Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council has been fined £40,000 after an unqualified worker was injured while felling a tree that landed on a railway line, costing Northern Rail more than £100,000.
Peter Wood, 52, of Durham, was carrying out work for Mark Anthony Connelly, 42, from Washington, who was contracted by the council to remove two Poplar trees at Boat House Crossing near Ryton, next to the Newcastle to Carlisle railway line.
While working, one of the trees fell onto the line, uprooting another tree in the process. Wood and Connelly attempted to cut the tree away from the track and out of the path of an oncoming train.
The train was able to brake but could not avoid hitting the tree, which resulted in Wood incurring a fractured ankle, cuts and bruises.
Newcastle Crown Court heard that repair work to the line had cost Northern Rail £97,000, which a further £7,000 for callout, materials, machinery hire and service delays. It had also not been notified of the tree felling next to the line.
An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that Connelly, who was trading as practical conservation management, was not qualified to work on large trees, which the council had failed to check.
Gateshead Metropolitan Borough Council was fined £40,000 and ordered to pay costs of £5,854 after pleading guilty to health and safety breaches.
Mark Anthony Connelly, 42, of Calders Crescent, Fatfield, Washington, was sentenced to 150 hours of unpaid work and ordered to pay £5,854 in costs after pleading guilty to breaching the same Act.
Jonathan Wills, HSE inspector, said: “Mr Wood’s painful injury and Northern Rail’s unexpected bill for almost £100,000 could all have been avoided.
“Mr Connelly should have been able to determine that the large poplar trees represented a challenge which he was not really qualified to deal with safely and that the site presented factors which meant that special measures should have been taken.”