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​R (HSE) v. (1) Aldi Stores Ltd (2) VBT Ltd: Manchester Magistrates’ Court; DJ Qureshi 3rd July 2018

Peter Smith defends in Health and Safety Case.

R (HSE) v. (1) Aldi Stores Ltd (2) VBT Ltd: Manchester Magistrates’ Court; DJ Qureshi 3rd July 2018.

Aldi (represented by Richard Matthews QC) and VBT pleaded guilty to a charge pursuant to section 3(1) of the Health and Safety Act 1974 concerning roofing work which was carried out by a self-employed sub-contractor at the Hazel Grove Aldi store on the 11th June 2016.

VBT had carried out maintenance work for Aldi over many years. On the 11th June 2016 VBT was contacted in relation to a leak at the store late in the afternoon. Unfortunately, VBT could not attend and contacted the sub-contractor who was the sole director of his own company and who had vast experience of roofing work, was trained and provided all of his own equipment. The sub-contractor had previously worked at Aldi sites not only on VBT’s behalf, but for another maintenance contractor.

Whilst VBT had not used sub-contractors until around 2014, Aldi had a Contractors Authorisation procedure amongst other systems which had not been implemented / adhered to in respect of this work or other instances when contractors came on site. It was clear that had VBT informed Aldi of the situation and Aldi had fully implemented its own procedures, any risk of falling from height would or should have been minimised.

In the event, the sub-contractor got onto the roof when his access was restricted meaning his ladder (as opposed to a Tower Scaffold which he had) could not get close to the area he needed to view. When seeking to get from the roof back onto the ladder (it having been raining earlier) he slipped and fell to the ground sustaining significant injuries to his lower limbs.

The prosecution submitted for ‘Medium’ culpability as against Aldi (upper end) and ‘High’ against VBT. Level A harm was agreed though the prosecution placed the ‘likelihood’ of Level A harm eventuating at ‘harm category 2’. Both Aldi and VBT submitted that the ‘likelihood’ was ‘Low’.

In the result, Aldi as a ‘Very large’ organisation with an £8.7bn turnover and VBT with a turnover of £360,000 were fined £340,000 and £5,333.00 respectively together with costs.

The District Judge found both defendants to have ‘Medium’ culpability with a ‘Low likelihood’ of the Level A harm eventuating in the particular circumstances.

Clyde & Co (Manchester) acted for Aldi and DAC Beachcrofts (London) for VBT.

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