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Missed inspections increase the risk of serious injury or death
Posted by David Cant on September 21, 2015

Missed health and safety inspections increase the risk of serious injury or even death

Health and safety in the graveyardFashion giant Hugo Boss has recently left court with a stinging £1.2 million pound fine after judges ruled that in-store health and safety failings had resulted in the death of a four-year old boy. The unfortunate youngster was killed after a seven-foot tall, 18 stone mirror fell on him in a changing room.

Haste costs lives

The hearing discovered that Hugo Boss took over a unit at the Bicester shopping village in the summer of 2012. In the rush to get the store refit completed for the grand opening, several key factors were overlooked, including the need to fix the aforementioned mirror to a wall.

Most shocking of all, plans for the store refit revealed that securing the mirror to a suitably reinforced wall was a requirement of the job. But in the rush to for completion, this particular task was not done.

Plenty of warning

Further investigation of the Hugo Boss store records revealed that the falling mirror was not an isolated incident. In 2009 and 2010, unsecured mirrors had fallen off walls at other stores, leading to new guidelines being drawn up for in-store health and safety checks.

What quickly became apparent was that Hugo Boss had a perfectly workable health and safety system in place to identify risks, and propose measures to mitigate them. However the relevant checks were not being completed, nor was any action being taken when problems like the mirror were found.

Not a tick box exercise

The judge hearing this particular case decided that Hugo Boss had implemented health and safety measures as a ‘tick box exercise’, paying lip service to workplace legislation rather than trying to create a culture that protected employees and customers. In his conclusion, the judge said that despite problems having been observed and recorded, “no one at Hugo Boss UK Limited took the trouble to see if [the mirror] was properly installed.”

The heavy fine was intended to send a message to managers and shareholders of Hugo Boss, emphasising the importance of maintaining health and safety standards, and was pegged to the company’s profits at the time of the incident.

Lessons for other businesses

The tragedy of the Bicester store has a number of implications for other businesses, whether they are undergoing a store refit, or have been in full operation for years.

First, it is essential that all refit-related tasks are fully completed before a store opens. Far better to delay opening by a day or two than place peoples’ lives at risk. And if the opening cannot be delayed, moving unsecured fittings out of public areas is an acceptable alternative.

Second, in-house health and safety monitoring routines must be properly adhered to. Identifying and preventing accidents is not a tick box exercise designed to keep the HSE happy; people’s lives depend on taking the process seriously.

So over to you – how does your business ensure health and safety measures stay focused on keeping people safe, rather than ticking boxes?


David Cant is a Chartered Safety and Health Practitioner extraordinaire. He has a wealth of Industry experience and is the MD of Veritas Consulting. David also Blogs about Health and Safety here Health and Safety Consultants

His aim is to flavour Health and Safety with integrity, served with a side of humour You can find David on - Twitter and Google also Linkedin

This post has been filed in: Health and Safety Consultancy, Health and Safety Regulations, Health and Safety Services, Health and Safety Support

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