Timber firm fined £5,000 after guillotine severs Lancaster worker’s hand

COURT'Lancaster Magistrates Court. 23080411
COURT'Lancaster Magistrates Court. 23080411

A timber firm was fined £5,000 for serious safety breaches after a Lancaster man’s hand was severed while operating a guillotine.

The 72-year-old, a long-serving employee of Charlesworth Tree Care and Fencing Ltd, had to have his hand sewn back together after the accident, which happened at the Old Railway Yard in Middleton, near Carnforth, in June 2010.

Lancaster Magistrates’ Court heard he was feeding pieces of wood under a blade into the diesel-powered cutting machine, known as a logger, with his right hand while using his left hand to operate a lever.

As he was doing this, he accidentally pulled down the lever before he had removed his right hand from under the blade.

It passed through the top of his hand, just below his knuckles, breaking all the bones in its path and severing all the tendons.

The skin on his palm was the only thing left keeping the two parts of his hand together.

Surgeons spent six-hours sewing the man’s hand back together, but he had to have part of his little finger amputated and now has very limited movement in his hand.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found the level of guarding on the guillotine fell well below minimum legal standards, and it should not have been possible to reach under the blade while operating the equipment.

Charlesworth Tree Care and Fencing Ltd, which specialises in fencing, tree surgery and clearance projects, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

The company, of Cowan Bridge, near Kirkby Lonsdale, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay another £5,000 towards the cost of the prosecution at Friday’s hearing.

Speaking after sentencing, HSE Inspector Michael Mullen said: “A long-serving employee at the firm suffered life-changing injuries because the company’s safety precautions on this machine weren’t anywhere near good enough.

“The guillotine had been at the timber yard for over a decade but it wasn’t in daily use and didn’t meet the standards of other equipment owned by the company.

“This case should act as a warning to firms to make sure all their equipment meets minimum safety requirements, no matter how frequently or infrequently it is used.”

The woodworking industry has one of the highest injury rates in the manufacturing sector, most of which are caused by contact with moving machinery.