Retail outlet fined for Health and Safety failing

Published: 7 Nov 2018

This month has seen a high street retail outlet receive a large fine after an incident in its Taunton store which has led to the biggest fine in the company’s 225 years retail history.

The company was fined £337,500 after a 62 year old woman fell down into the basement after staff had left a trap door open on the shop floor in 2014.

Patricia Rodway had gone into the store to buy a birthday card for a friend and stepped into the void which would normally be covered by the trapdoor but which staff had opened to move stock.

This left Patricia falling almost 3m down into the basement and left her with a broken ankle and a cut to the head. This also meant that Patricia has had to have 3 operations on her heel.

The court heard of the failings by the outlet and the poor procedures that led to this event. Taunton Crown Court heard the store normally tasked an employee to warn customers however on this occasion the staff member wasn’t ‘wholly attentive’.

A spokesman for the company explained “We always put the safety of customers and staff first”. Despite measures being in place at the time of the incident that were not being adhered to which led to one of their customers being sadly injured in the Taunton store.

“Following the incident, a thorough review was completed, changes were made to prevent this happening again, and we have apologised to the customer.”

The company did admit to two breaches of Health and Safety and were fined £337,500. Since this incident the basement has been locked and they have reviewed the risk assessment for accessing it and when it should be used.

This really highlights the importance of customer and guest safety when at site. There are a large number of sites which have trap doors to basement areas, for example cellar doors in bar, pubs and hotels. Although staff may be aware of the door there are people at site who will not be aware of this so it is important to ensure that safety measures are implemented at site for when this door is needed to be used.

If you do have a cellar or trap door at site please ensure the following:

  • Kept locked and in good condition
  • The door is risk assessed
  • Ideally only use the door when site is closed and reduce use of the door as much as possible
  • If the door needs to be open, please ensure there is another member of staff ensuring that no one can enter this area
  • Cordon areas off to ensure everyone is aware
  • Train staff in the use of trap/cellar door

Contact us for further advice