National furniture company fined £1m for safety failings

Safety failings has led to DFS Trading Limited being fined after an accident caused serious neck and head injuries to a worker.

Derby Magistrates’ Court heard that on 02 July 2015 the worker was unloading wooden furniture frames at one of their upholstery sites, when he was struck by an unsecured furniture arm which fell from an unstable load.

The impact knocked him unconscious and he suffered serious neck and head injuries.

An investigation by the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) found that DFS failed to adequately manage the risks of heavy loads being moved between manufacturing sites. The court heard the company also failed to supervise the work taking place with a number of near misses being reported from unsecured loads.

DFS Trading Limited of Rockingham Way, Redhouse Interchange, Adwick Le Street Doncaster pleaded guilty to breaching sections 3 of the Managing Health and Safety at Work Regulation and also section 2 (1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and have been fined £1million and ordered to pay costs of £15,099.

Speaking after the case HSE inspector Lyn Spooner said: “DFS is a large national organisation. The fundamental and systemic safety failings identified in their health and safety management systems is far from what would be expected from a company of their size who has the ability to deliver higher standards of safety.

“Unfortunately DFS were unable to do that on this occasion and a preventable accident was allowed to occur.”

This ties in with recent news that 2016 saw a significant increase in the level of fines handed out to some of the UK’s largest companies. This is because on 1st February 2016, the Sentencing Council’s Definitive Guideline for Health and Safety Offences, Corporate Manslaughter and Food Safety and Hygiene Offences (more commonly referred to as the ‘Sentencing Guidelines’) came into force in England and Wales.

The new guidelines have resulted in an escalation in the level of fines being handed down by the courts. With some of the largest and most well-known UK and global businesses receiving the largest fines in 2016, there has been increased public interest and media attention on health and safety cases. Steered by the new sentencing guidelines to determine the size of a fine based on company turnover (as well as factors around culpability and harm risks), the courts have sent a clear message to the boardrooms and CEOs of all businesses about the importance and value of protecting human lives, and the cost of failing to do so.