B&Q have pleaded guilty to two charges under the Health and Safety at Work etc Act following an incident at their Kidderminster store which resulted in a pole from a promotional display falling on a customer, causing serious head injuries.
The court fined B&Q £300,000 and ordered it to pay costs of £8,000. The court heard that B&Q had failed to examine the display as part of daily checks at the store, which would have shown that retainer clips had not been fitted, which meant the signage was not secured.
It’s clear from this case the importance of checking your premises regularly, particularly those temporary structures that may be marketing/advertising displays.
Although the fine appears large enough, B&Q managed to reduce the potential fine by quickly taking action following the accident; this included removing all of the display banner poles to ensure that a similar incident would not occur. In addition it pleaded guilty to the offences which allowed a reduction in the overall fine handed down by the court by up to a third. If not for these prompt actions the fine would have been much higher.
The lesson from this case is any change within a business should be assessed for risks by way of risk assessment and regularly reviewed. Temporary changes to your premises or operations which last for one day or for a couple of weeks still need the same level of scrutiny as long established fixtures and processes. Whilst in this case the source of the accident was an incorrectly constructed advertising display, how many short term measures do you introduce to your business each year and how carefully do you check their health and safety impact of doing so?