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Director prosecuted after trainee tree surgeon severs thumb

The owner of a Hampshire arboriculture business has been prosecuted for safety failings after a trainee tree surgeon severed his thumb on a log splitter.

Rory Stamper, 18, from Church Crookham in Fleet, lost the tip of his right thumb from the base of his nail in the incident at Cedardale in Hartley Wintney on 14 September last year.

On 23 July, Andover Magistrates Court heard that he was using a vertical log splitter to cut logs when he was distracted and inadvertently stepped on a foot pedal that lowered a splitting blade.

The machine required operators to manually hold logs in place with their hands, so as the blade lowered it caught and sliced through his thumb.

He was off work for four weeks as a result of the injury and still suffers pain and has difficulty performing certain tasks, such as writing or fastening buttons on clothes.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the splitter failed to comply with the latest safety standards for such equipment. A device should have been fitted to hold logs in place without human intervention, and the controls should have been better configured to prevent accidental use and access to the splitting zone.

In addition, there was no written risk assessment for the machine to identify potential risks and safe-working procedures.

Cedardale director Chris Kunesch, of Trimmers Farm, Trotters Lane, Hartley Wintney, was responsible for the machine. He pleaded guilty to breaching Regulation 11(1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 and Regulation 3(1) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and was fined £4,000 and ordered to pay £2,000 in costs.


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