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Northland electrician disciplined after incorrectly installed sockets caused electric shock

Editor Written by Editor · 2 min read >


Electrician Christopher Scheib’s rush to buy electrical supplies meant he failed to see his mistake.

He was stressed and had fallen behind in his work after being struck twice by Covid-19. He also blamed stress from isolation restrictions as partly why he installed three socket inlets instead of outlets, which led to a person receiving an electric shock.

The Northland electrician was found after a disciplinary hearing before the Electrical Workers Registration Board to have committed multiple trade-related offences between April and September 2022, including negligently creating a risk of serious harm.

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Scheib told NZME that while it’s been a process he wouldn’t wish on anyone else he’s “now a better sparkie for it”, and has learned to slow down and get the job done right.

In a decision that was recently publicly released, the board imposed an interim suspension on Scheib’s licence in October 2022, because it considered it was a matter of public safety. It later modified its decision and imposed restrictions on Scheib instead, after he sought to revoke the suspension.

The disciplinary action brought by the Ministry of Business Innovation and Employment resulted in a complaint from the person who received the electrical shock.

That led to an investigation and notice served on Scheib of eight alleged offences that were all ultimately upheld. They ranged from negligent to unsafe electrical installation to providing a certificate of compliance that contained errors.

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An electrician faced disciplinary action after his haste led to a mistake and a person received an electric shock. Photo / 123RF
An electrician faced disciplinary action after his haste led to a mistake and a person received an electric shock. Photo / 123RF

Scheib was engaged to install three caravan power sockets, two in a main shed and one in a small shed on a property at an undisclosed location.

He said he obtained electrical supplies in a rush and did not fully inspect the materials he received. He had also gone to a different electrical wholesaler, and there was a miscommunication about the materials he sought.

Scheib was later found to have incorrectly installed the sockets in the two sheds and failed to notice that he had installed the incorrect fittings.

As a result, the sockets had exposed live pins, which risked the safety of anyone who could have touched the pins or who may have tried to connect a supply lead for a connectable installation, such as a caravan, to the fittings.

Scheib said that when he ultimately tested the sockets, he did not recognise that what he had installed were incorrect fittings.

He also failed to identify that the switchboard to which the socket had been installed in one of the sheds had not been protected by a residual current device (RCD).

An RDC is designed to prevent a fatal electric shock if someone touches something live, such as a bare wire.

Scheib said under time pressure he had overlooked the small switchboard that had been installed prior to his arrival. He also failed to install switches adjacent to the sockets as required.

He then issued a Combined Certificate of Compliance and Electrical Safety Certificate for the work carried out on the main shed but did not complete some of the form related to the safety certificate.

The following month, August 2022, a combined certificate of compliance and electrical safety certificate was issued for the other shed.

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After Scheib had connected the power a person in the shed received an electric shock.

Scheib was sorry and distressed by what had happened. He then fixed the job and installed the appropriate residual current device in the smaller of the two sheds but failed to label the switchboard.

A further combined compliance and safety certificate was issued after that work had been completed but the certification did not include the installation of the RCD.

Scheib said he was under a lot of stress at the time and had been pushing himself to try and keep up with demand.

He told NZME he had felt supported throughout the process which had been more educational than punitive.

He said with the support of his dad, who is also an electrician, he was able to get through.

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“If not for him, it would have been much more stressful.

“I also had support from MBIE and eventually we agreed on a statement of fact.

“The (hearing) panel was also really understanding and recognised that as a small business owner, I should be allowed to carry on.”

He was credited for his willingness to engage in relevant training to improve his knowledge and help increase his abilities in the trade.

Tracy Neal is a Nelson-based Open Justice reporter at NZME. She was previously RNZ’s regional reporter in Nelson-Marlborough and has covered general news, including court and local government for the Nelson Mail.

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