By Carol Byrne
AN inquest into the death of a tree surgeon, who was electrocuted by power lines, hear this week that the practice of using pole pruners has been changed by the ESB.
Christopher Lysaght from Finniterstown, County Limerick died after the pole pruners he was using came in contact with power lines, while he was working at Hurlers Cross, near Shannon, in May 2010.
In addition to confirmation that pole pruners are no longer used in this kind of work, the jury at the inquest made a recommendation that electricity should be turned off when such works are taking place, in the interest of safety.
Evidence of cause of death and identity had been heard at a previous sitting of the coroner’s count. In a deposition, Mr Lysaght’s colleague, Jean Pierre Auvert said he and his crew were maintaining hedges at the Hurler’s Cross. He said the crew got permission from the landowner to carry out works. They then carried out checks and the full crew agreed that there was no need for a switch off of the power and they each signed a document agreeing to this.
Mr Auvert said he contacted the clerk of works to inform him when they were starting works. They took a break for breakfast and when work resumed, he said Mr Lysaght was climbing a tree between two poles.
He said he went to another house to ask permission to continue works, and when he returned he was informed that Mr Lysaght had been electrocuted and his colleagues were performing CPR.
The emergency services had been called at this stage and he called the ESB and clerk of works to inform them of what had happened.
He explained to the inquest that the crew had “completed a safety and risk assessment” before the job stating there was no need for the electricity to be shut off and the crew of three had “all signed off” on it.
He outlined that Mr Lysaght had been using a pole pruner as was normal practice at the time. He said this implement would have been approximately four metres long and would not have been insulated. He added that since Mr Lysaght died this instrument is no longer used.
Mr Lysaght’s mother asked why the electricity was not switched off on that day, when earlier in the week a decision was taken to switch off the electricity.
Mr Auvert said certain jobs require it to be shut off and others don’t. He said on the day “everyone was happy not to switch it off”. He added that following the death, the ESB changed the rule governing the use of pole pruners.
Ms Lysaght said, “It was a hard lesson to learn.”
Another member of the crew, Mr Gerry Cray, also gave a deposition. Mr Lysaght was trimming trees at the back of the house and then moved onto hedges at the side of the house.
He said he had asked for a pole pruner and he saw him extending it. “I asked was everything ok”. He said he then heard a noise and realised Mr Lysaght had been electrocuted. He got help and began CPR.
The coroner, Ms Isobel O’Dea said the Health and Safety Authority had investigated the matter and no prosecution had been brought by them.
The jury at the inquest recommended that “a clerk of works should be on site” and there should be “a total turn off of all power to the site while any and all works are being performed as a matter of total and absolute safety of all workers”.