0

Prosecutions In The News April

Health & Safety In The News

Below is a roundup of recent health and safety cases and news.

Topshop and Arcadia guilty of safety breaches

Topshop and its former owners have been found guilty of health and safety breaches after a 10-year old boy died when a queue barrier toppled on him. Kaden Reddick suffered a fatal head injury at the Reading store during a family shopping trip in 2017.

Following a two-month trial, Arcadia Group and Topshop/Topman were convicted of failing to discharge a health and safety duty. A jury found barrier manufacturer Realm Projects not guilty of the same charge. Stoneforce Ltd, which was contracted to fit the barriers, had earlier pleaded guilty to failing to discharge a health and safety duty.

During the trial, Reading Crown Court heard the barrier was installed between 2013 and 2014, during a major store refit. The plinth supporting the barrier at the store in Reading’s Oracle shopping centre had only been fixed to the floor with two narrow screws, and the “wobbly” barrier fell on Kaden, prosecutors said.

The prosecution claimed the screws were inappropriate and more suitable for hanging a picture.

At the inquest, Martin Tull, Reading branch manager, said he didn’t test the barriers for movement in any way.

The role of fitting the barriers was the responsibility of the shopfitters at each store, and it seems that they did not have or follow a set of standard procedures.

Topshop and Arcadia were convicted of failure to discharge health and safety duties, failing to ensure that the design, manufacture and maintenance of the barrier did not pose a risk to the health and safety of someone not employed by them under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974. Arcadia, Topshop/Topman and Stoneforce Ltd will be sentenced at a later date.

Lessons

While no one can turn back the clock to prevent this dreadful accident, there are lessons.

  1. Before installing any new safety measures, undertake a risk assessment
  2. Ensure that the products used for health and safety are fit for purpose
  3. Products are installed and tested properly
  4. If in any doubt, speak with a health and safety consultancy that specialises in your organisation’s needs.

Further reading here and here.

Grenfell Tower – Fire test results ‘just got missed.’

A recommendation to review fire standards following a “catastrophic” 2001 test on the cladding material later used on Grenfell Tower “just got missed”, the official formerly responsible for the guidance has said.

Giving a second day of evidence to the inquiry into the Grenfell fire, Brian Martin accepted that this explanation “sounds awful”. However, he denied keeping quiet about the weaknesses in the guidance to “keep the market sweet” and insisted he had not been covering up the testing and “praying fervently” that it would not be discovered.

As the inquiry has previously heard, the UK government commissioned a series of cladding tests in 2001 to help establish the pass/fail criteria for a new large-scale test. One of these tests, carried out on the 18th of July 2001, used an aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding panel with a polyethylene core; the same material which would later be installed on Grenfell Tower.

This test showed the system performed “catastrophically”, with flames reaching 20 metres high, and the test stopped less than six minutes into its 30-minute duration out of concern for the safety of those present.

This should have been a major concern because the ACM panel possessed a ‘Class 0’ fire rating, meaning it complied with guidance in force at the time for use on tall buildings.

When the results of the tests, carried out by the Building Research Establishment (BRE), were summarised for the government in September 2002, its report advised that the panel had “satisfied Class 0 requirements”, but had still “proved to be one of the worst performing products” in the larger scale test. It said: “These issues may require further consideration”.

The inquiry continues.