Tree surgeon fined for health and safety failures after worker's toes were shreddedBy Becky Barnes
February 11, 2013
A Bracknell-based tree surgeon was ordered to pay nearly £13,000 after a 16-year-old worker’s toes were shredded by a faulty wood chipper.
Mark Grubb, director of Calibra Tree Surgeons, Moordale Avenue, admitted three offences of breaking the Health and Safety at Work Act and was sentenced at Reading Magistrates Court on Tuesday.
Daniel Hilbourne, HM Inspector of Health and Safety, said Connor Harfield, from Bracknell, was three weeks into his first job when he was injured by a wood chipper with a non-functioning safety bar, in Maidenhead, on September 23, 2011.
The Health and Safety Executive’s investigation revealed the company failed to take measures to protect the teenager from a dangerous blade, which left him with a permanent impairment and ongoing pain.
Mr Hilbourne said the company’s failure to do a young person’s risk assessment which took into account ‘inexperience and lack of awareness’ meant Mr Harfield, now 18, was left out of sight of a senior worker to feed wood into a chipper.
The court heard the company also failed to provide and maintain equipment which was safe after it became aware the safety bar, which works as an emergency stop, was not working 11 days before.
Mr Harfield ‘felt he was falling behind’ so had started to push the chips in with his foot and it had been drawn into the blades, the court was told. Mr Hilbourne said: “It is only after losing his toes and the ball of his foot he could stop the machine, and then while still bleeding draw attention of other operatives.”
Tanwyn James, defending, said the ‘remorseful’ company accepted it had fallen short of the health and safety requirement but had made ‘robust and proactive’ changes.
Miss James added there was ‘absolutely no pressure whatsoever’ for the worker to keep up with the flow and while the company took responsibility for the safety bar, Mr Harfield had stepped over it.
District Judge Andrew Vickers, sentencing, gave credit for the early guilty plea but highlighted the company’s failure to take a risk assessment with regard to a young person.
He said: “The case involved the damage to a young person’s foot – an impairment the person will have for the rest of his life with possible future surgery.
“I take on board Connor must have physically placed himself in a position where his foot came near to the rollers and the company was not directing him to work in that form or for profit.”
Calibra Tree Surgeons was fined £12,000 which was reduced to £7,000 taking into consideration the company had run at a loss for the last two years and Mr Grubb took a minimum wage of £7,420 a year.
The company was also charged £15 criminal surcharge and £5,973 costs, which Judge Vickers recommended be paid through a collection order within 18 to 24 months.