Fashion retailer Hugo Boss has been fined £1.2m after a four-year-old boy died following an incident at its outlet in Bicester Village in 2013. The boy was killed when an unsecured seven-foot tall changing room mirror weighing 114kg fell on him at the store.

Despite undergoing an emergency operation to relieve pressure on his brain, he died four days later in hospital after his life-support machine was switched off. At the inquest that followed, the Coroner described the incident as “an accident waiting to happen”.

Hugo Boss entered a guilty plea for offences under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 and the Management of Health and Safety at Work Regulations 1999 at a hearing at Banbury Magistrates’ Court in June for failing to secure the mirror.

Sentencing

Recognising the maximum fine a Magistrates’ Court could impose was only £20,000, the prosecution suggested the case should be sentenced in the Crown Court. Here, the Court heard how the company, despite having a well-documented health and safety management system, had failed to properly implement it.

The Court took into account several aggravating factors including the impact of the child’s death as well as the “enormous” risk the unsecured mirror had posed both to staff and customers.

In particular, the Judge noted that there had been near misses reported at the other Hugo Boss UK stores, which included reports of a falling mirror in 2009 and an unsecured mirror in 2010.

In sentencing the company, the Judge commented that he wanted to ensure the issue went to the “very top of the company”.

Health & Safety Management

This incident sends out a timely reminder to those who assume their health and safety management systems are effective without properly scrutinising them. It also illustrates how guidelines issued by The Sentencing Council will result in higher penalties for larger organisations.

Businesses should consider whether there are appropriate procedures for reviewing health and safety following incidents and near misses.

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