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Co-op ‘wet floor sign’ not enough to prevent pensioner death

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Supermarket giant the Co-Operative Group has been fined £400,000 after a pensioner died slipping on a leak caused by a faulty sandwich chiller.


Truro Crown Court heard at the sentencing yesterday how Stanley May, 74, had slipped in water on the floor of the Co-op store in Boscawen St, Truro in Cornwall.

He hit his head on the floor and died later in hospital from a subdural haematoma.

Water had been intermittently leaking from under the sandwich chiller over a period of almost 44 hours, leading up to the incident in July 2015, the court heard.

Staff had mopped the area but there had been no effective method employed to stop or contain the leak or prevent customers accessing the area.

According to investigators at Cornwall Council, engineers had been called to repair the chiller the day previously. It appeared to have been repaired, but continued to leak and on the day in question the leaking chiller had not been reported as a maintenance issue and the only control method was a wet floor sign.

Following the hearing, investigating officer Sarah-Jane Brown from Cornwall Council’s business regulatory support team said: ‘This case demonstrates the importance of slip risks being adequately controlled.

“It should serve a warning to the retail industry, and particularly supermarkets, that signage alone is not an adequate control.  Proactive measures must be taken to either prevent floors becoming slippery or precluding public access’.

The Co-Operative Group Ltd was ordered to pay £50,000 in costs as well as the fine after pleading guilty to breaches under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.

The chain, headquartered in Manchester, posted an income of £59 million in 2016. It employs over 60,000 people and has over 4,000 stores. 

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