Warehouse boss who put workers at risk of ‘serious’ injury handed huge fine
A Salford warehouse selling items online has been fined GBP40,000 after a court found the business was putting workers in danger. B2C Retail, situated at Invar Business Park on Invar Road in Swinton, sells a wide range of items online through Amazon and is run by B2C Retail Limited, of which Mr Michal Kempiak serves as the company's sole director. Mr Kempiak appeared at Manchester and Salford Magistrates Court on Thursday (July 28) to plead guilty on behalf of the company to four offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
He was taken to court and handed the huge fine after initially refusing to admit the company had done anything wrong and ignoring the council's request for an interview. READ MORE: Someone in Rochdale is sitting on a GBP1m fortune and doesn't even know it But magistrates heard that the four safety failures were identified after an environmental health officer from Salford City Council visited the company's warehouse, which employs around 12 staff members, for a hygiene inspection on April 28, 2021.
The inspection was only triggered after the company applied to sell food. The court heard the inspector expressed concern for a disregard for health and safety at the premises, with broken pallets leaning on racking, the floor cluttered with trip hazards and combustible material on the floor near a battery charging area for a forklift truck. Palletised stock at height was also found not to be shrink wrapped, with stock taken from lower levels making loads unstable and causing risks of objects falling from a height.A council inspector found there were risks of objects falling from height (Image: Salford Council)
During the inspection, the court was told that a member of staff was witnessed stepping onto a pallet and climbing the racking to reach an item on a second shelf, putting them in danger of serious injury.
There were no stairs to a mezzanine floor where stock was stored, so staff were also seen riding up in a high level order picker (HLOP) and stepping off it whilst at height, which is deemed to be unsafe. Salford City Council served prohibition notices for both these activities as they were reported as being dangerous. Mr Kempiak could not produce thorough examination certificates for any of the lifting equipment used in the warehouse as required by law.
The lifting equipment was subsequently tested and the safety certificates produced after the company was served with an improvement notice. In the meantime, the company had purchased a new HLOP for a different task which was also found to be unsafe. A prohibition notice was served for that machinery, banning it from use until made safe.The company behind the B2C Retail warehouse in Salford has been fined GBP40,000 after it was found guilty of four offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act (Image: Salford Council)
Staff were not carrying out industry standard documented daily safety checks before using lifting equipment and there was no written risk assessment in place, as required for any company employing five or more staff.
Another improvement notice was served requiring a risk assessment to be undertaken. The company employed a health and safety consultant to assist with documenting the risk assessment and both improvement notices were complied with. Mr Kempiak was asked to accept a caution in relation to the offences but refused to sign it as he thought he had done nothing wrong.
He was invited to an interview with Salford City Council to explain his actions, but the company was taken to court after declining the offer. On behalf of B2C Retail Limited, Mr Kempiak pleaded guilty to failing to select appropriate equipment for working at height, failing to ensure that work at height was appropriately planned, supervised and carried out safely, failure to ensure that lifting equipment was thoroughly examined and failing to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the health and safety risks to which employees were exposed .Councillor Barbara Bentham said the company could have 'avoided the dangers and court case' if 'proper procedures' had been followed (Image: MEN Media)
The firm was fined a total of GBP40,000 and ordered to pay GBP2,500 in costs and a GBP190 victim surcharge. Speaking after the court case, Councillor Barbara Bentham, lead member for environment, neighbourhoods and community safety, said: "Health and safety law is there to protect people and the fine reflects the seriousness of these offences.
"Workers could have been seriously hurt by the practices taking place in this warehouse and our interventions have ensured the workplace is now operating safely. "If proper procedures had been followed the company could have avoided the dangers and this court case. I hope it sends a clear message to all companies that workers' health and safety is to be taken seriously and the council will not hesitate to act on breaches."
A spokesperson for B2C Retail Limited told the M.E.N that Mr Kempiak was unavailable for comment but added the company was intending to appeal the fine.