Cirencester Town Council fined after mower accident left groundsman with fractured ribs

A council has been fined after a worker was thrown from an overturned mower while cutting grass in Gloucestershire.

The groundsman, who has asked not to be named, suffered four fractured ribs and bruising in the incident at Cirencester Amphitheatre on 4 September 2012. 

He was working for Cirencester Town Council, which was prosecuted on 4 August by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) after an investigation identified safety failings. 

Cheltenham Magistrates’ Court heard the groundsman was carrying out routine cutting on the outside slope of the amphitheatre using a ride-on mower. The grass was around two feet high making it difficult to see the ground conditions, which were uneven with potholes. The mower tipped over and landed on the grass throwing him off. He was then hit by the machine. 

His injuries caused him to be off work for two months and he was only able to work on light duties for a further month on his return. 

HSE’s investigation found that the slope being mown was 64 degrees, and that the mower in operation was not suitable for slopes in excess of 25 degrees. However, the worker had no means of judging the severity of the slope because it did not have an inclinometer. 

The court was told the mower was unsuitable for the task at hand, and that council failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for the work. In addition, the worker had not received proper training, information or instructions on how to carry out the work with the mower. 

Cirencester Town Council pleaded guilty to a breach of Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and was fined £12,000 with costs of £17,000. 

HSE Inspector, Alison Fry, speaking after the hearing, said: "The worker could have easily been killed, having been put at unnecessary risk because there were several other ways this work could have been carried out safely.  It was an entirely avoidable incident, and I hope it serves to remind employers to take all site conditions into account, including slopes, before choosing equipment to cut grass. 

"Employers need to carry out risk assessments to decide how to carry out a job safely.  They then need to provide adequate training, information and instructions. " 


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