Morrison's in court over worker's lost toe

SUPERMARKET giant Morrisons was yesterday ordered to pay £27,500 for breaching health and safety rules after a worker lost a toe in a works accident.

Adam Roper, then assistant manager at Morrisons Catcliffe store, broke his left big toe in the incident using a truck with a faulty “dead man’s pedal,” a court heard.

The foot pedal, which cuts off power on the vehicle and brings it to an almost immediate halt, failed to work and the truck crashed into a metal post, crushing Mr Roper’s toe.

He was taken to hospital and had an operation to try to save the toe but it had to be removed.

But the court was told that Mr Roper, 22 at the time of the accident in October 2009, had no idea the pedal was defective and should have been isolated so that it could not be used.

In the days leading up to the accident, other staff had failed several times to correct the fault.

The prosecution said that procedures on reporting faults were ambiguous and employees had not received proper instruction on how to implement them. Numerous staff had keys for the truck, making use of the truck “impossible” to safeguard.

Ms Ruth Cranidge, for Rotherham Borough Council, said that a dead man’s pedal was a vital safety feature and the accident highlighted the inadequacies in the company’s safety procedures.

The warehouse manager, Gary Neale, who failed to report the fault and make sure it was isolated before being repaired, had already been disciplined twice for breaking company safety rules, the court heard.

Mr Neale received a verbal warning following another serious incident two years earlier in which a worker broke his arm using a truck after which Morrisons were warned to improve safety procedures.

In 2008, he got a final written warning after an accident when he was supervising an employee on a truck.

At Rotherham Magistrates’ Court yesterday, Morrisons pleaded guilty and were fined £15,000 plus £12,500 costs.

Mr John Cooper, for Morrisons, said that the incident was a “localised failure” and that the firm recognised the procedure was inadequate.

But he said that Mr Neale, who was disciplined again after the accident and given another chance, had “completely disregarded” the procedures.

“You can have as much training as you want but the real failing is with Mr Neale,” he said.

District Judge for Rotherham Mr John Foster said that Mr Roper had suffered a serious injury which had a “significant and negative” affect on him and that he deserved the court’s commiserations.

“There’s no doubt that the truck was malfunctioning over a period of time,” Mr Foster said.

“It’s quite clear that there was a major local failure by employees to rectify or seek to rectify a defect which had become apparent to a number of people.

“Perhaps as in all systems you can never always have fool-proof systems in place to prevent accidents happening.”

Mr Foster said that safety systems had since been improved and that the company had learned lessons from the incident.

Mr Roper, who has settled a civil claim against the company, is now working at the firm’s Bramley store after being promoted to grocery manager.

Related topics: