Arborist fined over brain injury

Thursday, 18 May, 2017

Freeimages roby mikic

A worker felling a tree has sustained severe brain injuries, leading to an $80,000 fine for a Sydney arborist.

In 2014, a worker was directed by arborist Alex Grant to climb 11 metres above the ground and begin cutting a tree with a chainsaw in Terrey Hills.

The entire tree fell to the ground, despite the ground crew pulling on a rope intended to control sections as they fell away.

As a result of the fall, the worker suffered a permanent and serious brain injury, while another worker escaped serious injury when the tree fell on him.

SafeWork NSW investigated the incident and charged Grant with a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Grant entered a guilty plea, and in the District Court was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $80,000 plus costs.

The court found the risk of the worker suffering serious injury or death was clear and foreseeable. During a previous inspection of the tree, Grant had identified its stability was affected by a decaying root system, as well as fungus and insect infestations but did not appreciate the significance of those features.

SafeWork’s investigation noted that if the defendant had adhered to the requirements of the Amenity Tree Industry Code of Practice 1998, the risks would have been removed.

The code required a safe means of access to the tree, such as via a mobile crane or elevated work platform, as well as testing of the stability of the trunk and establishing a sufficient exclusion zone (at least twice the height of the tree) for ground workers.

SafeWork NSW Executive Director Peter Dunphy welcomed the decision, saying the tree work industry was over-represented in workplace accidents.

“Every year more than 150 workers are injured undertaking tree work, and last year three workers were fatally injured,” Dunphy said.

“SafeWork NSW along with NSW Fair Trading and the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) have launched the ‘Focus on Industry: Tree Work’ project to work with NSW tree industry businesses to ensure they are meeting health and safety and workers compensation responsibilities.

“This project is providing support and advice to businesses to help them take simple steps to plan work and ensure it is safe,” Dunphy said.

Image credit: © Mikic

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