Chainsaw accident results in HSE investigation

A tree surgeon has been fined by the HSE after falling nearly 4 metres from a tree and injuring his colleague below with a chainsaw. He pleaded guilty to single breaches of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 and Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

The accident happened as the 71 year old tree surgeon was pruning a tree using a 3 stage extended ladder and chainsaw. The base of the ladder had been positioned inside the rear of a pick-up truck so as to increase its height in order to reach the higher branches. His 72 year co-worker held the ladder securely at the base.

As the tree surgeon cut the upper branches using a heavy rear handled chainsaw, the branch swung back and knocked him off the ladder causing him to fall 4 metres onto his co-worker below. The tree surgeon escaped with minor cuts and bruises but the co-worker did not fair so well. He received a severe laceration to the head from the chainsaw which was still running as the tree surgeon fell. He also suffered a dislocated shoulder, a punctured lung and other internal injuries as a result of the impact.

As a result of the workplace accident the co-worker was hospitalised for four days but later collapsed at home causing him to dislocate both shoulders. He now has nerve damage in his shoulders and requires 24 hour care due to losing the use of his arms. He also spent nearly eight weeks in intensive care with a severe chest infection.

The HSE’s investigation found the tree surgeon and landscape gardener had failed to ensure the work carried out was safe. The Magistrate Court heard how there was no Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) worn by the three men operating chainsaws. There was also no suitable safety equipment for working at height for example harnesses or ropes.

Adding to the evidence against the landscape gardener, he failed to provide valid certificates of competence in chainsaw skills or tree surgery. As a result of the investigation the tree surgeon was fined £10,000 and was also required to pay costs of £889.

An HSE Inspector said:

“….had not properly planned this work, and the way it was tackled almost doomed it to failure from the start. It is somewhat surprising, given his lack of proper training and a lack of competency that a similar incident had not occurred before.

“Tree work is a hazardous occupation and it is essential that the risks are recognised. In the last ten years, 24 tree surgeons have been killed and 1,400 have been injured. The HSE website has a dedicated area that provides advice on training and safe working methods in the industry.”


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