Health and safety breaches cost firm over £40,000
December 10, 2009
A FIRM has been ordered to pay over £40,000 in fines and prosecution costs after a string of health and safety failings.
Sportswift Ltd – the firm behind the Card Factory, which has three stores in Leicester – were prosecuted after pleading guilty to four health and safety breaches and two offences of failing to comply with improvement notices imposed on them to rectify a catalogue of problems.
The court case came after the firm twice failed to take action over a series of problems identified at all three of their Leicester stores.
Officers from Leicester City Council’s Health and Safety team began investigating Sportswift Ltd following a serious accident at the Haymarket Centre branch in December 2007, in which store manager Lorraine McPhillips fell off a stepladder, while restocking the shop.
She suffered two fractures to her leg and a crushed knee bone, and needed metal plate and five bolts inserted into her knee and leg as a result.
Following the accident, investigators uncovered a catalogue of health and safety failings. They included staff having to use damaged or unsuitable ladders, no instruction on the use of roll cages, inadequate risk assessment and inadequate training, as well as uneven stockroom floors which made safe stepladder use impossible.
Toilets were found to be dirty and unlit, lights were damaged or missing, stockroom shelves were found to be unsafe and had long nails protruding from them.
In addition, employees were also expected to lift boxes weighing over 23kg, an external fire escape was used for carrying large boxes, and stock stored on floors was restricting access.
Although the company’s head office were made aware of the problems, no action was taken and investigators returned to find the situation had become even worse, with a stockroom floor covered in goods and extra stock being stored in toilets.
Boxes were piled to the ceiling, were often unstable, and blocking a fire exit. Lights were also missing.
As a result, seven Health and Safety Improvement Notices were issued to Sportswift Ltd, covering storage, retrieval and transport of stock, clean toilets, proper lighting and floors, and proper manual handling arrangements.
However, despite this, Sportswift Ltd still failed to comply, and legal action was taken against them.
The firm pleaded guilty to the six Health and Safety offences before Leicester magistrates on December 7, 2009. In all the firm was fined £32,725 and ordered to pay costs totalling £10,597.
Leicester City Council’s cabinet member for environment and sustainability, Councillor Sarah Russell, said: “Businesses need to take health and safety seriously and protect their employees.
“This case highlights the need for regular inspections by health and safety officers to ensure similar situations do not occur in any other premises in Leicester.”
Leicester City Council’s Health and Safety team manager, Govind Mandora, added: “This case should act as a clear lesson to other businesses which flout regulations designed to protect their staff. These offences can have very serious consequences for staff and the companies involved.
“Any employees with similar problems in their workplace should report it to our Health and Safety team, who can investigate and take any necessary action.”
The Health and Safety Team are available on 0116 252 6442.
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