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September 3, 2008

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Asda in hot water over freezer failings

A bakery assistant slipped on a build-up of ice as she reached up to a shelf in a walk-in freezer at the Pembroke Dock store of supermarket giant Asda, sustaining back injuries that required a month off work.

Haverfordwest magistrates heard on 28 August that the incident, which had occurred on 20 June that year but had not been reported, was only discovered during a routine inspection at the store by Pembrokeshire County Council on 20 October 2005.

A full investigation found an excessive build-up of ice on the freezer floor, the emergency panic button blocked by shelving and stock, and a broken internal safety release handle on the freezer door.

Asda was fined £3500 for breaching s2(1) of HSWA by failing to ensure the safety of its employees inside the freezer, plus £650 for a breach of reg.3 of the Reporting of Injuries, Diseases and Dangerous Occurrences Regulations 1995 (RIDDOR) by failing to report the accident within ten days. The company was also told to pay a contribution to costs of £6000 to the Council.

Asda said in mitigation that steps had been taken to improve the situation to ensure that incidents such as this did not happen again.

Samantha Hancock, the senior environmental health officer from Pembrokeshire County Council who investigated the case, said: “This case highlights the importance of controlling the risk of slipping, and demonstrates that health and safety inspectors will take action on slips and trips where a significant risk of injury could be present.”

Speaking after the case, Ken Rowlands, cabinet member for environmental and regulatory services, stressed that employers can, and should, create a work environment and culture where slips are much less likely to happen.

“Often the measures needed are simple and low-cost, but they will bring about significant reductions in human suffering and costs,” he said.

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