In June 2015, Oxford crown court, further postponed sentencing until September after an international retail chain pleaded guilty to two H&S offences, at Magistrates court earlier in the month. These offences directly led to a 4 year old boy being crushed by a 7 foot tall mirror in a tragic incident in June 2013.
Austen Harrison was with his parents at a shopping village in Berkshire, whilst the family were in the changing room, the 18 stone mirror, that was simply propped against the wall, despite not being free standing, became unstable and fell on the 4 year old boy crushing him. He sustained irreparable brain damage as a result and died 4 days later from his injuries.
The investigation was carried out by EHOs from Cherwell District Council and during the inquest it was stated that the mirror should have been reinforced and fixed to the wall and this had not been done directly causing the risk of fatal accident.
Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999
As part of managing the health and safety of your business, you must control the risks in your workplace. To do this you need to think about what might cause harm to people and decide whether you are doing enough to prevent that.
This process is known as risk assessment and it is something you are required by law to carry out. If you have fewer than five employees you don’t have to write anything down.
Risk assessment is about identifying and taking sensible and proportionate measures to control the risks in your workplace, not about creating huge amounts of paperwork. You are probably already taking steps to protect your employees, but your risk assessment will help you decide whether you should be doing more.
One of the most important aspects of your risk assessment is accurately identifying the potential hazards in your establishment to employees and the public.
A good starting point is to walk around your workplace and think about any hazards which represent a risk to your employees and the public using the space.
Having identified the hazards, you then have to decide how likely it is that harm will occur, ie the level of risk and what to do about it. Risk is a part of everyday life and you are not expected to eliminate all risks. What you must do is make sure you know about the main risks and the things you need to do to manage them responsibly. Generally, you need to do everything ‘reasonably practicable’ to protect people from harm.
(What does reasonably practicably mean?)
This means balancing the level of risk against the measures needed to control the real risk in terms of money, time or trouble. However, you are not obliged to take action if it would be grossly disproportionate to the level of risk.
Make a record of your significant findings – the hazards, how people might be harmed by them and what you have in place to control the risks. Any record produced should be simple and focused on controls. Review these findings periodically and record this to ensure they are still correct and up to date.
Things to consider when risk assessing displays, wall pictures and mirrors;
Use qualified personnel to manage the maintenance of the building and furnishings fittings etc and to carry out the fitting work to fit the item securely to the wall.
Always follow manufacturer’s safety instructions regarding fitting.
Set up management checks to ensure they remain securely fitted.
For display items, lamps, vases, urns etc when assessing the risk evaluate the level of people traffic passing by and use of the area where they are being displayed, weight of item, and finally is the items position causing an obstruction.
(For further guidance and assistance with risk assessment for your business please contact the CSC office or email us on