A tree surgeon has been fined £10,000 after he fell from a ladder while clutching a chainsaw, causing serious injuries to a colleague below.
Gilbert Bradfield, 71, from Clacton-on-Sea, escaped the fall with minor injuries, but his friend suffered a punctured lung, serious lacerations to the head and a dislocated shoulder.
The unnamed man was hospitalised for four days, but shortly after being discharged, he collapsed at home and dislocated both his shoulders. The 72-year-old spent a further eight weeks in intensive care and nine months on he still has little use of both arms due to severe nerve damage.
Last Friday, Colchester Magistrates Court heard that Mr Bradfield had been contracted to fell the tree in Harwich, East Anglia and enlisted the help of three casual employees.
An extending ladder was placed in the back of their pick-up truck and Mr Bradfield climbed four or five metres to remove the upper branches.
But as he cut through the trunk with a rear-handled chainsaw, the top of the tree swung round and knocked the pensioner off the ladder. He fell to the ground and injured the man who was footing the ladder.
A subsequent investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) revealed that no harnesses or ropes were being used and, despite several decades’ experience as a tree surgeon, Mr Bradfield and his colleagues had no certificates of competence in even the basics of chainsaw skills.
Magistrates handed Mr Bradfield the substantial fine and ordered he pay another £889 in costs after he admitted breaking health and safety laws.
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… 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.”