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A lot of people enjoy DIY work around the home. It can be very satisfying completing projects yourself, not having to pay other people, and taking pride in the work you have done. But the truth is, a lot of people take what they should do too far. It is just a small job of rewiring, it is only a socket to move, and slowly you add a few electrical projects to your DIY. Here is what you might not realise. It is not just that it is not recommended to do any work on anything electrical because of the danger. It is illegal to do your own work and any work you do will not pass inspections. To be safe, keep your home safe and your family safe and to be compliant with the law you need to hire licensed professional electricians.
What is electrical work and what DIY jobs are illegal?
Here in Australia in 2002, the Electrical Safety Act came into law which states that electrical works, such as ‘the manufacturing, constructing, installing, testing, maintaining, repairing, altering, removing, or replacing of electrical equipment is for professional electricians not DIY. This means in practice that most jobs that have you working directly with electricity that require specific skills, tools, training, and certifications are not allowed. Basic jobs like plugging in your appliances or changing a light bulb are legal and safe. Examples of illegal electrical work are;
- Putting in a new PowerPoint socket – people are commonly needing more as they rely on more appliances and devices, and some homes are not able to meet their needs so they think they can put it in themselves
- Replacing a light fitting (not just a shade but the whole fitting) or the light switch
- Changing out an old plug on an appliance for a new one
- Making repairs to any electrical appliance
Taking a close and honest look at the dangers of doing electrical work yourself
The reason even smaller electrical jobs are not legal in Australia is the serious potential consequences of such work. Here are some of the more common issues and accidents that happen when DIYers ignore the laws.
1) Amateur work leads to fires
It is a fact that more fires happen from faulty wiring caused by DIY efforts than from work done by an expert electrician. There are a lot of components involved and more knowledge and skill than people realise. Wiring issues can get complicated very quickly and if you have just one wire wrong then it could lead to a fire. These happen for various reasons, overheating, faulty connections, overloading for example. Any small spark can lead to an electrical fire and Fire Safety Australia estimated that about 20% of house fires are caused this way. When a fire starts it spreads swiftly often caching people out and as well as damaging your home it is a risk to you and others who live with you.
2) Electrocution or shocks
One of the biggest dangers of working with the main power is the risk of shocks or electrocution. These are far more common among DIY electrical workers than with professional electricians because they know where to touch and where not to, and how to be safer. With shocks, you have a range of potential injuries from minor to major but there is also a serious risk to your life. Electrocutions causing death to people working on household wiring happen every year. People place the wrong wires too close to each other or fail to turn off the power before working on something and so on. It is absolutely crucial that anyone working with electricity has the training and follows the proper safety guidelines.
3) Failing electrical inspections
What a lot of people do not even consider when they handle their own work are the issues that will come later. If you need your home to pass an electrical safety inspection, perhaps you are selling the home, then you are going to be disappointed. Work performed DIY on your electrics and all the components need to meet certain requirements. You can face large fines when you fail these inspections. A lot of people think they can hide that it was done by themselves and not a licensed electrician but this is not the case!
4) Long term dangers and electrical problems
The danger to you and your home is not just immediately as you do the work. There can be long-term problems that arise and later on fire risks and such that lead back to amateur work done weeks, months or even years before. A trained electrician knows the details to check to ensure things are safe long into the future.
5) You may not be covered by your house insurance
What is ironic about DIY electrical work is people often choose to do as a way to save money as they do not want to pay a trained electrician’s prices. But doing it yourself costs you money in a number of ways. Repairs and damage control, but then also in the case of a fire, your house insurance will not cover you if that fire started because of illegal work done by you. Using a licensed electrician you can have peace of mind knowing the chances of a fire are a lot lower, but should it happen you can recover what you lose.
What are the legal consequences of doing illegal electrical work?
There are different legal consequences depending on where you are in the country. In Queensland for example, there are possible fines of up to $40,000 for carrying out electrical work yourself on your home. If that work leads to the death of someone, or someone is seriously injured then there can be up to $600,000 in fines and potential imprisonment for up to 5 years. There are real and serious consequences apart from your own safety and your home’s safety.