Faulty pot light installations put homeowners at serious risk
August 1, 2017 by John Bleasby
A Brampton, ON man felt the full force of the law two weeks ago, penalized for installing pot lights in several area homes while falsely representing himself as a licensed electrician and without an Electrical Safety Authority (ESA) inspection. David John had been promoting both himself and his companies as “licensed electrical contractors” specializing in pot light installation, using flyers, signs and on-line advertisements. John was sentenced to five days in jail and ordered to pay a $40,000 fine.
The ESA played a key role in the investigation and the laying of charges. The ESA is an administrative authority acting on behalf of the Government of Ontario, responsible for enhancing public electrical safety in Ontario, and administering specific regulations related to the Ontario Electrical Safety Code, the licensing of Electrical Contractors and Master Electricians, electricity distribution system safety, and electrical product safety.
The Authority feels harsh penalties were appropriate
In an ESA media release, the authority expressed satisfaction with the harsh penalties handed out in the ruling. “We are very pleased to see that the court has sent a strong message which we hope will deter others in the underground economy who might consider working outside the law,” said Scott Saint, ESA’s Chief Public Safety Officer and Vice President of Regulatory Affairs. Although witnesses in court also mentioned cash transactions taking place, Saint could not confirm whether John was operating on a non-tax basis.
Anonymous tips led to the charges
John’s companies had been in the ESA’s cross-hairs for the last two years, thanks to an anonymous tip, Saint told Canadian Contractor. “We always follow up on anonymous tips at the Electric Safety Authority,” he said. “We found eight other installations attributable to him going back a couple of years, laid the charges before the courts, and have been pursuing him through the court system ever since.”
Upon inspection, John’s work was in fact found to be improper and deficient, resulting in a licensed electrical contractor having to make corrections. The severity of the penalties therefore reflected court’s view of the very real dangers posed to the unsuspecting homeowners. “There has to be a strong message and deterrent for those who put public safety at risk”, Saint told Canadian Contractor. John himself was not present in the court at the time of sentencing.
A bad reputation, readable on-line
Operating under the names Kenchiku Development Inc., and Skiookum Developments, John’s M.O. should have been well known to potential clients. Kenchiku Development’s Facebook page contains comments from past customers such as, ‘Bloody took my 7000 dollars. Hope God punish him worse,’ and ‘STAY AWAY FROM THIS COMPANY! It’s a scam and David is a CROOK! They will take your money and not come back plus is a terrible job!’
Unlicensed work exposes risks for homeowners and contractors
Homeowners and contractors who hire unlicensed, ‘handyman-style’ electricians run several risks, even for installations as relatively straight-forward as pot lights, Saint explained to Canadian Contractor. One is a fire risk from faulty installations or the selection of the wrong type of pot light in a combustible area that can result in a fire starting above the ceiling out of sight. Another risk is electrocution from incorrect wiring. Saint recalled a case where a metal switch box became live when hot and neutral wires were reversed somewhere in the circuit. The homeowner was killed when he touched both the box and a metal sink. “Electricity is unforgiving and lethal. It doesn’t usually give you a second chance,” Saint says.
These types of installation problems can go undetected because an unlicensed electrician cannot take out a permit, and therefore cannot get an ESA inspection of the work done that will catch deficiencies, Saint explained. “When a licensed electrician gets a job, they get a permit, there is an inspection, and we issue a certificate.” This certificate should be something the homeowner should request, either directly from the electrician or from the contractor. In larger projects, the contractor, of course, absorbs these risks and therefore has a responsibility to ensure that all trades on the project carry the correct licenses and tickets.
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