Halfords Ltd have been fined £213,406.35 for breaching a number of health and safety provisions following an accident in which an employee was injured.Advertisement
The employer pleaded guilty to the charges at Preston Magistrates’ Court on 11th September 2019; the case was then adjourned to Blackburn Magistrates’ for sentencing.
Blackburn Magistrates Court heard that on 11th December 2016 an employee was working at the store on Mariners Way, Preston and he had been asked by the store manager to start moving a delivery of boxed bikes from the ‘goods in’ area to another location upstairs in order for them to be assembled.
While removing a boxed bike from the stack, some of the boxes fell forwards causing a domino-type effect, leading to the employee being pinned to the wall by a number of heavy boxes which fell on his chest causing him difficulty with breathing.
The member of staff said he had managed to call to a colleague who helped to free him and it was later learnt that he had suffered a suspected cracked rib.
It was heard that a total of 72 boxed bikes had been delivered to the store the previous day and had been stacked two or three high on their narrow ends.
No supports had been used to secure the bikes or to prevent them from toppling over which each weighed between 10-20 kg.
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An investigation by health and safety inspectors from the council revealed that there were a number of failings, including failing to undertake a risk assessment for stacking boxed bikes.
The investigation found the store was overstocked by 91 bikes and the bike storage areas were overcrowded.
The court heard Halfords Ltd told health and safety inspectors that this was an isolated incident but further enquiries by the council found this not to be the case.
Mr Jonathan Laidlaw QC, defending for Halfords Ltd, said Halfords had instructed outside experts to conduct a full manual handling risk assessment, that Halfords had employed a new Group Head of Health and Safety, launched a new training programme and had reviewed its storage arrangements and lowered the numbers of bikes being stored on site.
Mr Laidlaw also said that the company had a good health and safety record having never previously been prosecuted for health and safety offences since the company was formed in 1909.
District Judge Clarke said that Halfords had substantial health and safety systems in places but they had not been fully adhered to, in that they were shown to be inadequate during the seasonal period.
He was concerned by the fact that the company were slow to react to the circumstances. However, he recognised the level of investment by Halfords in risk assessment and the way in which they have tackled this issue by sourcing outside experts and reviewing their stock management procedures.
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Craig Sharp, Chief Environmental Health Officer at Preston City Council, said: “We are pleased that the outcome reflected the seriousness of this case and the Court imposed a substantial fine on Halfords Ltd. It was fortunate that more serious injuries were not suffered by the employee.
“Undertaking risk assessments and implementing robust training measures for staff should be priorities for all businesses.
“It is particularly important that retailers carefully control their stock levels during this busy festive period and ensure back-of-house storage areas are not over-stocked and hazardous.
“Any employees with serious workplace safety concerns should raise those with their employer, or if necessary contact the council’s Environmental Health service.”
Halfords Ltd was also ordered to pay the council’s costs of £13,286.35 and a victim surcharge of £120.