Worker falls over 18 metres from a tree

A company has been sued for not correctly risk assessing a job after a self employed tree surgeon dislocated his hip whilst being contracted to cut down a diseased tree. The company had contracted the services of the tree surgeon to remove the damaged and diseased branches of a Chestnut tree. The tree had recently lost a branch a few days earlier so was already unstable.

The court heard that the sub contractor worked on the tree whilst 5 company employees carried out ground work below. The company, which was itself contracted by the county council, provided an elevated work platform, chainsaws and equipment to lower parts of the tree to the ground and the tree surgeon used his own climbing equipment. The tree surgeon used the platform provided to get to the tree and attached his climbing equipment (a rope and steel strap) to the tree and also the platform provided via another rope.

As he was cutting away at the diseased tree, the whole branch of tree above his anchor points  fell away from the main tree trunk causing the contractor to fall along with the branch 18 metres to the ground below.  The safety rope attached to the platform snapped.

The Health and Safety Executive’s investigation found the company guilty of not doing an adequate risk assessment for the job and should have provided a bigger work platform as the one used was not fit for purpose. If a bigger platform had been built then the tree surgeon would not have had to climb into the tree which was already unstable.

Because the work was poorly planned, the sub contractor suffered a dislocated hip, cuts and bruising following the 18 metre fall, however the court heard that it could have been a lot worse falling from such a height.

The company was found guilty of breaching Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations and was fined £2,000 and ordered to pay £780 in costs.

An HSE Inspector said:

“He has suffered a serious injury, but given the height from which he fell, the consequences could have been far worse.

“Falls from height are one of the biggest causes of workplace fatalities and major injuries. Work at height must be appropriately planned and the right equipment provided for the work. The work must be undertaken by competent people who can stop the work and re-assess the plan so the work can be undertaken safely.”

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