A school operator and a cleaning contractor have been sentenced following an incident in April 2013 in which a worker who was felling a tree was knocked off his ladder. After landing on his back, the 59-year-old worker sustained permanent spinal injuries, meaning that he is unable to walk and will be confined to a wheelchair for the rest of his life.
The worker from Gerrard’s Cross was using a chainsaw to fell a mature sycamore tree at Bassetsbury Manor in High Wycombe, Buckinghamshire when the incident occurred. 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 on 5 June that 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.
An investigation by HSE found that:
- Alpha Schools Limited failed to engage competent contractors to undertake the arboriculture work;
- 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; and
- 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.”