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ESB fined €250,000 following workplace death of 22-year-old man

Shane Conlon
Shane Conlon

The ESB has been fined €250,000 after a 22 year old apprentice electrician was killed when he became confused about which part of the equipment he was working on was live.

The court heard no visual warning sign or flag was placed inside the cubicle to warn employees working there that there was live electrical apparatus overhead.

The company pleaded guilty in Dublin Circuit Criminal Court to failing to manage and conduct maintenance work on an indoor 38kw cubicle T142 for the safety their employees at St Margret’s Road, Finglas, Dublin on January 15, 2013.

Shane Conlon, from Santry, Dublin, was on his own cleaning equipment in a cubicle in the plant but there were no flags to show him which parts of it still had electricity.

A Health and Safety Authority inspector said Mr Conlon likely got confused about what parts of the cubicle were live when he returned after lunch. His body was found forty minutes after he came back from his break.

The person who was originally in charge of the four man team was off sick and a less experienced staff member was put in charge. He asked for a manual on how to proceed with the work but was not given one.

Mr Conlon’s sister Laura told  the court that her last memory of her brother was of him leaving the family home with a cup of tea in his hand to go to the job he loved. She said that Mr Conlon had not lived to receive a certificate from the ESB of his completed courses but that the family has hung it in the living room as a reminder of his accomplishments.

A statement of appreciation from the ESB was read by Patrick Gageby, SC, defending, saying that the 22 year old was an excellent apprentice and was not just someone they worked with but was someone they were close with.

Mr Gageby said that it was not a case in which the employer had taken shortcuts, pushed workers excessively hard or taken risks which the court may have seen in other such cases.

HSA inspector Mark Madigan said that the person in charge was fully capable but only had experience of managing two projects before and had never overseen work in such a tight cubicle. He said there was “a lack of supervision for a vulnerable employee as he was still an apprentice.”

Judge Martin Nolan said that though it was an accident, that did not mean that no one was at fault. Judge Nolan offered his condolences to the Conlon family and said the “€250,000 signifies that this is a serious matter. Best practice always changes and hopefully the ESB will react in due course to protect their workers.”

The ESB also agreed to pay the costs of the HSA investigation and the prosecution, lead by Antonia Boyle, BL, which amounts to nearly €16,000.