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Council prosecuted after worker's near-death fall

Photo shows the overturned cherry picker

Bradford Council has admitted serious safety breaches after one of its parks' employees narrowly escaped death when he plunged eleven metres from the cradle of a cherry picker.

Bradford Magistrates heard the 23-year-old arboricultural worker from Bingley was working at a height of some 35 feet pruning dead branches in Bierley Hall Woods when the cherry picker overturned, sending him crashing to the ground.

He suffered multiple injuries including fractures to his spine, collar bone, pelvis and right leg, plus internal injuries that required surgery. The council employee, just 22 when the incident happened on 27 July 2012, was off work for more than five months. Although he has since returned, he is no longer able to carry out tree work at height.

The incident was investigated by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), which prosecuted Bradford Council after identifying a series of failings involving the planning and preparation of the tree work and the use of the cherry picker.

The court was told two tree workers set up the cherry picker correctly on a compacted path in the woods and one of them was working in the extended cradle among the tree tops. As he rotated the boom arm and cradle anti-clockwise to move from tree to tree, the weight distribution of the machine changed and the cherry picker overturned.

HSE found that when the weight shifted, one of the vehicle's stabiliser feet had slid off a ground mat and then sunk into the soft ground at the side of the compacted path. The wrong type of ground mats had been provided to the team to put underneath the machine's feet. The unbalanced machine then toppled without warning.

The investigation identified that the council had failed to properly plan and organise the safety aspects of the tree pruning work. No one had realised that the distance between the stabiliser feet was greater than the width of the path. In addition all the council workers who did tree work in off-road locations had never been trained to do the work in soft, sloping or uneven ground. All the training had been done in a depot yard.

Bradford Council was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay £9,623 in costs after admitting breaching Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 by failing to ensure the safety of one of its employees while working at height.


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