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Essex tree surgeon fined £10k for accident which left employee needing constant care

PUBLISHED: 14:09 14 November 2014 | UPDATED: 14:42 14 November 2014

Scales of justice

Scales of justice

Archant

A tree surgeon who fell four metres while holding a running chainsaw and landed on a colleague has been fined £10,000 for health and safety breaches.

Gilbert Bradfield, 71, escaped the fall with minor injuries.

But a co-worker, 72, who he landed on suffered a severe laceration to the head, a dislocated shoulder, a punctured lung and other internal injuries.

After four days in hospital he later collapsed at home, dislocating both shoulders, and spent nearly eight weeks in intensive care with a severe chest infection. Due to nerve damage in his shoulders the man, who does not wish to be named, now has very little use of both arms and requires constant care.

Bradfield, of Sturrick Lane, Great Bentley, admitted breaches of two health and safety laws during a hearing at Colchester Magistrates’ Court today following an investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The court heard Bradfield was asked to fell the tree in Little Oakley in February this year after the homeowner was concerned about its stability after strong winds.

Bradfield, a tree surgeon and landscape gardener for 30 years, and his team removed the lower branches before putting up a three-stage extending ladder to reach the higher branches.

To increase its height they placed the foot of the ladder in the rear of their pick-up truck parked at the foot of the tree, and used no harnesses or ropes. No-one was wearing personal protective equipment.

Bradfield climbed the ladder but was knocked off by the top of the tree when it swung round as he was cutting it.

The HSE investigation revealed Bradfield and his employees had no certificates of competence in even the basics of chainsaw skills or tree surgery.

Magistrates fined Bradfield £10,000 and ordered him to pay £889 costs.

Speaking after the hearing HSE inspector Anthony Brookes said: “Gilbert Bradfield had not properly planned this work, and the way it was tackled almost doomed it to failure from the start.

“It is somewhat surprising, given his lack of proper training and a lack of competency, that a similar incident had not occurred before.

“Tree work is a hazardous occupation and it is essential that the risks are recognised. In the last ten years, 24 tree surgeons have been killed and 1,400 have been injured.”

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