The Board held five hearings during its Board meeting in July. Two cases involved transpositions. These are always serious and disconcerting matters. Fortunately, in both instances the errors were picked up and dealt with within a short period of time and no one was hurt. It is a reminder though to remain vigilant to always carry out visual and other tests to ensure that the polarity of a connection is correct prior to livening.
Testing is a fundamental safety measure when carrying out prescribed electrical work (PEW). Electrical testing before “livening” is essential to make sure the work has no hidden faults and is safe to connect. To assist electrical workers to further understand testing the Board has developed a number of Toolbox articles. It is recommended that you read these carefully:
- What sort of test equipment should I have? is an article which helps an electrical worker find out what equipment they need
- What tests are required? covers not only the required tests but also an overview of the requirements in AS/NZS 3000 and other resources that will be of assistance
- Safety verification test of mains polarity with supply isolated is a guide on mains polarity safety verification testing with supply isolated
The cases that came before the Board also highlighted the need to be attentive when carrying out repetitive work. The risks and dangers associated with non-compliant work do not diminish with repetitive work but the chances of making mistakes does. Strategies or processes need to be put in place to ensure that mistakes do not creep in.
The Board also had a recent case where there was some confusion over an Australian worker’s authority to carry out PEW in New Zealand. Australian workers have to apply for and be granted registration and licensing in New Zealand before they can carry out or supervise PEW. The Trans-Tasman Mutual Recognition Act 1997 does allow for mutual recognition of licensing between New Zealand and Australia but it does not remove the need to apply for and be granted a licence.
The Board was also recently informed of the result of an appeal of one of its decision to the District Court. In Jian Chen v Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment  NZDC 12865 the court upheld the decision of the Board to discipline Mr Chen for carrying out prescribed electrical work in a negligent manner and for failing to provide a certificate of compliance.
Finding: The case involved a transposition and a failure to test. The Board found that this had created a risk of serious harm or significant property damage. The Board noted that under the Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010 testing is mandatory requirement and is fundamental to the safety regime under the Regulation and that a reasonable practitioner would have carried out such testing.
Penalty: The practitioner’s licence had been suspended for a period and then restricted by the Board whilst the matter was investigated and pending the hearing. This was taken into account as was his cooperation and acceptance of responsibility. The Board had a starting point of $4,500 which recognised the seriousness of the matter but it reduced the fine to $1,500 because of the period of suspension and on the basis that the practitioner accepted his wrongdoing and that the matter was dealt with by way of an agreed statement of facts. He was ordered to pay costs of $250.
Finding: This was another case where the practitioner had caused a transposition and had failed to test. As with the previous case, testing would have identified the error and the Board noted its importance in the process of livening prescribed electrical work. It was also a case where the practitioner was distracted by personal events and it highlights the need to be “present” when carrying out prescribed electrical work.
Penalty: The practitioner was fined $1,500. As with the previous case the Board reduced the fine from a higher starting point as a result of mitigating circumstances that were present. The Board also took into account the practitioner’s cooperation and the fact that the matter was dealt with by way of an agreed statement of facts. He was ordered to pay $250 in costs.
Finding: The practitioner was found to have carried out prescribed electrical work in a manner that was contrary to an enactment by failing to correctly label a switchboard and to have provided a false or misleading certificate of compliance. The practitioner noted that the work was carried out at a busy time of the year and the mistake was overlooked due to work pressures. It is a reminder that care has to be taken regardless of work pressures.
Penalty: The Board did not impose a disciplinary penalty. It did order that costs of $200 be paid. The case involved the practitioner taking responsibility for another person’s work and there were significant mitigating factors. It is rare for the Board to not to impose any penalty, but this was one of the rare cases that did warrant it.
Finding: The practitioner was found to have created a risk of serious harm or significant property damage by placing a heater too close to adjacent materials and installing an earth peg at less than the required depth. The practitioner also provided a false or misleading certificate of compliance.
In the case the practitioner failed to follow manufacturer’s instructions. Practitioners should be aware of such instructions and should familiarise themselves with them prior to carrying out the work.
Penalty: The practitioner’s licence and the prescribed electrical work he can carry out, was restricted by the Board until such time as he completed Board directed training. The Board noted that he knew the earth peg was not at the required depth but did not deal with it. This was seen as an aggravating factor and it contributed to the decision to restrict his licence. The practitioner was also ordered to pay costs of $250. The costs were reduced as the matter was dealt with on the basis of an agreed statement of facts.
Finding: The practitioner was found to have carried out prescribed electrical work in a manner that was contrary to an enactment.
Penalty: The practitioner was censured and ordered to pay costs of $1,000. The costs were higher than those ordered in other matters as the practitioner defended the charges and a full hearing was required.