Go to top of page

Electricians penalised after negligent work

31 October 2019

South Australia's consumer watchdog has taken disciplinary action after grossly negligent work led to an Elizabeth Vale man suffering a severe electric shock. 

William Zachary Cook and Matthew Tonkin admitted to allegations of improper, unlawful and negligent conduct in the District Court after the Commissioner for Consumer Affairs filed a complaint under the Plumbers, Gas Fitters and Electricians Act 1995. 

Cook was subcontracted by Tonkins Electrical to perform a switchboard upgrade for a solar installation at the property. 

Cook entered a SA Power Networks service pit without authority to disconnect the power to the property and broke security seals on the electricity meters. 

When reconnecting the power, he transposed the active and neutral conductors which put mains voltage on the earthing system, causing all taps, sinks and earthed appliances to be at full voltage of 240V. 

The home owner subsequently suffered a serious electrical shock from his garden tap and despite reporting the shock to both Cook and Tonkin, neither returned to address the fault. 

Judge Patrick O'Sullivan disqualified Cook from being licensed as an electrical worker and contractor until he completes retraining and the Commissioner considers him to be a fit and proper person to be licensed. 

He also reprimanded and fined Tonkin $8,000. 

In his judgement, Judge O'Sullivan was particularly concerned that Tonkin had pre-signed the certificate of compliance for electrical work before it had actually been completed. 

Commissioner for Consumer Affairs Dini Soulio said he hoped this incident would serve as a warning to other tradespeople to not cut corners and to take adequate remedial action quickly. 

"All electricians know that both the contractor and the tradesperson carrying out the work must certify that finished electrical work is compliant with electrical standards - pre-signing a certificate of compliance is simply unacceptable," he said.

"Slapdash work can be incredibly dangerous in any line of work, but especially in relation to anything electrical. It is sheer luck that this incident didn't result in a death.

"Tradespeople in all fields are responsible for ensuring their work is compliant and taking corrective action as soon as possible after an issue is identified." 

Consumers who have had issues with a tradesperson can contact Consumer and Business Services for advice on 131 882.