Injuries can happen anywhere, any place and at any time; and most certainly at work. This was the case for one employee who was injured by a chainsaw whilst they were cutting down a tree.
Two employees of Growing Green Limited, a salad growing company, were working together at Brentwood Nursery on cutting down a tree… Whilst one employee held and supported the branches the other cut the tree using a chainsaw. Midway through the process, one of the employee’s arms tragically landed on top of the chainsaw whilst the machinery was still in operation.
No personal protective equipment was provided
The accident on 6th April 2016 caused the employee to suffer deep lacerations which damaged the nerves in his arms.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation found that neither of the employees were trained to operate the chainsaw, and even more surprisingly, neither of the employees were wearing any personal protective equipment. The HSE notes the following personal protective equipment needed when operating a chainsaw:
- Safety helmet
- Hearing protection
- Eye protection mesh visor
- Safety glasses or goggles
- Leg and groin protection
- Chainsaw boots
No training was provided
The HSE also found that they weren’t supervised when using the chainsaw and no planning was put in place prior to the use of the machinery.
The HSE provides a page of guidelines for working with chainsaws. It’s common knowledge that chainsaws can be potentially dangerous machines; they can cause fatal injuries if not used correctly. The HSE also note that it’s mandatory for anyone using a chainsaw at work to receive adequate training and they should be competent to use a chainsaw for the type of work they are carrying out.
Working with trees is considered to be a ‘high-risk’ activity. Effective training is essential under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. There’s a general duty for employers as well as self-employed individuals to provide health and safety training required for the line of work.
Death and injuries caused by chainsaw use
According to the HSE, in recent years (in forestry and arboriculture) direct contact with a chainsaw has caused 5 deaths and many serious injuries. They note that this figure doesn’t even cover accidents including cutting down trees.
If health and safety training and protective equipment had been provided, deaths and injuries caused by the use of chainsaws, could well have been prevented or at least, limited. The HSE’s findings show that most of the injuries involving chainsaws are due to employees taking shortcuts, and this could be the direct result of employers not providing adequate training.
Growing Green pleaded guilty to the breach of Section 2 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Section 2 denotes the general duties of employers that is owed to employees. It’s evident that Growing Green put their employees at risk of injury and death by not providing the training and protective equipment necessary when operating a chainsaw.
Injuries that can be prevented
Their guilty plea is supported by HSE Inspector, Tania van Rixtel, who said:
“This incident could have easily been avoided if the company had adopted a safe method of working that did not put an employee in the direct line of the moving chainsaw.”
She also noted that the company are lucky they aren’t liable for the loss of a limb, “It was luck that the gentleman did not lose his arm.”
Growing Green were fined £120,000, which includes a £170 victim surcharge. The salad growing company were also ordered to pay costs of £1,864.35.
This should be a warning and a reminder for all companies that even the ‘one-off’ jobs need to have proper planning and training set in motion.