Bracknell tree surgeon's regrets over employee toe loss

A Berkshire tree surgeon has spoken of his regret after a 16-year-old employee lost part of his right foot in a workplace accident.

Connor Harfield was working for Bracknell-based Calibra Tree Surgeons when he was injured at Auckland Close, Maidenhead, on 23 September 2011.

The teenager's toes were shredded by a wood chipper.

Mark Grubb, 37, director of Calibra Tree Surgeons, said health and safety had since improved at the firm.

Disabled and depressed

He said: "I have got absolute regret for what happened. I feel for Connor immensely for what's happened.

"We have learnt so much from this unfortunate experience. Our whole health and safety manual has been rewritten to protect the employee and to protect us as well.

"Unfortunately, we no longer take on people under the age of 18. We used to have work experience people from all the local schools.

"We wouldn't have anybody without basic chainsaw and chipper knowledge now."

Mr Harfield, now 18, was feeding brushwood into a mobile chipper when he put his right foot into the chute to speed up the flow. His shoe got caught and his foot was pulled into the blades.

The teenager, from Bracknell, who was three weeks into his first job when he was injured, was left disabled, depressed and suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder.

A Health and Safety Executive investigation found the wood chipper was poorly maintained, a safety bar was missing, and Mr Harfield had not been adequately trained or supervised.

Calibra Tree Surgeons was fined £7,000, ordered to pay £5,973 costs and £15 to a fund for victims of crime after admitting three breaches of health and safety regulations at Reading Magistrates' Court.

Mr Grubb added: "Not only was I responsible in the eyes of the law, I always felt personally responsible. I wouldn't wish this upon my worst enemy."

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