A failure to implement measures to protect staff from work-related violence has cost well-known bookmakers William Hill £10,000 in fines.
Sefton Council brought health and safety charges against the betting firm after a female employee was attacked and suffered whiplash injuries during an armed robbery. The incident occurred at the company’s Netherton premises in Bootle, Merseyside at about 9.30pm on 17 April last year.
The employee and a female co-worker were in the process of locking up the premises for the night. As she stepped outside, a man, who had been crouching down near the door, leapt up and dragged her to the ground. The attacker stayed by the door while another man entered the premises and got behind the security screen, where the other staff member was standing by the counter. He produced what is believed to be a knife and demanded money. The employee by the counter was not physically harmed and both men left the premises with a quantity of cash.
The worker who suffered whiplash was off work for more than three days, yet the bookmakers failed to report her injuries to the council in line with the requirements under RIDDOR. The council eventually received notification, about three months after the incident.
Several months prior to the robbery, health and safety officers from Sefton Council undertook a routine inspection to assess the bookies’ management of work-related violence risks to staff. The council identified a number of measures to reduce the risks and the company followed up by carrying out a risk assessment on 13 October 2009.
The assessment highlighted that staff were at high risk of assault and abuse, including anti-social behaviour. It recommended that consideration be given to installing extra security lighting on the exterior of the building and an external CCTV camera to view the front door. Installation of a gate was also proposed to prevent access to an alley at the side of the premises, which, if left unsecured, offered a good place for would-be attackers to hide from view.
Council officers returned to the shop later in October 2009, along with Merseyside Police and William Hill senior managers, to consider the anti-violence measures further. Following this meeting, the company installed a gate, restricting access to the alleyway, but took no action to improve security lighting and CCTV facilities.
Sefton Council subsequently prosecuted William Hill, which pleaded guilty to failing to comply with reg.3(2) of RIDDOR and reg.4 of the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 (MHSWR).
Sentenced at Bootle Magistrates’ Court on 15 September, the company was fined £6000 for the MHSWR offence and £4000 for the RIDDOR breach, plus full costs of £2882. In mitigation, the firm said it had a previously unblemished safety record and had made further improvements to the premises in the wake of the incident. It also cooperated fully with the investigation.
Following the hearing, Helen Evitt, principal environmental health officer at the council, told SHP: “It is important that businesses consider the implications of work-related violence within their premises, as it can have serious consequences for employees. As victims, they may suffer physical injuries along with psychological effects, such as anxiety and stress.
“Employee absence arising from work-related violence incidents can represent a real financial cost through low staff morale and turnover, which can affect the confidence of a business, profitability, and may attract expensive insurance premiums.”
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