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Council Fined for Employee Injury in a Tree Cutting Accident

The London Borough of Havering has been fined £500,000 for health and safety failings that resulted in an employee injury in a tree cutting accident.

The action against the Council was brought following an investigation into the accident by the Health & Safety Executive (HSE). HSE inspectors found that, on 2nd March 2015, a maintenance worker for the London Borough of Havering – George Ball (58)- had been instructed to cut tree roots and branches with a Sthil cut-off saw, but not been provided with an appropriate blade for the saw.

Southwark Crown Court heard, while cutting through a tree root, the saw became stuck. As George pulled it free, the blade of the saw ran across the top of his left knee – causing a deep cut that required sixty stitches, and damaging ligaments and the cartilage of the knee. The HSE´s investigation found that no risk assessment had been conducted for the use of the saw and blade together.

The court was told that George had never been directed to read the manuals for the cutting equipment despite having worked for the council for nineteen years. Prosecutor Vivek D’Cruz told the court: “It wasn’t until after the incident where he sustained the serious injury that he was shown a training video. This video specifically stated that the blade was not to be used on the saw.”

Representatives of the London Borough of Havering pleaded guilty to breaching the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 – specifically for failing to implement a safe system of work that identified suitable and compatible machinery for certain tasks. The Council was fined £500,000 and ordered to pay costs of £8,240 for the failings that resulted in an employee injury in a tree cutting accident.

After the hearing, a spokesman for the London Borough of Havering was considering an appeal against the size of the fine for an employee injury in a tree cutting accident. He said: “The fine was one of the first imposed on a local authority under new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences, which have significantly increased the likely fines for all health and safety offences. However, the council still considers that the level of fine imposed is high in all the circumstances of the case, and is considering an appeal.”