Accident compensation

Worker lost toe due to council safety failings

A school janitor who lost his toe while cutting branches off a tree with a chainsaw could be in line for personal injury compensation.

Fife Council was fined £20,000 after admitting safety failures which led to the incident at Canmore Primary School in Dunfermline.

Kirkcaldy Sheriff Court was told how Fife Council’s Education Service identified a possible extension to the services provided by school janitors.

In addition to simple gardening duties in school grounds, they would undertake basic chainsaw work, particularly on fallen branches or trees, duties which were normally carried out by the Council’s Parks Department.

Craig Davies, then aged 39, and two other workers from the educational facility service underwent basic chainsaw training.

In January last year, Mr Davies was sent to Canmore Primary School where an ash tree had blown down. On arrival, he realised the job was bigger than anticipated and contacted a colleague for assistance.

Mr Davies climbed onto the trunk and started cutting through the limb. It sheared away from the trunk, came towards him and landed on his foot trapping it against the trunk.

Mr Davies required three surgical procedures but doctors were unable to save one of his toes. He spent three months recuperating before returning to work.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) concluded Fife Council failed to properly assess the risks to employees in the educational facility service while undertaking chainsaw operations; failed to maintain a safe system of work and provide sufficient training and supervision to enable them to undertake chainsaw work.

Fife Council, of Fife House, North Street, Glenrothes, was fined £20,000 after pleading guilty to breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974.

HSE Inspector Kerry Cringan, said: “The failures by Fife Council resulted in Mr Davies suffering a significant and serious injury.

“Chainsaw operations are, by their very nature, hazardous. Fife Council, having reached a position where these employees had the most basic of chainsaw qualifications, dispatched them to single-handedly tackle a job that was far in excess of their capabilities.

“As a result they found themselves in a situation outside of their experience, but without recognising it was beyond their abilities. Employers must ensure that chainsaw operations are carefully planned and supervised, particularly when employees are not experienced in arboricultural work.”

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