£500,000 fine issued to London Borough of Havering

The large fine was issued to the London Borough of Havering after a road maintenance worker sliced his leg to the bone while he was pruning trees with a cut-off saw.

Southwark Crown Court heard that Ball was cutting branches at Holly Tree Cottage in Romford on 2 March 2015 using a Sthil cut-off saw with an inappropriate blade and no safety equipment.  The blade became stuck and on pulling it free the blade ran across the top of the worker’s left leg. He needed surgery and 60 stitches, and also sustained muscle and ligament damage.

George Ball, 58, did not receive any training from the local authority, which also failed to follow health and safety procedures, Romford Recorder reported.

The investigation by the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) found that the wrong equipment was being used for the task and there was no risk assessment for the use of the saw and blade. It said a safe system of work should have been in place that identified suitable machinery for the task.

London Borough of Havering Council pleaded guilty to breaching Regulations 4(2) and 4(3) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations, which covers selecting work equipment and ensuring it is only used for operations for which it is suitable.

In court Vivek D’Cruz, prosecuting, was quoted as saying:

“Mr Ball had never read or been directed to the manuals for the equipment he used in his job, including the cut-off saw that caused him such a serious injury that day. Nor did he know where such manuals were kept.

He has never seen or been directed to the risk assessments that applied to his work nor has he seen the safe working procedures. It wasn’t until after the incident where he sustained the serious injury that he was shown a training video. This video specifically stated that the blade was not to be used on the saw.”

The £500,000 fine is one of the first to be imposed on a local authority since the new sentencing guidelines for health and safety offences were introduced earlier this year. The council must also pay prosecution costs of £8,240, however is said to be considering an appeal against the penalty because it believes it is too high.