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Worker’s tree fall lands farmer in court

4 April 2013

An east Hampshire farm owner has been prosecuted after an untrained worker plunged over four metres from a tree as he was using a chainsaw to prune branches.

The worker, who doesn’t wish to be named, climbed up into a large sycamore tree and used a rope supplied by farm owner Hamish Janson to tie the chainsaw to a branch. He straddled one of the tree limbs and was cutting down branches when he lost his balance and fell.

The 41-year-old man from Ringwood, Hampshire, dropped onto a barn below before rolling off the roof and ending up on some of the felled branches on the ground. He managed to escape with minor injuries to his back and neck.

The incident, at Newton Valence Farm in Newton, Alton, on 3 June 2011, was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Mr Janson at Aldershot Magistrates’ Court today (4 April).   

HSE’s investigation found Hamish Janson wanted the tree pruned as branches had started to damage the roof of the barn. He told two of his workers to cut the tree back but neither was trained to use chainsaws within a tree or given the correct equipment to carry out the work.

The court heard the incident was entirely preventable. After the incident Hamish Janson employed professional tree surgeons and the job was completed safely in less than an hour at a cost of just over £100.

Hamish Janson, 72, of Newton Valence Farm, Selborne Road, Alton, admitted a breach of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 by failing to make sure that the tree work was planned, supervised and safely carried out. He was fined £1,075 and ordered to pay £3,350 in costs.

After the hearing, 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, 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.

"This is unfortunately another example of poor health and safety practice in the agricultural industry. HSE will take robust action against those who put workers’ lives at risk."

The latest HSE statistics show that 40 workers were killed and more than 3,400 were seriously injured in falls from height in 2011/12. Further information on safe working at height can be found online at . In the same year, there were 33 deaths in the agriculture sector.  

Notes to editors

Photo shows the tree and barn below. The chainsaw is just about visible hanging from a branch at the top and middle of the picture.

  1. The Health and Safety Executive is Britain’s national regulator for workplace health and safety. It aims to reduce work-related death, injury and ill health. It does so through research, information and advice; promoting training; new or revised regulations and codes of practice; and working with local authority partners by inspection, investigation and enforcement.
  2. Regulation 4(1) of the Work at Height Regulations 2005 states "Every employer shall ensure that work at height is properly planned; appropriately supervised; and carried out in a manner which is so far as is reasonably practicable safe."

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