THE Health and Safety Authority issued a warning to farmers and others working with electrical cable reels in the aftermath of the electrocution of a teenager on a County Limerick farm, an inquest has heard.
Jack Lyons, 14, of Clouncagh, Knockaderry, was power hosing a shed on his grandfather’s farm at Aughalin, Ballingarry, on July 18, 2013, when the fatal accident occurred.
And it is believed the overheating of a cable reel contributed to the teenager’s death.
Garda Aidan Boyle told Limerick Coroner’s Court that he had been called to the farm at about 3pm and was told Jack had been power hosing the inside of a cowshed with a friend of his when he had fallen suddenly. Paramedics had been called to the scene and the teenager had been rushed to University Hospital Limerick, where he was pronounced dead at 4.15pm.
Dr Elizabeth Mulcahy read from a medical report by a British expert Dr Mary Sheppard, who concluded that hypercontraction of heart muscle bands were “typical of sudden cardiac arrest and may be associated with electrocution”.
David Boland, of the Health and Safety Authority, told the inquest that Jack Lyons and his friend had at first been cleaning the cowshed with brushes and forks before deciding to get the power hose.
They had plugged an electrical cable reel into a socket and, the HSA investigation concluded, the power hose may have been in use for up to an hour before the electrocution occurred, the shock most likely having come from the metal part of the power hose lance.
An expert from the Commission for Energy Regulation retained by the HSA found the power washer itself to be in good working order.
But an examination of the 100m coiled extension lead, only 15m of which was unwound at the time of the accident, resulted in the HSA issuing a safety alert.
This found that the cable, which Mr Boland said was suitable for using on devices such as a hedge trimmer, had become overloaded when connected to the power hose. There had been a failure in the plastic insulation which saw the plastic around the copper wires and also the insulation around the flex itself melt. The live and the earth wires had touched with the earth becoming live.
The warning - which the HSA issued to Teagasc, the ESB, the Construction Industry Federation and other bodies - notes the dangers in leaving electrical cable reels coiled, which can mean heat generated may not dissipate, increasing the risk of overheating, the melting of insulation and ultimately of electrocution.
While the socket on the farm in Ballingarry was found to have met the safety standards, Mr Boland said the installation of a residual current device (RCD) would “in all likelihood have prevented the accident”.
An RCD protects cable reels and all the circuits they feed at source and, the HSA has advised, are generally located in electrical distribution boards and should be tested at least twice a year.
A verdict of accidental death from electrocution was delivered in the case of Jack Lyons.