Health and Safety

Home detention for tradesman’s death

6 June 2024

3 minutes to read

WorkSafe - Energy Safety has successfully prosecuted an electrical worker for failing to test prescribed electrical work he had completed that ultimately resulted in a fatality.  

The electrical worker, Stephen Graham Burton, was prosecuted under s163C of the Electricity Act 1992 was sentenced in the Nelson District Court to eight months home detention and ordered to pay $150k in reparation. 

WorkSafe says his conviction and sentencing sets important precedent for all electrical workers in New Zealand highlighting the need to carry out mandatory testing specified in the regulations to ensure their electrical work is compliant and safe to use. 

The electrical worker was engaged by a property owner to remove an outdated extraction light and fan appliance and then install a new power point to supply a newly installed range hood. The power point was connected to the existing cable that was originally supplying the old appliance.   

The existing cable was connected to a double switch plate, where the red active was being used to switch the fan and the green earth conductor was sleeved red to switch the light within the old appliance.  

It was an acceptable practice under previous legislation to identify and use an earth conductor as a live conductor.   

During the installation of the power point the electrical worker failed to identify correctly how the cable was originally connected into the old appliance or that the earth conductor was used as an active to switch the light within the old appliance.   

As a result, the earth in the socket outlet and therefore the metal work of the newly installed rangehood became energised with 230VAC.   

"Had the electrical worker carried out the mandatory testing and verification, he would have identified that the earth conductor was originally being used as a live conductor."

Twenty days later a contractor was engaged to carry out some minor building work around the newly installed range hood. While the work was being carried out, the contractor received a fatal electric shock after touching the metal work of the rangehood.  

The investigation identified several failings, most importantly that the electrical worker had failed to fully undertake mandatory testing as required under legislation. 

Read more WorkSafe Energy Safety news here.

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