Corisande Collins was a 20-year-old student working part time at the Wilko store in the Beaumont Shopping Centre in August 2013 when she suffered severe spinal injuries after a heavily-laden metal cage full of paint tins fell on her.
Her injuries mean she now has to use a wheelchair.
Wilko Retail Ltd appeared before Leicester Crown Court today (January 11, 2017) after previously pleading guilty to four offences under the Health and Safety Act.
Leicester City Council’s Public Safety Team brought the prosecution against them.
The firm, which is based in Worksop, Nottinghamshire, and has nearly 400 stores across the UK, including four in Leicester, and a turnover of £1.4bn.
Ms Collins, of Glenfield, was a first year student at Northampton University working towards a degree in Special Educational Needs at the time of the accident.
The court had previously heard how a heavily-laden, top-heavy metal cage known as a roll cage, which was loaded with paint tins, had fallen on her while she was trying to manoeuvre it out from an uneven lift floor.
Wilko Retail Ltd admitted four breaches of health and safety legislation. The court heard how the floor of the main goods lift and passenger lift was not level with the shop floor, and the roll cage which fell on Ms Collins was incorrectly loaded.
Employees were not provided with adequate training or supervision on the safe use of roll cages, or safe use of the lifts involved in the accident
Suitable risk assessments had not been carried out, and the general risk assessment covering roll cages didn’t cover the hazards involved in manoeuvring them on uneven surfaces.
Furthermore, no assessment had been carried out on the manual handling of roll cages, or employees given information on the safe distribution of loads throughout the roll cage.
Passing sentence, His Honour Judge Ebraham Mooncey imposed the £2.2million fine for the first of the four Health and Safety offences – failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees – imposing no separate penalty for the other three related offences. The company was also ordered to pay £70,835 in costs.
Ms Collins spent weeks at Coventry’s Walsgrave Hospital following the accident, before being transferred to the spinal injuries unit at Sheffield for extensive rehabilitation. She was eventually discharged in December 2013, and 18 months after her injury had returned part-time to her university course.
Ms Collins, who is now 23, said: “I never imagined something like this happening to me. Wilko are taking full responsibility for what happened, but this will never make up for the fact I have lost the use of my legs and will spend the rest of my life in a wheelchair.
“We are pleased with the prosecution brought by Leicester City Council – it is now up to employers to learn the lessons.”
Leicester Assistant City Mayor for jobs and skills, Cllr Sue Waddington, said: “Businesses need to take responsibility for the health and safety of employees.
“The large fine was deserved because this young woman’s life was put at risk, but it will not make up for the life-changing injuries that she suffered, which could have been avoided if proper health and safety measures were in place.”
Leicester City Council Public Safety Team Manager Govind Mandora added: “Our team brought this prosecution against Wilko after finding catastrophic health and safety failings at the Beaumont Leys store, which resulted in this devastating accident.
“The fine imposed today reflects the serious nature of this case.
“All businesses need to take heed and learn from this tragic case by taking their health and safety responsibilities seriously.
“Simple steps like carrying out adequate risk assessments, proper training and supervision for staff, and properly maintained equipment will help prevent similar accidents happening again.”