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Sentences after tree-felling incident leaves worker in wheelchair

Date:
5 June 2015

A school operator and a cleaning contractor have both been fined, after a man sustained permanent spinal injuries while felling a tree on school grounds in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire.

The 59 year-old from Gerrard’s Cross, was using a chainsaw to fell a mature sycamore tree at Bassetsbury Manor on 22 April 2013. He was helping one of the defendants, Paolo Mule, of P&X Complete Cleaning Services, to clear the site to make way for building work. They had been contracted by Alpha Schools Limited to carry out the work.Aylesbury Crown Court heard today (5 June) a large partially cut branch swung down and hit the ladder the worker was standing on, throwing him to the ground where he landed on his back, sustaining permanent spinal injuries.

He is now unable to walk and will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found Alpha Schools Limited failed to engage competent contractors to undertake the arboriculture work.

The investigation also found that Mr Mule failed to undertake a risk assessment for the work. There was no safe system of work in place, with no ropes being used and the ladder was not secured. The work was not adequately segregated and there were members of the public nearby.

Alpha Schools Limited, of London Road, High Wycombe was fined £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.

Paolo Mule, 33, trading as P&X Complete Cleaning Services, of Pinions Road, High Wycombe, 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.

After the case, HSE Principal 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.”

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. hse.gov.uk
  2. Section 3(1) of the Health and Safety etc. Act 1974 states: “It shall be the duty of every employer to conduct his undertaking in such a way as to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, that persons not in his employment who may be affected thereby are not thereby exposed to risks to their health or safety”.
  3. Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations, 1999 states: “Every employer shall make a suitable and sufficient assessment of (a)the risks to the health and safety of his employees to which they are exposed whilst they are at work; and (b)the risks to the health and safety of persons not in his employment arising out of or in connection with the conduct by him of his undertaking”.
  4. Further HSE news releases are available at www.hse.gov.uk/press

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