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Watermouth Castle has been fined after a worker’s hand was crushed by a hedge trimmer

A North Devon business has been fined following a successful prosecution by North Devon Council for health and safety failings which resulted in an employee having to undergo surgery.

Watermouth Castle Estates admitted 10 health and safety breaches at a hearing on March 8 at Exeter Combined Court Centre.

The breach related to an incident that occurred on 3 December 2021 when an employee was tasked with trimming a hedge on the premises.

The worker cut the bottom of the hedge off the ground using petrol hedge trimmers. Hedge clippers did not have an instant safety cut feature that would stop the blades as soon as the individual removed their hand from the trigger mechanism.

After cutting the lower section, the employee was asked to get into a metal cage that was attached to a telehandler to cut the higher part of the hedge. In the process, the cage fell from the telehandler onto the floor with their employee in it. The hedge trimmer, which was still working, fell towards the employee, who pushed the tool away with his hand to avoid more serious injury.

The person suffered multiple hand injuries as a result of the incident. He had to undergo surgery at the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital to repair his fingertips and nail beds and required ongoing physiotherapy.

Watermouth Castle Estates was fined £12,000 and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £6,464.80 and a victim surcharge of £190. It was noted that the defendants had no previous convictions, admitted their guilt and had taken steps to improve health and safety procedures at Watermouth Castle since the accident.

Chair of North Devon Council’s Licensing and Community Committee, Councilor Louisa York, said: “This incident was preventable and unfortunately resulted in a member of staff suffering multiple injuries. I would like to ask all businesses in North Devon to invest properly in health and safety. This will ensure the well-being of your employees and reduce the costs of workplace accidents like this one. Employers should ensure that they properly assess risks and apply effective control measures to minimize risks and reduce the likelihood of such incidents occurring.

North Devon Council investigates complaints about health and safety at workplaces in North Devon and notifiable accidents, dangerous incidents and illnesses. For more information visit the Occupational Safety and Health Board page.

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