DIY giant in the dock over customer death in Dublin
B&Q has been fined €250,000 (£219,000) by a court in the Republic of Ireland over an incident at one of its Dublin stores that resulted in the death of a customer, writes Anthony Garvey.
Michael O’Rourke, a 59-year-old Dubliner, had been shopping for timber at a B&Q centre in the city suburb of Tallaght in March 2009 when he was hit by a half-tonne fencing panel bundle that fell 4.3 metres from the top of a stack, crushing his chest. He died later in hospital.
At the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court on 27 July, Ronald Metcaffe, on behalf of B&Q Ireland Ltd, pleaded guilty to a charge under section 12 of the Safety, Health and Welfare at Work Act 2005 in that it failed to manage and conduct its undertakings in such a way as to ensure non-employees were not exposed to risks to their safety, health and welfare. He expressed the company’s “deepest sympathy” to the O’Rourke family and said it “has done everything possible” to ensure such an accident will never happen again in B&Q.
Health and Safety Authority inspector Mark Madigan told the court an engineering consultancy hired after the tragedy had established wind speeds of 50km/h on the day of the incident. While this would not have been sufficient to cause the fencing bundles to slide had they been properly stored, the engineers felt it could have created instablity.
Inspector Madigan explained that, in 2007, B&Q had changed the way its panelling packages were delivered – from lying flat to standing upright – to eliminate the need for staff to physically lift them before they were brought to storage. However, it had not conducted any risk assessment before introducing the change. Since the incident, he said, it had complied with a prohibition order issued by the HSA and an instruction to review its system of panel storage across the country.
Imposing the €250,000 fine, plus €10,800 in costs, Judge Patricia Ryan said she had to consider the serious nature of the charge and that “the unsteady nature of the pallet was not seen or corrected”. There were also mitigating factors in that the company had no previous convictions and had made efforts to ensure such an event would never happen again.
She added that the case was solely to determine the penalty for the safety breach, “not to place any value on the life of Mr O’Rourke”.
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