Council fined £75,000 after golf course mower severs employee's fingers

Press Releasein Local Authority

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning employers they must maintain machinery, and carry out risk assessments and training, after a man had two fingers partially severed by a large grass mower.

Medway Council was fined £75,000 with £6,761 costs, after pleading guilty to three breaches of health and safety legislation, today, at Maidstone Crown Court.

On 15 September 2006, Mr Donald Brown, a green-keeper who worked at Deangate Ridge Golf and Sports Complex, was trying to mend a tractor-drawn mower. He was turning the tractor cylinder, which contains grass-cutting blades, while his colleague was sitting in the tractor cab.

As a precaution, the cylinder should not rotate when raised, because a safety switch cuts the power. Mr Brown asked his colleague, to turn on the tractor, but the safety cut-out-switch did not operate, and the cylinder started rotating, resulting in the partial amputation of the last two fingers of Mr Brown's right hand.

The HSE investigation showed that the seven-cylinder mower had no routine maintenance schedule, which would have made sure that critical safety features were operational.

However, a protective shield was missing, and the safety guard underneath was damaged to such an extent as to render it useless.

None of the green-keeping staff had received any training on the safe use and maintenance of the machinery and there were no training records or risk assessments in existence for the use of the mower.

David Fussell, HSE Inspector said: "The council was aware of the danger of unguarded machinery and had been advised in the clearest terms by consultants. Their failure to act on this advice was a major contributory factor towards this incident.

"It is further clear that there was a systemic failure to train staff and to provide maintenance of the machinery. There were no risk assessments for the mower, which regretfully is proven by Mr Brown's case, and ultimately affected the safety of the employees."

Medway Council was prosecuted under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974, Reg 11 (1) of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998 (PUWER), and Reg 3(1) (a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

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