Explosion risk from South West electrical work

This announcement is for: 
ConsumerElectrical contractor / worker
  • Electrician installed chargers near exposed lead-acid battery bank
  • Risk of chargers igniting hydrogen produced by recharging batteries
  • Electrician also submitted incorrect compliance documents

A South West electrician has been ordered to pay $11,000 in fines and costs for a dangerous installation that could have caused a hydrogen explosion.

Following prosecution by Building and Energy, the licensed electrical contractor pleaded guilty at Perth Magistrates Court to two charges under WA’s electricity licensing regulations. The person is not named because the court granted a spent conviction.

The court was told the electrician attended a property in Scott River East – near Augusta and Nannup – in March 2021 to install inverter chargers in an off-grid, standalone power system.

The system involved storing solar energy in a bank of vented lead-acid batteries, which produce potentially explosive hydrogen gas when they are recharging.

The inverter chargers can be an ignition source for this gas. The investigation found the electrician’s installation of the inverter charger did not comply with electrical wiring rules that require protection against ignition when electrical equipment is installed in areas where explosive gases may be present.

The electrician breached the Electricity (Licensing) Regulations 1991 by not adhering to the wiring rules and by submitting an official compliance notice when the installation work was in fact incorrect.

On 22 September 2023, Magistrate Andrew Maughan ordered the electrician to pay a global fine of $8,000 and $2,982.30 in costs, while granting a spent conviction due to factors such as the guilty plea and no previous electrical offences in a lengthy career.

His Honour urged tradespeople to accept the real potential for injury from hazards, adding that the incorrect notice charge was also a serious matter due to the diligence expected in self-regulation.

WA’s Director of Energy Safety, Saj Abdoolakhan, said the dangerous installation could have resulted in serious injuries and property damage.

“In this case, hydrogen would have been produced regularly whenever the vented lead-acid batteries were charged by energy from the solar panels,” Mr Abdoolakhan said.

“It is pure luck that the chargers did not ignite the gas from the nearby exposed batteries before the danger was identified by a Building and Energy electrical inspector.

“Licensed electrical contractors and electrical workers must take responsibility for their work. They have to make sure the work they do complies with all the relevant technical safety requirements. They must also submit accurate notices that reflect compulsory checking, testing and compliance.”

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Media contact: BEmedia@dmirs.wa.gov.au

Building and Energy
Media release
18 Oct 2023

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