A SOUTH Lakeland timber firm has been fined for serious safety breaches after a guillotine severed the hand of one of its employees.

Charlesworth Tree Care and Fencing Ltd, Kirkby Lonsdale, was prosecuted today by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) following the incident at the Old Railway Yard in Middleton, on June 3 2010.

Lancaster Magistrates’ Court heard the 72-year-old man from Lancaster had been feeding pieces of wood into a diesel-powered guillotine, known as a logger, using his right hand to push wood under the blade and his left hand to operate the lever.

As he was doing this, he accidentally pulled down the lever before he had removed his right hand from under the blade. It passed through the top of his hand, just below his knuckles, breaking all the bones in its path and severing all the tendons. The skin on his palm was the only thing left keeping the two parts of his hand together.

The HSE investigation found the level of guarding on the guillotine fell well below the minimum legal standards, and it should not have been possible to reach under the blade while operating the guillotine.

Bosses at Charlesworth Tree Care and Fencing Ltd, which specialises in fencing, tree surgery and clearance projects, pleaded guilty to a breach of the Provision and Use of Work Equipment Regulations 1998.

The company, of Crown Bridge in Kirkby Longsdale, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 towards the cost of the prosecution.