Health and Safety

Sainsbury’s Fine: The importance of risk assessments | Praxis42

Sainsbury’s has received a £1 million fine for their first health and safety conviction. They admitted failing to make a suitable risk assessment.

Retail chain Sainsbury’s has received a £1 million fine for their first health and safety conviction. A customer suffered life-changing injuries and needed titanium plates inserted in her jaw after falling victim to a car park trap while traveling on her mobility scooter.

What was the health and safety conviction?

The store had created a car park queuing system during the coronavirus lockdown using high visibility plastic tape. When these were vandalised the store manager opted to use strong, thin baler twine instead, which was attached taut between two pillars.

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The customer arrived at the store on her mobility scooter on 21st June 2020 and ran into the twine face first. The customer was taken to hospital for emergency surgery and needs ongoing medical treatment.

Why did this incident occur?

When the store chose to use twine as a replacement for the plastic tape, no risk assessment had been conducted.

Sainsbury Supermarkets Ltd admitted failing to make a suitable risk assessment under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974. 

The judge fined the supermarket £1 million and ordered the company to pay £18,263.62 costs, plus a statutory victim services surcharge of £190. 

A Sainsbury’s spokesperson pointed out that the company had a previously spotless health and safety record with zero previous convictions.

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The importance of risk assessments

Although the judge acknowledged that the store had to rapidly respond to government guidance to protect the public during the pandemic, “a sufficient risk assessment would have identified the risks from the baler twine extended between metal posts”. 

The Management of Health & Safety Regulations 1999 details employer’s legal duty to conduct risk assessments and regular inspections and assessments of premises, equipment and systems of work.

Regular premises inspections and risk assessment reviews should form part of the management system controls.

The court heard that “ironically the manager’s decision to use the twine was a response to other health and safety issues that would have arisen from vandalism and weather damage”.

However, undertaking a suitable and sufficient risk assessment would have determined that twine would have been an inadequate substitution for the high visibility tape.

 

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