An Accident Waiting to Happen

  • October 09, 2015
  • By Hunters Law

Fashion Retailer Hugo Boss UK was recently sentenced to a record fine of £1,2 million plus costs after pleading guilty to offences under health and safety legislation before Oxford Crown Court.  What had happened?

In June 2013, a four year old child was visiting the Hugo Boss outlet store at Bicester Village with his parents when, tragically, a 2 meter tall mirror weighing more than 100kg fell over, causing fatal head injuries to the child from which he later died in hospital.  A freak accident?  No, an entirely avoidable one: the mirror had simply been propped up against a changing room wall, balancing on the floor, without any fixings, and was a serious accident waiting to happen.  To make matters worse, this was not an isolated incident; there had been previous reports from other Hugo Boss stores of unsecured and falling mirrors.

Little wonder perhaps, that the court took the opportunity to remind businesses and the public at large that the legislation and sentencing guidelines on corporate manslaughter and health & safety offences causing death have teeth.  In November 2014, the Sentencing Council opened a new consultation on sentencing guidelines for these types of offences.  They propose that the court should consider (i) the level of harm (including its seriousness and likelihood) and (ii) the level of culpability (ranging from low to very high) of the offender before (iii) assessing the size and financial turn-over of the corporate offender to find the starting point for determining the appropriate size of the financial penalty.  Aggravating and mitigating circumstances would then need to be taken into account in the usual way to adjust the penalty, such as a reduction for guilty pleas.  If the new guidelines are adopted, they are likely to result in much higher and more consistently applied fines for health & safety offences committed by large companies and the Hugo Boss UK case is indicative of a move in that direction.

While Hugo Boss UK theoretically had a health and safety management system in place, this was clearly neither properly implemented and managed nor was there adequate training and supervision of its staff.  The main lesson for businesses (in particular, public facing multi-site retailers) is that they must pro-actively manage compliance with their health and safety policies and continuously monitor and assure the health and safety of their customers and employees across their estate.  This must include procedures for reviewing their policies and following-up in the case of near misses and incidents.

This article was originally published in Discover Germany and can be found here.

Gregor Kleinknecht

Hunters incorporating May, May & Merrimans

Related News

Jul 22, 2021
Gregor Kleinknecht and Constance Tait examine the impact on trademark litigation and provide 10 tips on navigating the post-Brexit era in Managing IP
Jul 16, 2021
Gregor Kleinknecht and Anastassia Dimmek examine the growing threat of zombie firms in Lawyer Monthly
Jul 07, 2021
Richard Baxter and Constance Tait examine a report suggesting that firms with targeted support for ethnic minority workers see benefits
Jun 28, 2021
Richard Baxter discusses UK-EU Data Protection and how adequacy decisions avoid imminent disruption to data flows
Jun 23, 2021
Richard Baxter and Constance Tait examine the recent Burnell v Trans-Tag Ltd case in the High Court
Jun 22, 2021
Anastassia Dimmek discussed the key challenges of protecting clients’ healthy businesses from zombie firms in a webinar hosted by Advoselect
Jun 18, 2021
Richard Baxter and Constance Tait discuss the looming annual returns deadline for employee share schemes
May 18, 2021
Hunters hosted the Withdrawal and The Trade Marks Act 1994 webinar
Mar 17, 2021
Stephen Morrall comments on Uber drivers entitled to minimum wage, holiday pay and pension following the Supreme Court decision in The Sunday Times Driving, The Times and the Daily Mail
Feb 19, 2021
Stephen Morrall comments on Uber losing a landmark Supreme Court battle in the Evening Standard and the Financial Times

© Hunters Law LLP 2021 | Privacy NoticeLegal & Regulatory | Cookies Policy | Complaints Procedure.

Hunters Law LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority (number 657218)