Largest ever fine £2.2m handed to ‘idiotic’ firm after death

Decco was fined £2.2m and branded ‘idiotic’ by the sentencing judge following the death of Mr William Richardson who sustained fatal brain injuries.

Mr Richardson was an agency worker and had been working at the Decco warehouse in Latimer Road, Chesham, for less than a week. In November 2014, Mr Richardson fell eight feet onto concrete from a platform with no guard rail while he was helping to unload a delivery. He died 8 days later as a result of his injuries.

EHOs from Chiltern District Council investigated and found that while Mr Richardson had undergone training in manual handling and a basic induction, there was no record of him having any training on working at height. EHOs also found that the safety mechanism on the platform, whereby the gate should spring close was no longer working properly and could be, and was frequently, left open.

The senior EHO working on the case, Nick Phillips, explained that on talking to Mr Richardson’s colleagues it was clear that the gate was often left open. This was so that workers could retrieve items on the top of palette loads to reduce the height of the load so that it could fit onto the platform.

Decco pleaded guilty to two breaches of the Health and Safety at Work Act.

The sentencing Judge, Francis Sheridan, labelled the company ‘idiotic’ and that its safety failures were ‘breathtaking’. He said, “The design [of the gate] was a Heath Robinson do-it-yourself contraption, in my view. The whole of the edge was unguarded which was simply disgraceful. This was an obvious danger. With or without safety advice, it would be idiotic to proceed without having regard to that. One doesn't need guidance, one just needs a modicum of common sense to realise this system was wholly inadequate and a disaster waiting to happen.Those responsible for this company should hang their heads in shame at the failings that led to a man's death.”

Decco was fined £2.2m and ordered to pay the councils full prosecution costs of £21,000. It has since replaced its old gate system with a swing over palette gate.

Senior EHO Nick Phillips said, “I hope this has a positive effect on the company and the way it carries out work at height and puts safety measures in place.”

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