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Health and Safety – Morrisons fined over the death of an employee
Morrisons, the fifth largest supermarket chain fined £3.5m following a successful prosecution by Tewkesbury Borough Council. Morrisons has been convicted for failing to ensure the health and safety of an epileptic employee who died after falling from a shop stairway.
Matthew Gunn, 27 was an employee of Morrisons and suffers from epilepsy. His locker was located on the first floor and Mr Gunn had been using the stairway to access his locker.
On 25th September 2014, Matthew Gunn was using the stairs in the supermarket store when he is believed to have had a seizure resulting in Mr Gunn falling down the stairs. Mr Gunn suffered catastrophic head injuries and died in hospital on 7 October 2014, 12 days after the fall. The incident occurred three-and-a-half-months after Mr Gunn’s mother warned managers of the risk due to his frequent seizures.
Morrisons charged with health and safety violations
Morrisons was aware of Mr Gunn’s epileptic condition. The firm was deemed to have missed opportunities to ensure Mr Gunn’s safety. Morrisons was charged with three health and safety violations:
- failure to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees;
- failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees; and
- failure to review risks and assessments of employees.
Morrisons denied these three violations but admitted a fourth charge of failing to supply the council with requested information relating to the death of the employee. The jury found Morrisons guilty on all four charges. The judge placed the offences in the highest category of culpability and harm.
The prosecution case against Morrisons was that they knew of Mr Gunn’s epileptic condition. Mr Gunn had suffered many previous seizures at work. The jury convicted the supermarket giant of failure to ensure employees’ health, safety and welfare; failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees; and failure to review the risks and assessments of employees. The company has been fined £3.5 million.
Learning – the importance of Health and Safety
This demonstrates the importance of the employer’s duty of care to its employees. Thus, employers must conduct health and safety risk assessments and take the necessary steps to comply with their health and safety obligations. When it comes to vulnerable employees, employers must make reasonable adjustments to ensure their safety. By doing so, employers can eliminate or minimise the risk of such incidents. Morrisons should have realised the danger and risk of Mr Gunn having to use the stairs. Therefore, his locker should have been moved downstairs to eliminate the risk of a fall.