Morrisons has been fined £3.5m after an employee with epilepsy died when he fell from the stairs during a seizure.
Matthew Gunn, 27, suffered catastrophic head injuries at the supermarket’s store in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire. He had been using the staircase to access his locker on the first floor of the shop.
Gloucester crown court heard he died in September 2014, three-and-a-half months after his mother had told managers of the risk due to his frequent seizures. Gunn died in hospital 12 days after the fall, having never regained consciousness.
Morrisons had denied three health and safety charges but was convicted by the jury. It had admitted a fourth charge before the trial.
Richard Atkins KC, prosecuting, told the court Morrisons knew of Gunn’s condition and should have moved his locker to the ground floor and stopped him using the stairs.
He said: “Many in the management were aware of the frequency of the tonic-clonic seizures and the prosecution submits that by the time of the fatal failings on 25 September 2014, there was a highly likely high level of harm occurring.”
Gunn’s father, Steve, told the court in a statement his son’s death culminated in his marriage ending and him having to give up his job as a nurse.
He said: “I was looking forward – especially with my impending retirement – to spending more time with Matt. Due to the stress and trauma of this incident my marriage failed and led to divorce.”
The jury convicted the supermarket giant of failure to ensure the health, safety and welfare of employees; failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the health and safety of employees; and failure to review the risks and assessments of employees.
The company admitted an offence of failing to comply between 26 May 2015 and 26 February 2020 with a request made by a Health and Safety Executive inspector for contact details of a person the inspector wanted to speak to.
Richard Matthews KC, defending, said he would address the court on the sentencing guidelines, which were “cold and widely removed [from] the human tragedy that this case concerns”.
He said: “Nothing that I say in that cold way is intended to remove anything from that tragedy.
“The breach arose from a single incident and an isolated set of circumstances. This whole case focused on whether a locker could or should have been moved from the first floor to the ground floor.”
Passing sentence, judge Moira Macmillan said: “The jury decided that using the stairs for the amount of times he did, was a contributory factor to his death.
“Morrisons fell short of the standards expected for somebody suffering from epilepsy … The company failed to treat [Gunn] as an individual and make appropriate changes.”
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