Asda failed to address known ice risk

An investigation into a slip and trip incident at an Asda supermarket revealed that risk assessments for work in freezers had not been reviewed for eight years, despite changes in working practices.

Barnsley Council’s Regulatory Services took a prosecution against Asda Stores Ltd following a reported accident to a night-shift employee, who was working alone at the supermarket’s Old Mill Lane store, in Barnsley.
He slipped on an ice-covered floor in a storage freezer, sustaining injuries to his knee. He subsequently required an operation and took several months off work to recover.

Barnsley magistrates heard that employees were left to chip ice off the floor themselves and sweep it away. Asda also failed to provide adequate protective clothing for employees who worked in the freezers.

A Senior environmental health officer visited the store and found that nearly two weeks after the incident, the freezer floor remained extremely slippery. Owing to the continuing risk of serious personal injury, the inspector served a Prohibition Notice, instructing the freezer to be shut down for cleaning and repair.

The investigation found that another Asda employee had slipped in a similar freezer in 2009, at a superstore in Wigan, and had been rendered unconscious.

The court also heard that necessary precautions were not followed and that risk assessments for work in freezers had not been reviewed since 2003. The company had also received no Primary Authority advice on this issue.

Asda Stores Ltd was sentenced on 30 May following a hearing on 25 April, when it entered a guilty plea to offences under s2(1) of the HSWA 1974. The company was fined £20,000 and ordered to pay £33,000 in costs.

District Judge Foster commented that Asda had demonstrated a dereliction of its responsibilities. He said it had inadequate systems in place and there were unacceptable delays in identifying problems.

In mitigation, Asda stated that since the accident it had spent £31,000 on repairs to the freezer.

“This case was a serious breach of health and safety legislation by a large company, resulting in injury,” commented a Councillor spokesperson for development, environment and culture. “Employers must have effective systems in place to prevent accidents and injuries to their employees, and where equipment and process are provided, the employees must use them