An employee of supermarket chain Aldi was taking a smoking break outside one of their distribution centres when a gust of wind moved an unsecured smoking shelter striking him and pinning him for a few seconds. The employee received soft tissue injuries to both arms and his back and continues to have nightmares about the incident a year later.

A contractor, Wilkinson Maintenance, had removed the smoking shelter from its secured position to install a new emergency exit. Wilkinson Maintenance had left it unsecured believing it was Aldi’s responsibility to re-secure the shelter and Aldi believed Wilkinson Maintenance would have re-secured it as part of the works.

The avoidable incident occurred due to a breakdown in communication and understanding between client and contractor. Following the incident, Aldi has ensured that all maintenance managers have received training in relation to the circumstances.

Both companies pleaded guilty to a charge under the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974. Wilkinson Maintenance was fined £20,000 and Aldi was fined £100,000. Both companies were also ordered to pay £5,000 in costs.

This incident highlights that organisations need suitable and sufficient controls in place for contractor selection and supervision whilst on site. This can include contractor competency questionnaires, review of risk assessments and safe systems of work and a responsible person from the organisation monitoring ongoing works during and completion.

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