Notable Disciplinary Hearings - February - March 2019

Hearings and Learnings from Disciplinary Cases

Blake Smith, Electrician, EW123220

Mr Smith did not engage in the investigation or hearing process. The Board heard uncontested evidence that he had carried out high risk prescribed electrical work in a non-compliant manner and that he did not get the high risk work inspected before he livened the installation. The prescribed electrical work involved installing a new upgraded switchboard in a different location to the original one. These factors meant that the prescribed electrical work could not be treated as maintenance, repair or replacement and, as the work involved mains work, it was high risk. The non-compliant work included failing to seal large holes in the switchboard with fire retarding sealant, failing to install two circuit breaker blanking covers on the switchboard and failing to install permanent green or green/yellow combination heat shrink on the entire length of an active conductor used as an MEN link. The Board considered that Mr Smith had carried out the prescribed electrical work in a negligent manner in that he had not met reasonably accepted industry standards.

Practitioners should take care when carrying out prescribed electrical work to correctly assess the risk level of the work. Identifying the correct risk level – low, general or high – is important as there are flow on requirementsregarding certification, and in the case of high risk work, inspection.

There is a useful article in the Board’s Toolbox which provides guidance on what is high risk work and what has to be inspected(external link).

Practitioner 2 – February 2019

An electrician was found to have been negligent by failing to install a MEN link in the switchboard. This, in turn, meant that there was inadequate protective earthing. The Board noted that Section 5 of AS/NZS 3000:2007 covers Earthing Arrangements and Earthing Conductors. The prescribed electrical work completed did not comply with those requirements. The Board also noted that Regulations 59 to 61 of the Electricity (Safety) Regulation 2010 require strict compliance with AS/NZS 3000:2007. The Respondent, in failing to comply, departed from the acceptable standard of conduct expected of electrical workers.

It is important for electrical workers to remember that certain standards must be followed when carrying out prescribed electrical work. These cited standards are listed in Schedule 2 of the Electricity (Safety) Regulation 2010. There is also an article in the Board’s Toolbox which helps you find out which Standards apply to you and where to find them(external link).

The Board also noted that the general standard of the electrician’s work was less than satisfactory. The following is a photograph of the switchboard. The Board expects electrical workers to take pride in their work. Work of the type shown is often an indicator of other, more serious issues.

Practitioner 3 – November 2018

The case involved the failure to provide a certificate of compliance. Whilst this is a less serious disciplinary matter there were some valuable lessons that came from it for other electrical workers.

The electrical worker did not carry out all of the intended prescribed electrical work. There was a delay between phases and his employment changed. He did not provide any certification for the work he had carried out. He was, after the lapse of a considerable period of time, asked for a certificate of compliance. He did not provide one. In this respect electrical workers should note that even if a certificate has been provided in a timely manner under Regulation 74E(4)(e) and (d) of the Electricity (Safety) Regulations 2010 an electrical worker must provide the person who contracted for the work or the owner or occupier with a copy of a certificate of compliance within 10 working days of the request.

Again, the Board’s Toolbox contains a useful article on what paperwork you need to complete(external link).

Practitioner 1 – March 2019

The prescribed electrical work that led to the complaint was initially carried out by another electrician and a trainee. The electrical workers installed a heat transfer pump using the existing hot water cylinder circuit. When carrying out the work they cut through the earth conductor in the ceiling cavity. The practitioner who was disciplined by the Board tested and certified the prescribed electrical work. He failed to identify that the earthing of the circuit had been compromised. The installation remained in this state until it was discovered by another electrical worker two years later.

The Board found that the practitioner had been negligent and had created a risk of serious harm or significant property damage. The Board noted that the heat transfer pump should not have been installed on the same circuit as the hot water cylinder. The hot water cylinder was ripple controlled which compromised the operation of the heat transfer pump. Hot water cylinders are not normally protected by a residual current device. That would have meant that the heat transfer pump was also not protected by such a device when it should have been.

More critically the protective earthing arrangements for the hot water cylinder were compromised. If there was an electrical fault on the hot water cylinder there would be no path to earth for residual current and as such a high risk of a person receiving an electric shock. The practitioner submitted that equipotential bonding may have been in place and, as such, that the installation was safe. Equipotential bonding is not the same. Bonding is used to reduce the risk of electric shocks to anyone who may touch two separate metal parts when there is a fault somewhere in the supply of the electrical installation. As such, even if the metal pipe from the cylinder was bonded, it would not protect against an electric fault in the appliance. Moreover, there was no actual proof that the hot water pipe at the installation was actually bonded or that the bonding was effective.

The practitioner’s key failing was that he did not carry out the required tests to ensure the installation was safe. Rather he relied on the competence of other electrical workers when he signed the certificate of compliance and, in signing it, he took responsibility for the compliance of the work completed. His assumptions resulted in an installation being a danger to the occupants. Had an incident have occurred before it was discovered the outcome could have been very serious.