Contractor Fined After Tree Surgeon Falls

HSE Prosecution Follows Hip Injury For Worker

08.10.2014

A contractor has been prosecuted over an incident that saw a tree surgeon suffer a dislocated hip after a diseased tree he was working on gave way.

David Hunt, from Lydney in Gloucestershire, was employed by contractor Richard Cole to cut down a damaged chestnut tree near Cheltenham in April 2013. The tree was known to be diseased as it had just shed another branch.

Mr Cole took on Mr Hunt to do the job after Gloucestershire County Council had contracted him to ensure the tree was removed as soon as possible. He provided a work platform for Mr Hunt to use.

However, when a limb of the tree gave way, the platform proved too weak to support the tree surgeon and the rope snapped, leading to him falling 60ft. In addition to his hip injuries, Mr Hunt suffered cuts and bruising.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the work had been poorly planned. A key problem had been that Mr Cole had not supplied a bigger and stronger platform. Had he done so, Mr Hunt would not have had to climb onto the tree and therefore would not have suffered the fall.

Mr Cole pleaded guilty in the hearing at Stroud Magistrates' Court to a breach of Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations. He was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £780 in costs.

Commenting on the case, HSE inspector Paul Newton said: "Mr Hunt has suffered a serious injury, but given the height from which he fell, the consequences could have been far worse.

"This needless incident could have been avoided if Richard Cole had provided an appropriate sized work platform for Mr Hunt to work on. This would have been identified if an adequate risk assessment and plan had been provided."

Mr Newton added that falls from height are among the most common causes of death and serious injuries at work.

Official HSE figures showed that in 2013-14, there were 133 deaths caused by falls from height, down from 150 in 2012-13.

Expert Opinion
Falls from height are some of the most common accidents that take place in the workplace. This incident led to serious injuries for the employee involved and illustrates how important it is for employers and contractors to take their responsibility for the health and safety seriously. This means conducting the correct risk assessments, providing the equipment required to carry out a job safely and ensuring staff are appropriately trained to carry out the work, which is particularly important in such a dangerous working environment, 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