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News added on 23.09.2019

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Safe systems of work

Log splitter trapped tree surgeon's hand

A tree surgeon suffered serious injuries to his hand when it became trapped in a log splitting machine. Was this a preventable accident?

G was carrying out work for Josh Noon Tree Services (JNTS). He was loading logs into the log splitting machine while another worker operated the controls. G’s right hand became trapped in the machine while it was running, severing his index finger and the tip of his middle finger. Surgeons attempted to re-attach his finger but were unable to do so. The accident occurred in December 2017, but G still suffers pain and is unable to perform tasks as quickly as he could before. This has significantly impacted his ability to work as a tree surgeon.

The HSE’s investigation found that the log splitting machine presented a foreseeable risk of serious injury because of a lack of guarding or two-handed controls. The machine should only have been operated by one person, who could load the logs and then move away from the machine to operate the controls. Having two people using the machine at once created an unsafe system of work that increased the likelihood of serious injury further.

G had not been given proper training and instructions in using the machine. He had not worked with it before and was only told verbally how to use it.

The owner of JNTS pleaded guilty to breaching his duty under s.3(2) Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 as a self-employed person to ensure that others were not exposed to health and safety risks. He was fined £3,100 and ordered to pay costs of over £6,000.

This accident could have been prevented by following a safe system of work. The machine should only have been operated by one person so they could get clear of the dangerous moving parts before it started up. If workers assist one another, they must only do so in accordance with the safe system of work, otherwise they could actually increase the risks of the job.

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