THE father of a Limerick teenager who died after being electrocuted in a farm accident has questioned the practice of electricians self-certifying their work.
Kevin Lyons, whose son 14-year-old son Jack died while power hosing his grandfather’s cattle shed in Ballingarry on July 18, 2103, believes there should be an independent assessment before power is connected to new work.
A verdict of accidental death from electrocution was delivered at the inquest into Jack Lyons’ death last month.
And the incident resulted in a safety alert being issued by the Health and Safety Authority in relation to the proper use of electrical cable reels and on the importance of precautionary devices such as RCD (residual current device) protection.
The HSA’s David Boland told the inquest Jack Lyons life could have been saved had the socket he had connected to the power washer been RCD protected. This would have tripped the current and prevented overheating and electrocution.
“As far as we understand if the socket was RCD protected, it would have saved Jack’s life,” said Kevin Lyons.
Work had been carried out on the farm in 2008, including the installation of new waterproof sockets in two farm buildings, by a registered electrical contractor.
One of these sockets, Mr Lyons explained, had been installed in a “new cattle shed which was going to be grant aided and inspected by the Department of Agriculture and was RCD protected”.
“The other socket which was installed in an older building was not RCD protected - as we have painfully discovered.
“As you can imagine, this a source of great anguish to us and we are at a loss to understand why this was the case.
“We feel that the practice of electricians self-certifying their work is a practice that needs to be reviewed. Surely an independent third party should verify the safety of new electrical installations,” said Mr Lyons.
The family had brought in a registered electrician to do the work. Mr Lyons recalled thinking it “strange” at the time that the electrician could certify his own work as safe before handing the customer a form to send to the ESB before power could be supplied.
“That’s the way it works but in retrospect, from what we have experienced, it does not seem very good practice,” he said.
On whether the family was considering any legal action, Mr Lyons said they were keeping “an open mind” and any such action was “futile in many ways” as it would never bring Jack back.
The Lyons family also wished to draw people’s attention to the safety alert issued by the HSA in the wake of Jack’s tragic death.
These were on the HSA website “where the lessons we have painfully learned are outlined”, said Mr Lyons.
The warning relates mostly to electrical cable reels, one of which Jack and a friend had used to connect the power hose in cleaning the shed. At the inquest, Mr Boland had said the extension lead used was not suited to a more heavy duty piece of equipment like a power hose.
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 its 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.
Mr Lyons said he had actually bought a different extension cable specifically for the washer “but unfortunately it wasn’t with it on the day that Jack used it”.
The full HSA safety alert in relation to cable reels can be viewed at www.hsa.ie/eng/Topics/Safety_Alerts/Electric_Cable_Reel_Alert