A Sydney arborist has been fined $80,000 after a worker sustained serious and permanent injuries while felling a tree.

On 3 February 2014, arborist Alex Grant and his work crew attended a premises in Terrey Hills to remove a dead tree.

As directed by Mr Grant, a worker climbed 11 metres above the ground and began cutting with a chainsaw. He was attached to the tree with a climbing belt. The ground crew pulled on a rope intended to control sections as they were cut away; however, the entire tree fell to the ground.

As a result of the fall, the worker suffered severe injuries, including a permanent and serious brain injury. Another worker escaped serious injury when the tree fell on him.

SafeWork NSW investigated the incident and charged Mr Grant with a breach of the Work Health and Safety Act 2011. Mr Grant entered a guilty plea, and in the District Court last week he was convicted and ordered to pay a fine of $80,000 plus costs.

The court found the risk of the worker suffering serious injury or death was clear and foreseeable. During a previous inspection of the tree, Mr Grant had identified its stability was affected by a decaying root system, as well as fungus and insect infestations but did not appreciate the significance of those features.

SafeWork’s investigation noted that if the defendant had adhered to the requirements of the Amenity Tree Industry Code of Practice 1998, the risks would have been removed.

The code required a safe means of access to the tree, such as via a mobile crane or elevated work platform; as well as testing of the stability of the trunk and establishing a sufficient exclusion zone (at least twice the height of the tree) for ground workers.

SafeWork NSW Executive Director Peter Dunphy welcomed the decision, saying the tree work industry was over represented in workplace accidents.

“Every year more than 150 workers are injured undertaking tree work, and last year, three workers were fatally injured,” Mr Dunphy said.

“SafeWork NSW, along with NSW Fair Trading and the State Insurance Regulatory Authority (SIRA) have launched the Focus on Industry: Tree Work project to work with NSW tree industry businesses to ensure they are meeting health and safety and workers compensation responsibilities.

“This project is providing support and advice to businesses to help them take simple steps to plan work and ensure it is safe,” Mr Dunphy said.

For information on working safely with trees or how to select a qualified tree work business, visit www.safework.nsw.gov.au or www.fairtrading.nsw.gov.au For further advice and assistance call 13 10 50.

Mr Grant has 28 days to lodge a notice of intention to appeal his sentence.

Back to top