Tesco ordered to pay £125,000 for Health & Safety Breach


Another big name prosecuted for breaching Health and Safety regulations – Tesco were fined £116,000 and ordered to pay costs of more than £10,000 following an incident where an employee at their Highwoods Extra store was injured.

The accident happened in 2016 when the employee was cleaning an oven and a hazardous product came in to contact with their skin. The employee was not wearing suitable Personal Protective Equipment (PPE) and therefore suffered chemical burns as a consequence.

Reacting to the incident report submitted after the event, Colchester Borough Council’s health and safety officer conducted an investigation which unveiled a number of problems that needed to be rectified, resulting in the supermarket receiving a number of  Health and Safety Improvement Notices. During the investigation a partially-used corrosive product container was discovered and the safety goggles supplied were noted as being dirty and inadequately stored.

Tesco pleaded guilty to three offences, including; failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees and failure to comply with Control of Substances Hazardous to Health (COSHH) Regulations.

Tina Bourne of Colchester Council, said: “Whether your business is big or small, if you fail to meet your duties to protect your employees under health and safety legislation, you run the risk of ending up in court.”

The Highwoods store has since rectified the issues noted by Colchester Borough Council, making improvements to their COSHH assessments and discontinuing use of the product which caused the burns.

This case is not a solitary one, with prosecutions by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) alone ranging from roughly 550 to 700 per year since 2012. Figures for 2016/2017 show a drop in prosecutions, despite this the total cost of fines brought about from prosecutions look to still be increasing. The latest figures show that costs reached £69.9 million in the 2016/2017 period, double that of the previous year (and possibly in light of changes made to the sentencing guidelines introduced in early 2016). The average penalty received also doubled – reaching £126,000 per case, in the same period.

Fines are not the only monetary consequence of failing to ensure the safety of workers. Every year large number of workers are injured or made ill by their work. It is estimated that the cost to the UK of workplace injury is £5.3 billion. Although these figures appear to be dropping due to an overall reduction in workplace injuries, the cost of illness remains the same at roughly £9.7 billion.

These figures are a stark warning about the consequences of failing to look after your staff.

New guidelines introduced in March 2018 by the International Organization for Standardization (ISO) aim to give businesses the tools they need to reduce workplace injury and therefore the subsequent cost to them of these incidents. ISO 45001:2018 is the latest Occupational Health & Safety Standard. It builds on the foundations of OHSAS 18001 : 2007, along with ILO-OSH guidelines, which are regarded by many as the world’s foremost reference for Occupational Health and Safety in the workplace.

Through ISO 45001 businesses will be able to implement a Management System that helps them to:

  • Ensure compliance with legal obligations – helping to reduce the likelihood of fines
  • Increase the Health and Safety awareness of staff
  • Manage risks to employees, contractors and visitors – reducing the chances of injury or fatalities at work
  • Reduce absenteeism and illness
  • Decrease insurance premiums

To find out more about ISO 45001 or how QMS can help you become certified, please contact 0333 344 3646 or email [email protected].

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About the author

  • Name:

    Michelle-Louise Janion

  • Company:

    Marketing Executive

  • Bio:

    Michelle worked for Citation ISO Certification from 2017 to 2019, producing engaging content around ISO Standards and other compliance related topics.


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