Firm Prosecuted After Worker Crushed By Tree

Timber Firm Lands In Dock After Safety Failings Lead To Serious Injuries


A timber firm based in the West Midlands has been prosecuted after one of its workers was seriously injured when he was crushed between a machine and a tree trunk.

The 24-year-old forestry worker, who has asked not to be named, suffered a fractured hip and knee damage in the incident at Westhide Wood in Herefordshire in August 2012. The longer-term consequences of his injuries have forced him to seek alternative employment due to no longer being able to carry out manual work.

He was working for Leominster-based Chalford Timber as part of a two-man team on the day of the accident, with his task being to cut up trunks with a chainsaw while his colleague used a forestry vehicle to move trees into position.

However, one tree became snagged in the branches of another and when it broke free it pushed the worker against the machine, trapping him and causing the injuries.

The HSE investigation found that the company had not followed established practice, which is to create a 'safe zone' around the machine that nobody should enter when it is in operation. This requires that the operator of the machine ensures anyone working on the ground is outside this area and in clear view.

Chalford Timber pleaded guilty in the hearing at Hereford Magistrates' Court to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. It was fined £8,000 with costs of £16,335.

Commenting on the case, HSE inspector Christopher Gregory said: "This was an incident that should not have been allowed to occur. Forestry practices are high risk and potentially dangerous and those who work in the industry should be fully aware of the risks."

He added: "The penalty for getting it wrong is not just financial - it causes unnecessary hardship and long-term disruption to people’s lives."

The HSE has noted vehicles are frequently involved in accidents at the sites of tree felling work.

As well as the dangers of people working on foot getting hit, it notes managers should also assess the risks of drivers falling out of cabs.

Expert Opinion
This accident at work led to serious and life-changing injuries for the employee involved, forcing him to seek alternative employment. It is crucial employers take their responsibility for the health and safety of their workers seriously, which means ensuring risk assessments are carried out, workers have been provided with the equipment required for a task and are appropriately trained to carry out the work, which is particularly important in such a dangerous injury, where working at height and cutting equipment are combined.

“All too often we see the devastating impact an accident at work can have on the victims, as well as their friends and family. It is vital employers work hard to improve health and safety standards to ensure incidents like this, which has had a dramatic impact on the individual involved, are not repeated in the future.”
Stephen Nye, Partner