A national furniture retailer and manufacturer has been fined £1 million after safety failings at one of its sites resulted in one worker being knocked unconscious. The employee had been unloading unsecured furniture from a vehicle when he was struck by a wooden furniture frame. He sustained serious neck and head injuries.

An investigation by the HSE found that the company had failed to adequately manage the risk of heavy loads being moved between manufacturing sites. In particular, it had failed to supervise the unloading work taking place. The firm’s failings were said to be “fundamental and systemic”, such that its health and safety procedures did not reflect those of a major national organisation. The company pleaded guilty to breaching section 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 and Section 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. It has since reviewed its health and safety policies.

Comment

The significant £1 million fine handed down in this case was imposed by Derby Magistrates’ Court. This develops a trend of recent cases from the Magistrates’ Courts whereby high fines are being levied. As of March 2015, the Magistrates’ Courts are no longer restricted to specified upper limits when determining fines: unlimited fines are now possible. The potential effects of this unfettering have been amplified by the introduction of the Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences Definitive Guideline introduced in England and Wales in February last year. Recent cases have demonstrated that the Magistrates’ Courts are willing to exercise their extensive sentencing powers and will engage fully with the new Guideline.