Co-op fined £400k for faulty sandwich chiller that led to store death

The Co-Op

The Co-op has been fined £400,000 over the death of a customer who slipped on water leaking from a faulty sandwich chiller.

Stanley May, aged 74, slipped in water which had accumulated on the floor of the Co-op store in Truro following a leak from a faulty appliance.

Water had been intermittently leaking from under a sandwich chiller over a period of almost 44 hours and although mopping had occurred there had been no effective method employed to stop or contain the leak or prevent customers accessing the area.

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Engineers had been called to repair the chiller the day prior to the accident in July 2015 and it appeared to have been repaired effectively, however, it had continued to leak and on the day in question the leaking chiller had not been reported as a maintenance issue and the only control method was a wet floor sign.

Mr May hit his head on the floor when he fell and died later in hospital from a subdural haematoma.

Following an investigation by Cornwall Council’s Public Protection officers, the Co-Op pleaded guilty to a charge under Section 3 of the Health and Safety at Work etc Act 1974 at an earlier hearing.

Following the hearing, investigating officer Sarah-Jane Brown from Cornwall Council’s Business Regulatory Support team, said: “This case demonstrates the importance of slip risks being adequately controlled. It should serve a warning to the retail industry, and particularly supermarkets, that signage alone is not an adequate control. Proactive measures must be taken to either prevent floors becoming slippery or precluding public access.”

The defence read a statement from Christopher Whitfield, retail and logistics director at the Co-operative Group, in which he said: “He (Mr May) should have been kept safe while walking in our store. It is a matter of utmost regret that he was not.”

As well as handing down the £400,000 fine, the court awarded £50,000 in costs to Cornwall Council.

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