The national furniture retailer DFS has been fined £1million and ordered to pay costs of £15,099 after one of its employees was knocked unconscious when part of an unstable load fell on him. The Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) investigation found the company did not manage the risks associated with moving heavy loads between manufacturing locations. It failed to ensure the work was supervised, despite reports of several near-misses from unsecured loads.
The employee was unloading wooden furniture frames at a DFS upholstery site on 2 July 2015 when an unsecured piece of furniture fell and struck him. The impact knocked him unconscious and he sustained serious head and neck injuries, Derby Magistrates’ Court was told.
DFS pleaded guilty to breaching s 2(1) of the Health and Safety at Work Act and s 3 of the Managing Health and Safety at Work Regulation for failing to risk assess the task.
Speaking after the hearing, HSE inspector Lyn Spooner said:
“The fundamental and systemic failings identified in [DFS’s] 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.”
A DFS spokesperson was quoted saying:
“The health and safety of our employees is extremely important to us. The employee who was injured, in July 2015, is a valued member of our team; we deeply regret the accident he suffered and we’re very glad that he is back at work in his previous role.
This case has highlighted some areas where, on occasion, our procedures were not as strong as they should have been. Over the last 18 months we’ve invested heavily in health and safety including reviewing our health and safety procedures and retraining all our employees.
We’ve been working in complete cooperation with the Health and Safety Executive as they conducted their investigation and we’re pleased that they, and the district judge, recognise the improvements we’ve made. We fully accept the outcome of this case and we will continue to take all necessary steps to safeguard our employees.
We have a strong manufacturing safety record and this is the first time we’ve had a prosecution of this nature.”