Retail chain Aldi has been fined £100,000 for health and safety offences after an unsecured smoking shelter was blown into a group of employees on a break.
One employee was injured during the incident back in October 2014 at the Aldi Stores Distribution Centre in Darlington.
The incident happened after Aldi contracted Wilkinson Maintenance Ltd to build an emergency exit to a first floor office. A smoking shelter had to be moved as it was at the bottom of the new fire exit staircase and it was left unsecured for eight days near the staff rest area.
An investigation by Darlington Borough Council revealed neither Aldi nor Wilkinson Maintenance took responsibility for checking whether or not it was secured.
The council found a number of failings at Aldi, including lack of a risk assessment and also ensuring that Wilkinson Maintenance was properly carrying out the job.
Wilkinson Maintenance also failed to produce a risk assessment for the job.
In February this year, a prosecution was brought to Teesside Crown Court and Aldi Food Stores Ltd pleaded guilty and was fined £100,000 under health and safety legislation. It was ordered to pay costs of £5,295.61.
Wilkinson Maintenance Ltd pleaded guilty and was fined 20,000, in addition to an order to pay costs of £5,295.61.
Lara Murray, a health and safety expert with Palmers, said: “This case centres on the fact that both Aldi and their contractor, Wilkinson Maintenance, failed to take responsibility for securing the shelter, both presumably assuming that it was the other’s job to do so.
“It sends an importance message regarding the necessity to ensure that risk assessments have been carried out. An employer has a duty to ensure that any individuals with access to their company’s premises are kept safe and their actions do not pose a risk to other users.
“With regards to the provision of smoking shelters for workers, the law states that premises and company vehicles must be smoke free and signposted accordingly.
“However, an employer has no legal obligation to provide a smoking shelter for their employees. If a company decides to provide a shelter then, as this case clearly highlights, the over-riding obligation must be for a safe and suitable structure which meets health and safety requirements.”