Construction Health and Safety Consultancy and CDM Adviser Services

Worker Loses Arm While Working for the Council
Posted by David Cant on March 20, 2012

A 25 year old man lost his arm while he was working for Durham County Council back in 2009. While he was working to cut back some over grown bushes he was required to use a mobile wood chipper and this machine was the cause of the accident. As the unnamed man fed the branches he had cut back into the wood chipper part of his sleeve or possibly one of his gloves got caught up in the mechanics of the machine.

Tragic Accident Resulted in Arm Being Severed at the Shoulder

During the incident the employees arm was pulled into the machine where it had been caught on the clothing or glove. This resulted in serious injuries and despite other workers being able to switch off the machine the damage was too severe and his arm could not be saved. The young man was taken immediately to hospital by air where he had surgery on his shoulder. No part of the man’s arm could be saved as the chipper had severed it at the shoulder.

Health and Safety Services Could Have Helped

Since the accident the Durham County Council employee has found that life has been challenging and he is still suffering physically and mentally from the incident. The accident was properly investigated and the inspectors discovered that it was either the high visibility vest or the man’s glove which was caught in with the trimmings from the tree.  This is a common problem with using wood chippers but despite this the Durham County Council did not take it into account while creating their risk assessments.

Not only was the risk assessment inadequate when it came to operating the wood chipper, they also failed to ensure that the published guidance about the control measures for safe usage of the machine were followed correctly.

Follow Health and Safety Guidance to Avoid Tragedy

Despite tree work being known as a high risk industry the council had failed their employees by not ensuring the guidance was followed and failing to create an adequate risk assessment. The operators needed to have the correct training to reduce the risks and the correct protective gear should have been used.

Wood chippers have been the focus of health and safety since they are known for being so dangerous. Had the council followed the guidance which was published in 2003 they would have known that any gloves which are warn during the operation of the machine should be close fitting or tucked into the sleeves of clothing being worn.

Fine for the Council

As a result of the negligence of the Durham County Council the Health and Safety Executive prosecuted them. The council pleaded guilty to breaching Section2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act. As a result they were fined £13,000 and also made to pay the costs of £8,212.50.

If you are unaware of any guidance or regulations relating to your industry you can contact health and safety consultants for assistance. There is no need to take risks, choose from many excellent health and safety services to ensure you are doing everything possible to reduce the dangers in your place of work.


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Health and Safety Services, Prosecutions & Who's in Court, Workplace Safety

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