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September 3, 2008

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High-street store fined after failing to rectify trip hazard

High-street chain Claire’s Accessories has appeared in court after one of its employees tripped over stock stored on the stairs, sustaining severe head injuries.

Abertillery Magistrates’ Court heard on 12 August that a routine inspection in March 2007 by environmental health officers at Caerphilly County Borough Council had revealed unsafe storage practices at the shop.

Boxes of merchandise had been stored on the stairs at the back of the store, posing a potential trip hazard.

Although the store’s health and safety manager had promised the stairs would be kept clear in the future, after being issued a written warning by the Council, this was not the case. On 2 November 2007, assistant manager Nadia Jay had been carrying baskets of stock down the stairs when she tripped over items left on them. She fell down the stairs and was seriously hurt.

The store told magistrates this was its first health and safety offence. It did have health and safety policies in place, and had provided staff training, although this had not been implemented at the Caerphilly shop. It had since put new measures in place, including signage and further staff training.

Claire’s Accessories pleaded guilty to contravening reg.12(3) of the Workplace (Health, Safety and Welfare) Regulations 1992, by failing to keep a pedestrian traffic-route free of obstructions that posed a trip hazard. It was fined £2400 and ordered to pay the Council’s full costs of £2120.

Cllr Lyn Ackerman, cabinet member for the environment, said she was pleased that the court had reflected the seriousness of the injury in the fine.

Jason Medcraft, the Council’s environmental health officer who investigated the incident, said: “The incident occurred despite a written assurance from the company that the stairs would be kept clear at all times to avoid creating tripping hazards. Miss Jay’s accident was entirely preventable and simple measures could have been taken to avoid it.”

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