Journalist, SHP Online

December 1, 2016

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“Safety concious” tree surgeon’s chainsaw death was “bad luck”, says HSE

The family of a tree surgeon who sliced his neck open with a chainsaw, have said that his death was a fluke of nature and that they plan to promote health and safety in tree surgery.

32-year-old Alexander Kirkley was cutting branches from a hoist on an ash tree in Oxford on 12 February when his tool “kicked back” and hit his neck.

The “skilled and safety conscious” tree surgeon held his neck before falling unconscious, Oxford Croner’s Court heard.

The jury-led inquest concluded the death was accidental.

A colleague tried to stop the bleeding, but Mr Kirkley later died in the John Radcliffe Hospital.

The inquest heard that Mr Kirkley had spent three years living in New Zealand where he perfected his trade.

Coroner Darren Salter read evidence from one of Mr Kirkley’s trainers Josh Paice who wrote: “To this day [Alex] was one of the most safety-conscious tree surgeons.”

Mr Salter said: “He lived life to the full and made many achievements.

“It’s apparent he was a very skilled arborist and safety conscious.

“It’s one of those rare things that can happen.”

David Fussell of the Health and Safety Executive told the court that he thought Mr Kirkley and his colleagues were competent and used equipment that was up to regulatory safety requirements.

He thought Mr Kirkley’s accident was down to “bad luck”.

Mr Kirkley’s mother Janet said: “He was a lovely young man, much-admired by everyone who met him.

“[He loved] working with trees… being part of nature, and being out in the wild and knowing how important trees are to the planet.”

“It was just a fluke of nature, the chances of it happening are so small.”

The family now plans to promote health and safety and explore ways in which tree surgery can be made safer.

The Coroner added that he would write to arboreal regulatory bodies to investigate how to make chainsaws safer and whether more safety clothing, like neck guards, could be employed in the future.

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Sharon Edwards
Sharon Edwards

Wow this happened to a friend of my husbands years ago the chainsaw kicked back and hit him in the face. Aside from a nasty scar he survived this incident.