Owners of a Sussex store have been fined hundreds of thousands of pounds after a staff member was left with horrific injuries in an accident.
Horsham District Council launched legal action against Southern Co-Operative after a member of staff was left with a multiple leg fractures as a broken metal cage fell on her at the Co-op store in Guildford Road, Horsham, in February 2016.
The council said the young worker was moving the roll cage, loaded with milk cartons, before it toppled over onto her leg. Investigators found the cage had been broken two days before and said the incident was ‘entirely preventable’.
At a hearing at Brighton Crown Court District Judge Szagun accepted the national chain’s guilty plea to a Health and Safety at Work offence and initially fined the company £500,000. The council said the fine had since been reduced to £333,334 to reflect the guilty plea and mitigating factors.
A council spokesman said: “The investigation that followed by Horsham District Council’s Environmental Health team found the incident was entirely preventable. The roll cage had been identified as broken two days before the accident. The procedures that would have stopped the incident were in place but were not known or not followed, and the staff had conflicting views on their Health and Safety responsibilities.
“One concerning feature was the store’s breakdown in its Health and Safety management, their absence of knowledge and the validity of the necessary training. The Co-Op acknowledged that the abuse of their e-learning system was a troubling feature of the investigation but were keen to emphasise that they did not condone such a practice.”
“The District Judge commented that the Co-Op “should have been pro-active in addressing or redressing the issue before they did” and recognised the Co-Op as a large organisation with mitigating factors.”
Councillor Tricia Youtan, Cabinet Member for Community & Wellbeing said: “This was a long and challenging case for Horsham District Council’s Environmental Health team.
“Retail supermarkets play an important part in being at the forefront of safety on the high street. They are often the employers of young impressionable adults new to the working environment and as employers they have a legal and moral obligation to do things correctly.
“This incident had a severe impact on the victim and she will have to live with the injuries she sustained for the rest of her life.
“Horsham District Council supports both small and large businesses in their health and safety obligations and often plays an important advisory role in helping them, but it is important to remember this was a totally avoidable incident and it acts as a stark reminder of what can happen when safety measures fail.
“Hopefully the incident will result in a renewed focus by the Co-op to ensure standards are maintained in the future.”