Cheltenham Borough Council fined £14,000 after ride on mower incident

Health and Safety Executive (HSE) is warning that care needs to be taken when using ride-on mowing machines following a court prosecution of an employer.

A council employee fell from a ride-on mower onto a park bench on 21 may 2008, breaking two ribs and suffering a compressed lung. He was forced to stay off work for 11 weeks and HSE have today successfully prosecuted his employer, Cheltenham Borough Council (Monday 28 September). As a result, the council was fined a total of £14,000, plus £3,000 compensation to the injured person and ordered to pay prosecution costs of £18,530.31 by Cheltenham Magistrates.

Cheltenham Borough Council pleaded guilty to charges under Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety At Work etc Act 1974 and Regulation 3(1) (a) of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The magistrates heard that the council failed to carry out a suitable and sufficient risk assessment for cutting the grass with the ride-on mower. The slope that the employee was working on was too steep for the machine he was using according to manufacturer’s guidelines. The employee had also not received enough information or instruction and there had been previous incidents that should have made the council take action to improve safety while using ride-on mowers.

Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Alison Fry said: “This incident was entirely avoidable. This incident sends out a clear message to employers to ensure that they carry out risk assessment, taking all site conditions into account, including steepness of slopes, before deciding which equipment is suitable,. They should provide appropriate training for employees – with adequate, instructions so that operators can work safely.

“The injured party and his nearby colleague, who escaped any harm, were lucky and the fact that this was not a fatality was only a matter of chance.”

Between 2001 and 2008, HSE received reports of 3 fatal incidents and a further 33 people were seriously injured when mowing machines overturned (figures from HSE stats re ‘Accidents caused by grass cutters reported under RIDDOR 2001-2008’).