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July 7, 2010

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Farmer relied solely on chainsaw-operator’s experience

A farm worker suffered serious injuries while cutting a tree when the chainsaw he was operating dropped on to his elbow.

Lowestoft Magistrates’ Court heard how Keith Dennis, then a part-time worker at Hill Farm, Leiston, was asked to cut back an overgrown hedge on 30 October 2009. He had many years experience of using a chainsaw but had never received any formal training in how to operate the device safely.

While he was cutting an overhanging branch, it fell, causing the chainsaw to make contact with his left elbow, severing an artery and a tendon. As he was working alone, Mr Dennis had to make his way to a nearby road and stop a passing motorist for the emergency services to be called.

The HSE visited the farm the following day and found that Mr Dennis had not been provided with any PPE and no risk assessment had been carried out to ensure that the method of work was safe. An Improvement Notice was issued, which required the farm to purchase protective equipment for workers who used chainsaws.

HSE inspector Steve Hook said: “Incidents like Mr Dennis’s are entirely preventable. Chainsaws are a potentially dangerous piece of equipment, therefore, reliance on experience alone is not enough.

“Employers must ensure that appropriate training, supervision and equipment are provided prior to any work involving chainsaws. An effective assessment of risks must also be carried out.”
Peter Haste, owner of Hill Farm, appeared in court on 5 July and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. He was fined £1600 and ordered to pay £1400 towards costs.

He had no previous convictions and entered an early guilty plea. Haste told the court that he had complied with the Improvement Notice and now provides workers with protective equipment for use with chainsaws.

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