Serious Injury Results In £2.2m Fine For Retailer
The Law Of… challenging poor health and safety
A major national retailer has been fined £2.2 million for failing to ensure the health and safety of its employees.
In a case at Leicester Crown Court, chain store Wilko received the large fine after a worker was left paralysed as a result of being crushed by a large metal cage in its store at the Beaumont Shopping Centre.
Nicola Duff, Personal Injury Solicitor for Simpson Millar LLP, examines the case and explains an employer's responsibilities in ensuring safe practices.
No Risk Assessment
The court heard that the worker, a young woman who was employed part-time, was rolling a cage overloaded with 230kg of paint.
While pulling the cage out of a lift it toppled, pinning the worker and causing her to suffer a serious injury.
The case was described by the prosecution as having high culpability, as an adequate risk assessment had not been undertaken and the member of staff had allegedly received inadequate training and supervision.
As outlined by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 require employers to make an assessment of the health and safety risks associated with the work completed by members of staff.
Risk assessments are vital for health and safety compliance, as they identify potential risks and highlight how injuries can be avoided by members of staff.
It could be argued that this workplace accident could have been avoided if there was an adequate risk assessment in place.
The accident has left the worker requiring the use of a wheelchair, as she was partially paralysed by the heavy metal cage.
According to the HSE, it is thought that 621,000 injuries occur at work every year, with 30.4 million working days annually lost because of work-related illness and workplace injury.
While many of these injuries will not be as devastating as the worker's in this case, serious injuries are commonplace at work, with paralysis often arising from brain and spinal cord injuries.
Sufferers of serious injuries could receive interim payments, which can help to cover the costs of treatment in the immediate aftermath of an injury while further investigations take place.
Explaining how this case highlights the importance of compensation after an accident, Nicola said:
"This case is particularly distressing due to the worker's young age and the seriousness of her injury."
"She has been paralysed and will require the use of a wheelchair for the rest of her life, which represents a significant loss of amenity, all because her employer did not oblige by its health and safety requirements."
"Innocuous accidents do happen at work but employers have a duty of care to their workers to ensure that risks are identified and managed responsibly."
"In this instance, it is reasonable to assert that the retailer should have seen that an accident and subsequent injury were likely and they have admitted as much in the court case."
"Cases such as these highlight the importance of receiving compensation after suffering an injury at work, as the worker in this instance is likely to incur ongoing care expenses, not to mention that her future employment and earning prospects could be affected by her injury."