Increasing use of unlicensed and unqualified electricians is putting lives at risk according to vocational training leaders and electricians who warn it should not take a death to reform industry standards.
The head of the NSW Utilities and Electrotechnology Industry Training Advisory Body says labour hire companies are using unlicensed people because it was difficult to find qualified electricians.
The COVID-19 pandemic had prevented skilled workers from overseas being imported to overcome skills shortages.
Tony Palladino said some training providers were “cutting corners” and employers are advertising for unlicensed workers to do wiring work. It is unlawful for an unlicensed tradesman to do electrical work unsupervised.
Mr Palladino said better regulation and quality training was needed, but he feared it would take a death to spark reform. He said it took the hospital death of a baby to improve the regulation of gas fitting in NSW.
“Forty per cent of all house fires are electrical. We have to ask the question is somebody going to die before we do something,” he said.
He said NSW training providers received about $13,250 in funding to train an apprentice electrician which was a “very lean price” compared to other states that received about 40 per cent more.
NSW Skills and Tertiary Education Minister Geoff Lee said more than 45,000 apprentices have started fee-free training since 2018.
Tom Emeleus, general manager for the National Electrical Communications Association (NECA) said some vocational training providers have issued a certificate three for electricians “perhaps without the level of scrutiny that they should have had”. He said NSW should follow Victoria and Western Australia which requires an additional independent test to qualify for a licence.
A spokeswoman for NSW Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Kevin Anderson said electrical installations are “tightly regulated”.
“Fair Trading will not hesitate to take sanctions and issue on-the-spot fines of up to $22,000 for any individual or $110,000 for any company who performs unlicensed work,” she said.
The department said it has 72 building officers including 24 investigators who check compliance. Three are qualified electricians. There are 69,395 licensed electricians in NSW.
NECA technical adviser Grant Moorhouse said while heavy penalties may apply, there is little regulation of electrical work to enforce penalties for breaches.
“With three electrical inspectors for the whole of NSW, there’s not a lot happening. With no checks and balances it is a bit of a lottery,” he said.
“Nothing is going to change unless there is a death.”
Fair Trading sent a letter to a tradesman on March 1 last year warning he faced fines for being unlicensed but that the regulator “does not propose to take further action at this time”.
Justin Page, secretary of the Electrical Trade Union NSW and ACT branch said the response was inadequate.
“Everyday people are paying the costs when ‘fake sparkies’ turn up to work and put their lives at risk. The government is aware of the problem, but so far, ignoring the risks,” he said.
In a submission to the upcoming state budget, the union has warned the use of unlicensed contractors is not being adequately regulated and monitored, including on major infrastructure projects. It has provided a NSW parliamentary committee with examples of advertisements for unlicensed contractors.
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Source: Thanks smh.com