HSE issues warning on brush-cutter accessories after fatal accident

The Health and Safety Executive Field Operatives Directorate has issued an urgent warning about use of chain flail and non-standard accessories on brushcutters, following a fatal accident.

The HSE says non-standard metal brush-cutting accessories fitted to petrol-driven brush cutters can fail catastrophically in-service. There is a risk of death or serious injury to operators and others in the vicinity from ejected metal components. These accessories are manufactured from more than one component and rotate at high speeds. Anyone using them should discontinue use of any non-standard metal cutting accessory immediately and consult the brush- cutter manufacturer for guidance.

Initial investigations into the accident indicate that a link from a chain flail attached to a brush cutter, struck a nearby worker in the head.

An HSE representative said such warnings were not common. They are investigating the accident before giving details of its location and which company was involved.

HSE said: "In contrast with dedicated chain flail machinery, brush cutters typically lack the robust guarding arrangements required to control the risk from articles (including fragments of chain) being ejected with high energy. The guarding supplied with brush-cutters is predominantly aimed at protecting the operator from inadvertent contact with the cutting accessory.

"The fatal incident involved the use of a twin-chain attachment, similar designs have been encountered having four chains, and one which utilises chainsaw type chains as the cutting implement. The presence of a CE mark should not be regarded as a reliable indication that such attachments are safe to use.

The HSE added that any brush cutters fitted with chain flail or similar non-standard attachments should be taken out of service immediately and the attachments removed and replaced with the manufacturer's approved accessory. Manufacturers' advice should be followed as to the appropriate combinations of cutting tools and guards. Such advice is typically available within the instruction books accompanying the machine.

HSE added UK suppliers should immediately cease the supply of such chain flail attachments, whether or not intended for professional use.


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