Tees

Durham County Council fined after worker's arm severed

Durham County Council has been told to pay more than £21,000 after a worker's arm was severed in a wood chipper.

The 25-year-old man, who has asked not to be named, was cutting back bushes in Spennymoor, when the incident happened in August 2009.

The authority admitted breaching health and safety regulations at Darlington Magistrates' Court and was fined £13,000, with £8,212 costs.

The prosecution was brought by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).

The court heard the worker was feeding trimmings from the bushes into a mobile power-fed wood chipper when his glove or sleeve became caught, pulling his left arm into the machine.

Colleagues were able to shut off the power but his arm had been severed at the shoulder.

He was airlifted to hospital but surgeons were unable to save any part of his arm.

'Avoidable incident'

A HSE investigation found the potential for injury using the wood chipper was "well known" but Durham County Council had failed to take this into account in any risk assessment.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE Inspector Victoria Wise said: "This was a tragic but avoidable incident that resulted in a young man experiencing a traumatic loss.

"This young man was lucky not to be killed as a result of this incident, which could have easily been avoided had Durham County Council followed guidance."

Terry Collins, director of neighbourhood services at Durham County Council, said: "The council is extremely sorry that this accident occurred and that it had such a significant impact on our staff.

"We have been working closely with the HSE to identify any areas for improvement in relation to this accident and following a detailed review some changes in working practices have already been implemented."

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