A British retailer fined £337k after customer falls through a trapdoor
A 64-year-old woman was browsing birthday cards when she fell three metres through an open trapdoor into the store’s basement. A nearby shop employee tried to grab the woman as she was falling, but did not manage to stop her. This resulted in multiple injuries that required three operations to reconstruct her heel.
Councillor Patrick Berry, said: ‘A customer suffered serious injuries as a result of failings in safety procedures at the Taunton store. One of our top priorities is the wellbeing of people in our borough, so I hope the size of this fine serves as a warning to all businesses, that the health and safety of all who use their premises – be they customers, employees or other visitors – is paramount.’
Since the accident, the store management has locked the trapdoor. Access to the door is now only permitted upon completion of a risk assessment. At the Taunton Crown Court, the British retailer pleaded guilty and was fined £168,750 and ordered to pay £135,492 in costs for the two breaches of Health & Safety laws.
Council fined £300k after the death of a teenager
A 15-year-old boy was crossing the road to get on the bus home when the school minibus hit him. The boy was pronounced dead at the scene of the crash. The Health and Safety executive conducted an investigation into the school’s traffic arrangements and found pupils were exposed to traffic moving in both directions. This was because there wasn’t enough laybys for all the school busses during hometime, so the busses were parking on the opposite side of the road. The students then had to cross the road dodging moving vehicles in order to get on the bus.
This issue had been identified previously, but nothing was done by the Council to enlarge the laybys so the pupils could safely get on the bus from the pavement. This resulted in the HSE taking action against the Council. The Council pleaded guilty to breaching the Health and Safety at Work Act and has been fined £300k and ordered to pay costs of £29k. The police also investigated the tragic accident but no charges were brought against the driver who hit the boy.
HSE inspector Helen Turner said: ‘We believe the boy’s death could have been prevented, and a series of missed opportunities meant this incident was waiting to happen. Although there had been previous near misses at the school, there was no system for these to be reported and discussed. There are some clear lessons to be learned, particularly for other modern school sites.’
Northwich-based contractor fined £90k after labourers exposed to asbestos
A Northwich-based contractor failed to carry out an asbestos risk assessment prior to beginning refurbishment on a business centre. The contractor failed to do this even after the HSE surveyed the premises and provided recommendations. The work included sweeping and vacuuming the area which resulted in workers being exposed to asbestos.
According to the Health and Safety investigation, it found that the workers spoke very little English and had little knowledge about asbestos because asbestos training was not given to them.
The contractor was found guilty of breaching asbestos regulations and was fined £90k and ordered to pay £7k in costs. Health and Safety inspector Kasia Urbaniak said: ‘The dangers associated with asbestos, including licensed asbestos, are well-known and a wealth of advice and guidance is freely available from the HSE website. Companies should be aware that HSE will not hesitate to take appropriate enforcement action against those that fall below the required standards.’