DIY giant B&Q has been fined £300,000 after a shopper suffered a serious head injury when a metal pole fell from a shop display and struck them at its store in Kidderminster, Worcestershire.
The town’s magistrates heard the metal banner pole, which weighed 2.6kg and was part of a seasonal promotional display, fell 3.6 metres from racking while the customer was reaching for a product in July 2017.
Wyre Forest District Council brought the prosecution following an investigation by its health and safety team at Worcestershire Regulatory Services. This is a shared enforcement body for the environmental health functions of six local authorities in Worcestershire.
The court was told that, following previous incidents where banner poles had fallen out of the racking at the Kidderminster store, B&Q had taken steps to make the poles more secure by introducing retainer clips, which featured a screw. However, the retailer “failed to actively check that [the] clips were put in place correctly or at all”, said the council in a statement issued after the prosecution.
The council’s investigation found that B&Q did not have a system in place for monitoring the brackets and pins and the banner poles were not checked as part of the daily checks carried out at the Kidderminster store.
Also, a retainer clip had not been installed in the aisle where the banner pole fell and struck the customer and had not been used to secure the bracket from which the pole fell.
The court heard that B&Q had both exposed customers to danger and failed to protect the health, safety and welfare of its employees through unsafe systems and by failing to provide the necessary information, instruction, training and supervision.
At the court hearing on Tuesday 19 March, B&Q Plc pleaded guilty to two offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 of failing to ensure, so far as is reasonably practicable, the health and safety of employees and customers. It was fined £300,000 and ordered to pay full prosecution costs of nearly £8,000 and a victim surcharge of £170.
During the court hearing, B&Q Plc conceded that the display banner poles were intrinsically unsafe and said it had now removed them from all of its stores.
Simon Wilkes, head of Worcestershire Regulatory Services, said: “This was obviously an extremely distressing incident for the victim who suffered a serious head injury in the incident.
“I am pleased that B&Q admitted their responsibilities for the health and safety of the general public and its employees and has taken action following the accident to ensure that similar incident will not occur again in any of its stores nationwide.”
Following the case, a B&Q spokesperson said: “The safety of our customers and staff is of paramount importance to B&Q.
“It is a matter of regret that on this occasion, as acknowledged by our guilty plea, we failed to meet our own high standards resulting in an avoidable injury to our customer to whom we have apologised unreservedly.”