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A Worcestershire woman needed surgery when she was struck by pieces of fencing wire – an incident resulting in a six-figure fine.

On May 18, 2015, flailing was being carried out by a subcontractor, Complete Tree Services (CTS), when pieces of the wire were sprayed from the mechanical flail. Redditch Magistrates' Court was told that the member of public was in her garden at the time of the incident when she was struck once in the leg and then again in her neck. The pieces of fencing wire had become tangled in the machinery. The head of the mechanical flail was raised to remove the wire, and the wire flew towards her garden. The metal, which had struck her in the neck, had to be removed surgically.

The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) carried out an investigation, finding that the contractor, R M Contractors Ltd (RMC), had failed to plan the work to be carried out by the subcontractor. The contractor had also failed to identify and implement suitable controls for the work. Neither the contractor nor subcontractor had checked the area for any obstructions, and both parties failed to follow the correct procedures during such an incident.

The contractor and subcontractor both pleaded guilty to breaching the health and safety regulations. The contractor, RMC, was fined £180,000 with costs of £22,000. The subcontractor received 120 hours’ community order and had to pay costs of £3,600.

Although it may not be possible to provide PPE for nearby members of public while work is being carried out, safe working procedures and thorough planning should be in place to prevent injury occurring.

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