Health and safety neglect of local supermarket

The supermarket chain, Lidl UK, was found guilty of two charges under the Health & Safety at Work legislation. The four-day trial was heard at Kingston Crown Court between 2 & 5 October.

Merton Council prosecuted Lidl after one of their Deputy Managers was seriously injured in November 2004. He had been helping to prepare the Morden store to re-open after refurbishment, and worked at another store.

Lidl pleaded not guilty to a charge under Section 3(1) of the Health & Safety at Work Act 1974 and another under Regulation 5(1) of the Management of Health & Safety at Work Regulations 1999.

The injury was caused by a 1.5 metric ton safe falling on him, whilst trying to remove it with a pump truck, along with the then Store Manager.

An Operations Manager of a specialist lift contractor had visited the store on 3 November. He had informed both the Lidl Head Office and the Morden Store Manager that the work could not be done without a team of at least four men. He said that he would be back at a later date with heavy lifting equipment.

The safe was left on the floor, which needed cleaning before the store opened. On 7 November, an employee of the cleaning company hired by Lidl asked the safe to be removed. Four people, including the Store Manager and the Deputy Manager tried to do so, resulting in the accident.

He broke his right ankle, received severe abdominal injuries, split his liver and damaged his pancreas and bowel. He was hospitalised for four months, initially on life support in intensive care, where he suffered from multi organ failure.

Lidl maintained they had done enough to ensure that no one was at risk because of the safe being there. They also said that whoever moved the safe, did so without senior management’s instruction.

The jury reached a majority decision finding the company guilty on both charges. The judge, Mr Recorder Williams, QC, fined the company £75,000 for both offences and also ordered them to pay Merton’s costs.

Michael Carson, from Merton Legal Services said:

“In sentencing, the judge made it clear that the significant fine was meant to sting the senior management and shareholders. The judge reminded the company that it was only as a matter of luck that the Lidl Deputy Manager had not been killed, as a result of failings under the Health and Safety legislation”.