Company Fined After Teenager Loses Toes In Wood Chipper

Lawyers Say Lessons Must Be Learnt After HSE Find Machine Is Missing Vital Safety Guard


Work place injury experts have called for employers to ensure health and safety is their number one priority after a company was fined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) for allowing a teenager to use an unguarded machine which severed his toes.

The call was made by lawyers at Irwin Mitchell following reports that Calibra Tree Surgeons Ltd in Bracknell were fined by the HSE after an employee, then aged just 16, suffered serious injuries at work.

Connor Harfield, from Bracknell, lost all of the toes and most of the ball on his right foot in the incident at Auckland Close in Maidenhead in September 2011 after his shoe was dragged into a mobile wood chipping machine.

The HSE found the chipper was poorly maintained and was missing a vital safety bar around the bottom of the feed chute. Calibra was aware of the fault and although a replacement part had been ordered employees were allowed to carry on using it.

David Urpeth, who specialises in helping people injured in accidents at work, said: “Employers have a duty to ensure their employees are properly protected from harm and this is especially important when it comes to using potentially dangerous machinery like wood chippers.

“Employees have the right to go to work without the fear of being hurt and this case is a stark reminder that health and safety standards must be maintained so other people don’t suffer serious injuries like this in future.

“This is an alarming incident which could so easily have been avoided if Calibra had ensured the machine was properly maintained and had the correct safety guards.”

The HSE investigation also found that Connor was not trained or properly supervised on the day of the accident.

Connor, now 18, has been left with a permanent impairment and has been diagnosed with depression and post traumatic stress disorder.

The firm was fined £7,000 and ordered to pay £5,973 costs after they admitted breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act, the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and the Provisions and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

Daniel Hilbourne, the HSE inspector, also said:  “It is well known that young people in the workplace are often less risk averse and they need to be closely and carefully monitored when using machinery. It is also imperative that machinery is well maintained and is pre-checked before use. Had that happened here, this serious incident could have been prevented.”