t commenced between 6 and 12 months of the offence occurring.

Category 1 offences are the most serious breaches where a duty holder recklessly endangers a person’s safety, risking serious injury or death. Maximum penalties for companies are up to $3 million; for individuals as PCBUs or officers up to $600,000 / five years in jail; and workers up to $300,000 / five years in jail.

Category 2 offences are where a person fails to comply with an electrical safety duty that exposes someone to a risk of death or serious injury. Maximum penalties for companies are up to $1.5 million; for individuals as PCBUs or officers up to $300,000; and workers up to $150,000.

On the spot fines, called infringement notices, may also be issued for electrical safety offences such as performing unlicensed electrical work, failing to test electrical work or failing to ensure electrical equipment is de-energised before carrying out electrical work.


If advice on testing and calibrating equipment was ignored and an employee was injured or killed as a result of using non-tested or calibrated equipment, this would be a Category 1 offence. Only if it could be successfully argued that the offender did not know better would it possibly be considered a Category 2 offence. Not only do you risk your business, but more importantly the wellbeing of your employees. Either way, it's not worth it. 

Don't risk it, test today. 


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