Risk Assessment Omission a Catastrophic Management Failure

The country's largest newsagent chain has pleaded guilty to failing to ensure the health and safety of staff at one of its shops in Winsford. Martin McColl, which has 1,250 stores nationally, was fined £5,000 and ordered to pay £5,000 in costs by Magistrates at Northwich, after admitting to the charge brought under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974.
Cheshire West and Chester‘s Regulatory Services launched an investigation following an early-morning robbery at the Martin McColl store in Willow Square, Winsford, in November 2008, during which an employee was seriously assaulted.

Branch Manager, Christine Rowe, was knocked unconscious and suffered injuries to the face and eye which needed hospital treatment. The Council’s Health and Safety Enforcement Team found that the company had failed to ensure that a risk assessment was in place to protect employees against violence and aggression. It contended that the level of risk was foreseeable. The shop had a history of problems and had had a robbery in the past where both tills were seized.
Prosecuting on behalf of the Council, Ian Moore told the court that, prior to this incident, a robbery had already taken place at the store but the company had failed to assess the risks specifically associated with the shop, an omission that, he said, amounted to a "catastrophic management failure". Since the incident McColl’s had carried out a proper risk assessment and introduced security measures which gave staff added protection from such incidents.
Councillor Lynn Riley, Executive Member for Community and Environment, said: “This is the first prosecution of its type for this authority and I am reassured with the outcome. It is unacceptable for any company to leave its staff open to violent and aggressive attacks.

“Advice and support on health and safety issues is available to all businesses from the local authority - there really is no excuse to fail store employees in such a way.”
The HSE defines work-related violence as "any incident in which a person is abused, threatened or assaulted in circumstances relating to their work" which includes:
• physical violence - including kicking, spitting, hitting or pushing, as well as more extreme violence with weapons
• verbal abuse - including shouting, swearing or insults, racial or sexual abuse
• threats and intimidation.