27 February 2017
Our Ref: EX5/17
DFS fined £1m Following Worker’s Neck and Head Injuries – Warning to All Large National Employers Such as Royal Mail, BT, Capita, POL etc on Health & Safety:
To: All Branches
DFS Trading Limited has been fined £1 million plus costs of £15,099 after safety failings led to serious neck and head injuries of a worker.
Derby Magistrates’ Court heard that on 02 July 2015 the worker was unloading wooden furniture frames at one oftheir upholstery sites, when a worker was struck by an unsecured furniture arm which fell from an unstable load.The impact knocked the worker unconscious and he suffered serious neck and head injuries.
A Health and Safety Executive (HSE) investigation identified fundamental and systemic failings in the company’s health and safety management systems which is far from what would be expected from a company of their size.The investigation found that DFS failed to adequately manage the risks of heavy loads being moved between manufacturing sites. The court heard the company also failed to supervise the work taking place with a number of near misses being reported from unsecured loads.
DFS Trading Limited of Rockingham Way, Redhouse Interchange, Adwick Le Street, Doncaster pleaded guilty to breaching sections 3 of the Managing Health and Safety at Work Regulation and also section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and have been fined £1million and ordered to pay costs of £15,099.
The HSE stated after the case that DFS is a large national organisation and 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.
In a statement 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 eighteen months we’ve invested heavily in health and safety including reviewing our health and safety procedures and retraining all our employees.
Our skilled craftspeople are critical to our success and we’re committed to ensuring their health and safety at work.”
Footnote – New Health and Safety Sentences:
The significance of this case is the clear warning to all large employers such as Royal Mail and BT.New Sentencing Council Guidelines to the Courts came into force in 2016 for Health and Safety Offences, described as the most dramatic change to health and safety legislation since the introduction of the Health and Safety at Work Act in 1974. Under the guidance large organisations that have been convicted of the serious offences, where they have flagrantly breached the law and created a high risk of serious harm, or where serious harm has actually been caused, can expect to receive a fine proportionate to the seriousness of the offence and to their financial means. For some time there has been concern that penalties imposed for health and safety offences and corporate manslaughter offences, particularly on large organisations, were too low and the approach to sentencing in the courts inconsistent. It is mandatory for courts to follow the guidelines for all sentences passed after 1 February 2016, regardless of whether or not the offence took place before that date. This heralds the start of an era where sentencing in health and safety offences will increase dramatically in order to have a real economic impact. Higher fines will also carry significant commercial and reputational consequences. Tough new sanctions will be a timely reminder that standards in health and safety management cannot slip. The new guidelines are also likely to result in an increase in custodial sentences for individuals who have committed a health and safety offence.
National Health, Safety & Environment Officer