By Peter Saunders
October 9, 2018 – Ontario’s Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) recently succeeded in an appeal to recover fines from a former licensed electrical contractor, in the wake of a fatal incident four years ago.
The owner of Pro-Teck Electric, based in Niagara Falls, Ont., pleaded guilty in 2015 to multiple charges under the province’s Electricity Act and was fined $537,500 in 2016. (As reported by Electrical Business at the time, this was the largest fine in the province’s history of electrical contractor licensing.)
Pro-Teck was charged because an elderly man died in 2014 from second- and third-degree burns he suffered from falling onto a heated bathroom floor, which the company had installed in 2010. An ESA investigation revealed the underfloor heating mat was improperly wired, to the incorrect voltage and without a permit.
“It was a problem waiting to happen,” says Normand Breton, ESA registrar and director of contractor licensing. “This contractor was licensed, but failed to follow proper procedure. While heated floors have been around a while and become more common in renovations and high-end homes, they require permits. Then our expert inspectors could have looked into this before it was too late.”
Over the course of the trial and sentence hearing, however, the defendant tried to shield himself from the fines by transferring his business assets, including property, into a newly created corporation, Master Electric.
“He didn’t deny his company did the work, but he started transferring his assets,” says Breton.
In ESA’s appeal, the judge said, “two roads diverged before him and he took the one marked self-interest and deceit, rather than the one marked by his duty to respect his obligations as a shareholder and to accept Pro-Teck’s corporate responsibilities.”
As a result, the judge found his actions would “deprive him and Master Electric of their legal separateness from Pro-Teck. He treated all three legal entities as one. As he sowed, so shall he reap. The fines levied against Pro-Teck may be recovered from him personally and from Master Electric.”
The decision both reinforces the requirement for electrical permits and shows how prosecution cannot be circumvented in the attempted manner.
“Electrical contractors are required to show they have a permit within 48 hours of commencing their work,” says Breton. “ESA is committed to using public campaigns to ensure homeowners know about this and other safeguards.”