Richard Toghill, 44, from Bath, a Rivers Operative responsible for keeping the River Avon from Devizes to Sharpness Docks free from debris for boat users, was attempting to free up the equipment by rotating the flywheel with his right hand when his left hand came into contact with the propeller blade. The end of his left middle finger was sliced off in the incident leaving Mr Toghill, who had worked for the Environment Agency for 11 years, with a lifelong injury.

The blockage happened because the wood chipper had not been correctly calibrated. The only way to unblock it was to do so manually.

Instructed industrial injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors

The married father of one contacted UNISON for support after the accident. They instructed industrial injury specialists Thompsons Solicitors to pursue his claim.

Richard said: “Even now, after 18 months, I am still suffering the effects of my injury. I have been taken off using vibrating tools, which was a big part of my job, and I get a lot of numbness in my finger, especially on colder days which, working outdoors in all weathers on the river means quite a lot of the time.”

Joanne Kaye from UNISON said: “In this case the employer failed to properly maintain equipment and this negligence placed Richard Toghill at risk of serious injury. We are deeply concerned that this sort of incident will happen more and more often as the government removes crucial health and safety protections that they dismiss as ‘red tape’. What happened to Mr Toghill clearly demonstrates why the protection of union membership is something no working person should be without.”

David Coulthard from Thompsons Solicitors in Bristol added: “Had the chipper been checked and calibrated properly, it would not have been blocked and Mr Toghill’s injury wouldn’t have happened. This case highlights that defective equipment must be properly maintained or it will cause serious injury.”