Penalty, Costs and Publication

This article continues the series of articles about the disciplinary process in the Electricity Act. It looks at the Board’s disciplinary powers following a finding that an electrical worker has committed a disciplinary offence.

When the Board upholds a ground of discipline it must then consider an appropriate penalty to be imposed. The Electricity Act sets out the Board’s disciplinary powers in section 147M. There is a wide range of powers; the most severe is cancelling or suspending a worker’s licence and or registration. Other options include restricting a licence, imposing a fine of up to $10,000, ordering training or censuring an electrical worker. The Board looks at the offender and the offending and decides the appropriate penalty to be imposed. The Board also needs to take into account the need to provide deterrence to other electrical workers and the need to maintain standards and protect the public.

The Board looks at both mitigating and aggravating factors prior to setting a penalty. An electrical worker is given the opportunity to make submissions on mitigation and it will take into account the worker’s approach to the investigation and the hearing. The penalties imposed on those that cooperate and/or accept responsibility are often reduced in recognition of their responsible attitude. The same applies to those that take active steps to ensure the offending will not reoccur, such as undertaking training or changing their processes and systems.

The same applies to costs. The Board can seek a contribution from the electrical worker toward the costs of ,and incidental to, the investigation and the hearing. Where a practitioner cooperates, such as where they agree to the matter being dealt with on an agreed statement of facts, the costs are reduced as an agreed statement of facts means that witnesses do not have to be called and examined.

The final matter the Board considers is publication. All disciplinary offending must be recorded on the Register of Electrical Workers for a period of three years. This ensures that consumers can be informed about the persons they are hiring. Over and above this the Board can order general publication. Often this is done in the Electron, but it can be published in any way the Board sees fit. Generally the Board will undertake further publication where is considers there is a need to inform other electrical workers and/or the public of the offending.