Working in the retail industry brings some obvious hazards. Any shop has a duty of care for the safety of its employees and customers. Should a member of the public become injured as a result of your negligence you could face fines or prosecution by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as well as liability claims under your Shop Insurance policy.
Start with Risk Assessments
A robust health and safety programme should be the foundation of a safe working and shopping environment. The starting point of any programme should be a thorough risk assessment framework, identifying and managing key risks which will feed into the health and safety programme itself.
Once risks are identified, it is vital that all necessary actions are taken and risks mitigated accordingly. One of the common areas where businesses fall down is the implementation and ongoing monitoring of their action plan. The HSE will expect firms not only to evidence their safety programme, but also ongoing monitoring and further risk assessments to highlight any additional exposures.
Hugo Boss Retail Fined £1.2m
On 4th June 2013, a four-year-old boy was fatally crushed by a large three-way mirror in an Oxfordshire Hugo Boss outlet store at the retailers Bicester Village location.
The child’s father was trying on suits when an 18-stone mirror standing almost 2-metres high, collapsed on top of his son. While the blow did not initially kill the child, he did suffer head injuries that proved fatal despite emergency medical intervention.
The HSE investigation, found that the store had been hastily refurbished in 2012, and the project lacked the required detailed plans and proper specifications. Directions on how to install the large, three-way mirror were not only ill-defined, but not correctly followed. The mirror should have been secured to a reinforced wall, but was instead just left propped up in the changing room.
Despite the retailer claiming it had instituted health and safety inspections in all of its stores since 2000, the store in question had clearly failed to effectively adopt and evidence this practice. Furthermore, regardless of the proposed scheduled inspections, the HSE revealed a history of systemic neglect of health and safety measures in some of the firm's other stores.
Hugo Boss was fined £1.2 million for the breach of Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974, £100,000 for the breach of Regulation 3 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999, and ordered to pay nearly £47,000 in costs.
Increasing Fines & Court Awards
The court settled on the sizable fine amount after having learned that Hugo Boss’ turnover rose from £124.8 million to £192.8 million, with profits increasing from £16.6 million to £23.8 million between 2011 and 2014.
The size of Hugo Boss’ fine highlights a growing trend whereby courts are more willing to impose fines which accurately reflect the impact of a company’s health and safety offence. This shift in potential penalties for health and safety violations emphasises accountability for a company’s actions and its general attitude to health and safety culture.
Health and safety must be part of the day-to-day activities of your business, or you could find yourself on the end of Shop Insurance claims or HSE investigation. In addition, negative publicity in terms of health and safety breaches can deter shoppers, causing significant damage to your brand and associated income levels.
Regular scrutiny of your business practices and identification of potential risks to your employees, or the public, will help to mitigate your risk. By developing a risk management programme which is fully integrated into your day-to-day activities you will be able to demonstrate best practice, not only today, but on an ongoing basis – keeping your staff and customers safe.
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