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April 8, 2013

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Tree-cutting job was an “utter shambles”, says HSE inspector

A farm owner has appeared in court after an untrained worker fell more than four metres from a tree while using a chainsaw to prune branches.

The man, who wishes to remain anonymous, was working with a colleague at Newton Valence Farm in Newton, Alton, when the incident took place on 3 June 2011. He climbed up into a large sycamore tree and used a rope supplied by farm owner Hamish Janson to tie the chainsaw to a branch. Janson wanted the branches cut, as they were damaging the roof of a barn.

He proceeded to cut down the branches by straddling one of the tree limbs, but lost his balance and fell. He landed on a barn below, before rolling off the roof and ending up on some of the felled branches on the ground. He escaped with only minor injuries to his neck and back.

The HSE launched an investigation and found Janson had told the men to cut the tree despite neither worker being trained to use chainsaws while up a tree. They weren’t provided with the correct equipment to carry out the work and the chainsaw was also found to be in a poor condition, as the chain was not tight enough.

The Executive issued two Prohibition Notices to Janson on 15 July 2011, which required him to stop using the chainsaw until it was properly maintained, and to prevent workers from using a chainsaw while working at height unless they were adequately trained.

HSE inspector Craig Varian said: “The activity taking place on site at the time of this incident was a complete and utter shambles. There were so many issues with the way the job was being done that it is hard to know where to start.

“The injured man and all involved were untrained in this type of work and the resulting activity demonstrated a complete lack of planning and forethought. To be straddled in a tree with no harness, or training, cutting away at branches with a large chainsaw, defies belief.

“It’s very lucky that this worker didn’t suffer much more severe injuries either from the chainsaw or the fall. Chainsaws are very dangerous and should be used only by trained and competent individuals. Falls from height kill many and injure very many more.”

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