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April 19, 2012

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Estate trustee fined following tractor fatality

A worker was crushed to death when a tractor overturned during a poorly planned tree-felling operation.

Christopher Fox, 60, was part of a team responsible for maintaining trees at the Osberton estate in Blyth. He was employed by the GMT Foljambe 1996 Discretionary Trust, which manages the estate.

On 4 November 2009, Mr Fox and a colleague were cutting down a number of trees at Hodstock Forest Farm, which is located on the estate. The trees were leaning towards a farm building and the workers used a tractor to push them in the direction that they wanted them to fall.

Having successfully felled three trees, they began to cut a fourth when it span on its stump, and the resulting force caused the tractor to overturn. The vehicle landed on top of Mr Fox and he died at the scene from crush injuries.

An HSE investigation found that the men were only trained to cut trees that measured 200mm in diameter but the trees they were working on measured 390mm in diameter.

HSE inspector David Butter told SHP that the work had been authorised by George Michael Thornhagh Foljambe, the controlling trustee of the estate who manages all staff activities. He assessed the work before it started and instructed the team to fell the trees.

Inspector Butter explained that the work was not properly planned and the method of work was unsuitable, as there were no measures in place to control the direction in which the trees fell. He said Foljambe should either have hired a competent contractor to carry out the work or ensured his staff were adequately trained. He added that one method of safely felling the tree would have involved using ground anchors and winches.

“Felling trees is a high-risk activity and anyone engaged in such activities needs to have had sufficient training for the task being undertaken and be provided with appropriate tools to enable them to carry out the task safely,” said the inspector.

“These employees had not been trained to carry out felling on this size of tree and were using inappropriate tools to assist them, which has unfortunately resulted in a death of a husband and father.”

Foljambe appeared at Nottingham Crown Court on 16 April and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974, and reg.9(1) of PUWER 1998. He was fined £10,000 in total, plus £20,327 in costs.

In mitigation, he said he had no previous convictions and entered a guilty plea at the earliest opportunity. He expressed his deep regret for the incident and has subsequently provided additional training, so workers can now cut trees up to 380mm in diameter.

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12 years ago

So now, after training, they still can’t cut down trees of the same size as the one which killed Mr Fox-great!