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Timber firm fined after guillotine severs worker’s hand

1 November 2013

A Lancaster timber firm has been fined for serious safety breaches after a guillotine severed the hand of one of its employees.

Charlesworth Tree Care and Fencing Ltd was prosecuted today (1 November 2013) by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at the Old Railway Yard in Middleton, near Carnforth, on 3 June 2010.

Lancaster Magistrates’ Court heard the 72-year-old man from Lancaster had been feeding pieces of wood into a diesel-powered guillotine, known as a logger, using his right hand to push wood under the blade and his left hand to operate the lever.

As he was doing this, he accidentally pulled down the lever before he had removed his right hand from under the blade. It passed through the top of his hand, just below his knuckles, breaking all the bones in its path and severing all the tendons. The skin on his palm was the only thing left keeping the two parts of his hand together.

Surgeons managed to sew his hand back together during a six-hour operation but he had to have part of his little finger amputated and now has very limited movement in his hand.

The HSE investigation found the level of guarding on the guillotine fell well below the minimum legal standards, and it should not have been possible to reach under the blade while operating the guillotine.

Charlesworth Tree Care and Fencing Ltd, which specialises in fencing, tree surgery and clearance projects, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

The company, of Crown Bridge in Kirkby Longsdale, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 towards the cost of the prosecution.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Michael Mullen said:

“A long-serving employee at the firm suffered life-changing injuries because the company’s safety precautions on this machine weren’t anywhere near good enough.

“The guillotine had been at the timber yard for over a decade but it wasn’t in daily use and didn’t meet the standards of other equipment owned by the company.

“This case should act as a warning to firms to make sure all their equipment meets minimum safety requirements, no matter how frequently or infrequently it is used.”

The woodworking industry has one of the highest injury rates in the manufacturing sector, most of which are caused by contact with moving machinery. Information on improving safety is available at

Notes to Editors

  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 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 states: “Every employer shall ensure that measures are taken…which are effective to prevent access to any dangerous part of machinery or to any rotating stock-bar, or to stop the movement of any dangerous part of machinery or rotating stock-bar before any part of a person enters a danger zone.”
  3. HSE news releases are available at

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