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June 26, 2013

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Worker plunged 11 metres from overturning cherrypicker

Bradford Council has admitted failing to adequately plan work at height following an incident where a worker fell from the cradle of a cherrypicker.

Two council workers were pruning dead branches in Bierley Hall Woods when the incident took place on 27 July last year. They parked the cherrypicker correctly on a compacted path in the woods and placed ground mats underneath the vehicle’s stabiliser feet.

One of the workers then stood in the cradle as it was extended to 35 feet above the ground, so he could begin pruning the branches. As he rotated the boom arm and cradle anti-clockwise to move from tree to tree, the weight distribution of the machine changed and the cherrypicker overturned, causing him to fall 11 metres to the ground.

The 23-year-old suffered fractures to his spine, collarbone, pelvis and right leg, and also sustained internal injuries that required surgery. He was unable to return to work for more than five months and is no longer able to carry out tree work at height.

The HSE investigated the incident and found the council had supplied the wrong type of ground mats. As a result, when the vehicle’s weight shifted, one of the stabiliser feet slid off a mat and sunk into the soft ground, causing the vehicle to overbalance.

The investigation also found the work hadn’t been properly planned and the council had failed to train workers to carry out tree work on soft, sloping, or uneven ground.

HSE inspector David Welsh said: “The use of a vehicle-mounted cherrypicker for work at height needs to be properly planned and organised. The council failed to assess the risks of the tree-pruning work and provided unsuitable mats for the stabiliser feet, which led to an unsafe system of work being in operation.

“A cherrypicker is specialist lifting equipment for work at height and the council did not have a lifting plan in place for its general use for tree pruning, despite the dangers of using such lifting equipment being well-known.”

City of Bradford Metropolitan Council appeared at Bradford Magistrates’ Court on 25 June and pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. It was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £9623 in costs.

In mitigation, the council said it has improved the quality of its risk assessments and it now ensures ground conditions are identified as part of the process. It has also created a lifting plan for using the machinery and has sent staff on additional training.

In October last year, Bradford Council pleaded guilty to breaching s2(1) of the 1974 Act after a caretaker was left with life-changing injuries when he fell four metres through a roof at a school. The council was fined £15,000 and ordered to pay £5667 in costs.

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