Sofa retailer hit by £1 million fine after HSE failings

News Article

Nationwide sofa retailer, DFS, has been handed a £1 million fine after a court heard how safety failings were responsible for a worker suffering serious neck and head injuries of a worker.

The incident, which happened in July 2015, happened when a worker was unloading wooden furniture frames at one of the company’s upholstery sites, when he was struck by an unsecured furniture arm which fell from an unstable load.

The impact, which knocked him unconscious, led to him suffering serious neck and head injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that DFS had failed to adequately manage the risks of heavy loads being moved between manufacturing sites.

The company had also failed to supervise the work taking place with a number of near misses being reported from unsecured loads.

HSE inspector Lyn Spooner said: "DFS is a large national organisation. The fundamental and systemic failings identified in their health and safety management systems is far from what would be expected from a company of their size who has the ability to deliver higher standards of safety.

"Unfortunately DFS were unable to do that on this occasion and a preventable accident was allowed to occur."

A spokesperson for DFS said: "The health and safety of our employees is extremely important to us.

"The employee who was injured, in June 2015, is a valued member of our team; we deeply regret the accident he suffered and we’re very glad that he is back at work in his previous role.

"This case has highlighted some areas where, on occasion, our procedures were not as strong as they should have been. Over the last 18 months we’ve invested heavily in health and safety including reviewing our health and safety procedures and retraining all our employees.

"We’ve been working in complete cooperation with the Health and Safety Executive as they conducted their investigation and we’re pleased that they, and the District Judge, recognise the improvements we’ve made. We fully accept the outcome of this case and we will continue to take all necessary steps to safeguard our employees.

Lara Murray, an Associate and health and safety legal expert with Palmers, said: “In deciding the extent of the financial penalty, the judge would no doubt have taken into consideration both the size of the company and the fact that there had been a number of other ‘near misses.’

“The fact that this appears to have been a ‘fundamental and systematic’ failing will also have gone against the company, which should have had in place more robust risk assessment procedures to ensure the safety of their employees.

“By acting upon the findings of a risk assessment and making controls part of the daily workplace routine, a business is not only protecting its workers or members of the public from harm, but also minimising the risk of legal action and loss of reputation.

“Businesses which have cause to move heavy loads during the course of their activities should learn from this case and ensure that their employees are properly protected.”

For advice on all aspects of employment law including putting in place an effective risk assessment for your business, please contact us.