Guernsey Press

Sark Electricity boss in grid warning after serious shock incident

An incident in which a man suffered a serious electric shock in Sark last summer could be repeated if the island installs a second electricity grid, the owner of the electricity company has warned.

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During the set-up of last year’s Harbour Carnival that people started getting electric shocks from metallic equipment. Guernsey Electricity was asked to report to Chief Pleas on the incident.

Sark Electricity Ltd had installed a temporary supply board in the harbour’s main shed to supply power for the event. This had been used for other events.

After about an hour of people getting shocks, at about 9.30am, there was a total power cut in the area.

SEL engineers traced the fault to a joint just outside the entrance to the harbour cafe and it was decided to terminate the supply, said company managing director Alan Witney-Price.

The event’s organising committee brought in a generator and ran two extension leads to this via a home-made temporary distribution board, which was not earthed.

People were still getting electric shocks so all equipment connected to the mains power sockets in the shed was turned off, although when questioned later nobody could be certain that all of the equipment was unplugged from all the mains supplies in the area.

After a man was found slumped near the event’s refrigerator a first aider went to help but received a shock when he touched the man.

The first aider managed to get the unconscious man onto the ground and the emergency services were called.

At this point the generator was turned off.

Guernsey Electricity’s investigation found that as a result of the fault near the cafe, the current had flowed to earth and into cables that were leading to the harbour, which were not earthed.

As a result, anything that was still plugged into the SEL board would have had an electric charge, even if it was switched off.

‘They left some equipment they weren’t using plugged into our grid so we had an earth jump between the two,’ said Mr Witney-Price.

Recommendations have been made by GEL for corrective work needed to prevent this happening again, four for SEL and two for Chief Pleas and the event committee.

Sark’s Chief Pleas has also voted to spend £175,000 on designs for a second electricity grid in the island.

But Mr Witney-Price said that given the dated condition of electrical equipment in Sark properties, if this went ahead there could be similar problems to at the harbour.

‘If you run two electrical systems alongside each other this is what happens,’ he said.

‘Nobody, anywhere, except Sark, would operate two industrial electrical systems across the same piece of land.’

n In a separate incident the day before the carnival, a resident received a large electric shock when removing a plug from a socket in the fisherman’s shed. GEL said that by the time it went to check the plug, it had been replaced.

The supply powered a freezer in an adjacent shed which was found to be in an extremely poor condition and GEL said this was a fire and electric shock risk that needed to be addressed.