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Tesco gave green light to prosecution

Corin Williams10/04/2013 - 13:00

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Tesco is part of the primary authority scheme
Tesco is part of the primary authority scheme

EHOs have been warned they may be unaware that under the primary authority scheme companies can request a proposed prosecution be halted, after Tesco was taken to court by Waverley Borough Council.

Senior EHO Jamie Tomlinson said it was an ‘eye-opener’ to find that primary authority companies should be given prior warning of an intended prosecution. The company can then request the matter to be referred to the Better Regulation Delivery Office (BRDO) for determination.

He said some colleagues may not know of this step in the process, as there had not been many cases against primary authority companies as yet.

Mr Tomlinson was involved in a recent prosecution after a heavy roll-cage fell on 22-year-old employee at a Tesco Express Store in Farnham last year, fracturing her foot.

An investigation by Waverley Borough Council EHOs found she had not been on a mandatory roll-cage training course for 11 months, in contradiction of the company’s own policies.

The council said there was ‘a failure to effectively monitor and poor local supervision’. Last month Guildford magistrates fined Tesco £20,000 and ordered the company to pay compensation to the victim as well as legal costs.

Mr Tomlinson said he worked closely with Tesco’s primary authority, Dacorum Borough Council, and BRDO over the prosecution.

He added: ‘Because of the primary authority process we had to gain Tesco’s permission.

‘To start off you run your action past the primary authority. Once you’re over that hurdle you then have to send the same form off to the company you intend to prosecute.

Mr Tomlinson praised Dacorum for their help with the case. He said: ‘There was extensive advice published by the primary authority on roll cages. This was actually quite helpful in informing us as to what controls we should have seen. It was the lack of application of these controls that caused the problem and ultimately caused the accident.’

A spokesperson for Dacorum said its Tesco inspection plan included workplace transport and safe handling.

She added: ‘Given that roll cages are a major aspect of handling of goods within Tesco roll cage safety is included in both the workplace transport and safe handling of loads topics.’

Mr Tomlinson also urged EHOs to list relevant prosecutions on the Health and Safety Executive’s (HSE) prosecutions database.

‘We also found a good number of prosecutions against Tesco, probably 50 per cent of which weren’t listed on the HSE’s local authority prosecutions database, by doing Google searches.

‘A company you’re prosecuting will know every prosecution against them, and we should as well.

‘A lot of colleagues are simply unaware the prosecutions database is there.’

Following the successful prosecution Brian Adams, Waverley’s portfolio holder for environmental health said: ‘I understand that Tesco’s legal representative expressed the company’s sorrow for the injury and distress caused to the victim.

‘However, the failure of Tesco to provide instruction, training and supervision with regard to the movement of roll-cages was unacceptable. The fact that the magistrates, having retained jurisdiction of the matter, imposed the maximum fine available to them for this type of offence clearly reflects the severity of the case.’

Tesco and BRDO were contacted for response to this story.

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