Arborist fined $25,000 over serious woodchipper injury

An arborist in Alice Springs has been convicted and fined $25,000 following an incident in which a worker was seriously injured after being struck by the hood of a woodchipper which had detached while the machine was operating.

In November 2022 Peter Van Der Pasch (trading as Petals Pruning Perfection and Tree Removals) was working at a private residence removing tree branches with two workers when the incident occurred.

NT WorkSafe’s investigation found that the woodchipper was damaged almost two months earlier following a road incident and subsequent in-house repairs had failed to return the machine to a safe standard.

Four days before the incident, a worker raised safety concerns about the woodchipper after noticing the thread bolt used in the repairs was missing. Despite this and the fact that only a fan belt was holding the hood in place, the woodchipper was still used.

Van Der Pasch pleaded guilty to the two alternative charges under section 32 of the Work Health and Safety (National Uniform Legislation) Act 2011 for failing his primary duty of care and putting two of his workers at risk of death or serious injury.

The incident was a timely reminder for all employers to take all safety concerns seriously and where safety concerns have been raised, to take immediate steps to verify and address the issues, according to the Northern Territory’s Work Health and Safety Regulator, Peggy Cheong.

“This incident could have been avoided if the wood chipper hood was fixed properly, when the issue was raised four days before the incident,” Cheong said.

“The incident is also a timely reminder for all employers to not attempt in-house repairs or maintenance unless the worker you are asking to do the work is competent.”