The Star Entertainment Qld Limited v the Regulation under the Electrical Safety Act GAR203-19
Dangerous Electrical Event
The Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal (QCAT) had cause to consider the concept of a “dangerous electrical event” under the Electrical Safety Act 2002. (ESA).
Hemmant’s List Member, Lisa Willson was counsel instructed by the Electrical Safety Regulator.
All Persons Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) have obligations under the ESA. If a person receives an electrical shock from a power source at workplace through exposed wires, faulty equipment etc. the PCBU is required to report the event to the Electrical Safety Office, the Electrical Safety Regulator for Queensland (s265 Electrical Safety Regulation 2002).
It is also a duty to preserve the incident site and not to interfere with the electrical equipment involved with the incident (s269 Electrical Safety Regulation 2002). Similar reporting provisions for a “dangerous incident” also exist under the Work Health and Safety Act 2011.
The reason behind this is simple, the Regulator through the Inspectorate, will then have an opportunity to investigate the incident with the purpose of preventing future incidents. It is obvious that electrical shock can be a result of poor and defective electrical work, (or non-complaint electrical devices) coming into contact with people such as wiring or installations.
Alleged Breaches of the Electrical Safety Act (and Regulation)
In this matter, it was a light fitting in question. A person sustained a shock replacing lightbulbs. The presumed cause of the shock was a faulty installation. The matter was not reported by the PCBU and the light fittings were removed from site.
After an investigation, Improvement Notices were issued by the Electrical Safety Regulator.
Basis of Improvement Notices
Two of the Improvement Notices were contested on the basis that there could not be an offence because the definition of “electrical work” does not include the replacing of a light bulb in a fitting.
The definition of “electrical work” does not include the following—
(c) replacing electrical equipment or a component of electrical equipment if that task can be safely performed by a person who does not have expertise in carrying out electrical work;
Examples for paragraph (c)—
- replacing a fuse
- replacing a light bulb in a light fitting
QCAT has its own regime governing reviews brought within its review jurisdiction. Section 20 of the Queensland Civil and Administrative Tribunal Act 2009 provides that the review is to be by way of a ‘fresh hearing on the merits’.
The task of replacing the light bulb was not performed safely, nor could it have been performed safely because of the exposed energised wiring in the fitting.
It was found that the installation of the light fitting at the premises was electrical work which gave rise to a circumstance where a person was not electrically safe. It was the faulty installation of the light fitting that caused the dangerous electrical event (not the changing of the light bulb).
QCAT also found that, it was not reasonable for the Inspector to form the view that it was likely that the PCBU would fail to meet its obligations under section 265(1) and 269(3) of the Electrical Safety Regulation 2002 into the future. As a result, the two (2) of the Improvement Notices issued under the ESA were confirmed.
Reviewing Improvement Notices:
When reviewing Improvement Notices, it is important to consider the alleged breach, and the purpose of the legislation of that alleged breach. Once this has been done, then consider:
- Could the Inspector hold a reasonable belief as to the matters referred to in each of the Improvement Notices, based on the evidence?
- Was it reasonable for the Inspector to form the view that the entity would continue to fail to meet its obligations?
If so, then it was reasonable for the Inspector to issue Improvement Notice.
If you have any concerns about health and safety litigation, contact List Member Lisa Willson on (07) 3211 3400 or firstname.lastname@example.org