The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has successfully prosecuted a school operator and a cleaning contractor after a worker was seriously injured when felling a tree on a school premises.
Aylesbury Crown Court fined a Buckinghamshire school operator £35,000 and ordered to pay £25,000 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. It also agreed to pay an ex gratia payment of £50,000 to the injured worker.
The cleaning contractor was given an 18 months prison sentence suspended for two years and ordered to pay £2,000 costs after pleading guilty to breaching Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.
The court heard that the school operator had engaged the cleaning contractor to clear an area of the school grounds in preparation for some building work. The 59 year-old from Gerrard’s Cross was helping the contractor fell a sycamore tree when a branch fell and hit the ladder he was using, causing him to fall to the ground. The worker received spinal injuries and is now confined to a wheelchair.
The HSE report revealed a series of safety failings. Firstly, no risk assessment was undertaken. There were no safe systems of work in place and no safety equipment was provided to prevent falling and injury. Furthermore, members of the public were not separated from the work and could have been at risk.
After the case was heard, HSE Inspector Karl Howes said:
“Arboriculture work remains high risk, particularly work at height in trees. Such work must only be undertaken by competent and trained contractors.
“All businesses have a duty to ensure they engage in competent contractors when carrying out tree work.”