Asda pays £267,000 for car park death
Supermarket chain Asda has been fined £225,000 plus costs after admitting safety failures over the death of a customer in a store car park. Kenneth Farr was killed when a security barrier smashed through the windscreen of his car as he drove into the car park of Asda’s Cardiff Bay store. His three-year-old daughter escaped uninjured. In March 2006 an inquest jury returned a verdict of unlawful killing.
The accident happened in May 2002 when a sudden gust of wind swung the barrier into Farr’s car. He suffered fatal head injuries.
The inquest heard that the steel barrier should have been padlocked in place but was unsecured that day. Customers recalled seeing it swinging in the wind. An Asda employee said the barrier was difficult to move and had become stuck the day the before the accident. There had been two other incidents involving swing barriers at Asda stores – one in Bloxwich, Walsall, in January 1999, three years before Farr’s death.
There was confusion about who was responsible for checking that the barrier was properly secured. Asda’s divisional environmental health manager said it was the security team’s job, but a guard told the inquest he had not been told to check it. Following the accident, Asda removed all similar barriers from its car parks.
Cardiff Council decided to bring safety charges against the supermarket chain after a Crown Prosecution Service review of the case concluded there was insufficient evidence to justify a manslaughter charge.
On 21 January at Newport Crown Court, Judge Cooke fined Asda £225,000 for two offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act, plus costs of £42,000.
Imposing the fines, he said, “Expressions of intention were all present. The systems were all present. But a potentially fatal danger was left unaddressed.”
After the hearing, Asda’s corporate affairs director, Paul Kelly, apologised to Farr’s family, adding that the accident was due to “human error” at a local level.