It takes time and effort to manage health and safety. But it’s a vital task to protect people. From small companies through the huge national chains, there is no excuse for not taking all reasonable measures to ensure things are safe. Having someone whose focus is on health and safety is very important. It can’t just be something that is left at the bottom of a task list. It must be a priority.

I thought I’d share with you these cases of big supermarkets getting caught out, showing how easy it is to get things wrong, but what the big consequences can be when you do.

Iceland

In October 2013, a contractor visited a Rotherham Iceland store to replace the filters in an air handling unit on a plant platform above a suspended ceiling in the warehouse. He fell almost 3 metres through the ceiling, sustaining fatal injuries.

An investigation found that there were no barriers to prevent falls from the platform. The area immediately in front of its access ladder was only 45 cm wide and cabling presented trip hazards. Iceland had not risk-assessed access to the platform, either by contractors or its own employees.

The area had to be taken out of use until protective measures were installed, which were completed by March the following year. Iceland argued that it had intended to install a guardrail around the platform and had invested in one when the store was refurbished in 2013. The retailer also made claims that the contractor was responsible for identifying the missing handrail. But this was rejected by the court as the CDM Regulations 2015 mean that Iceland is responsible for the health and safety of any contractors.

Iceland was found guilty of breaching ss 2(1) and 3(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and it was fined £1.25m for each offence.

Tesco

In the summer of 2017, the parents of two children entered a Tesco store in Bracknell just before it closed. One parent went with their 10-year-old boy to the freezer section to get ice-lollies. As he reached for the product, he started screaming and crying. The electrical supply to a glass heating element under the rub rail at the front of the freezer had become damaged and exposed, leaving a severed live wire sticking out under the rail. The child suffered a small minor burn, pain down his right leg, chest pain and was shaken.

The incident was reported to staff, but procedures were not followed properly. The freezer was left on and filled with food items until the next day when it was eventually switched off and isolated. A subsequent review of records showed the freezer’s rail was known to be loose and had been given temporary fixes of glue or tape in the months prior to the accident.

The investigation revealed significant breaches of health and safety legislation and in December 2020 Tesco pleaded guilty to two health and safety offences. It was fined £268,000 for each offence plus costs of £25,750.

Furthermore, also around the same time, Tesco was ordered to pay £300,000 after a worker was crushed by a roll cage, and it was handed a £700,000 fine after a pensioner slipped and broke his hip at its Hemel Hempstead store. These are simple things that should be avoided, but are so easily overlooked.

Who’s focused on health and safety in your organisation? Is it anyone’s priority? If not then let’s have a chat and I can help you find a solution to put the focus back.

To read the full stories please click on the links below:

Tesco
Iceland