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10th March 2020

Oak Furniture Land Fined £398,000

What’s Happened?

The parent company of Oak Furniture land has been ordered to pay £398,000 plus £94,904 in costs after council inspectors discovered uncovered major issues with COSHH management at its Swindon workshop. This is a fairly surprising case for such a high-profile retailer – which shows even big businesses manage to get it wrong!

Officers from Swindon Borough Council visited the companies warehouse following a complaint by a member of staff. The council’s health compliance team discovered the company was preparing room divider sheets, which was not a registered activity at the warehouse.

Evidence showed the preparation of the sheets was carried out in a highly explosive environment and not enough action was taken to reduce the risks faced by employees which included solvent tins, poor ventilation and damaged or faulty face masks in use. In fact, conditions were so bad that council officers served an immediate Prohibition Notice on the business.

The investigation also identified numerous manual handling and workplace transport incidents, which resulted in injuries to employees.

In Court 

JB Global, the Owner of Oak Furniture Land, was prosecuted for failing to prevent or control the exposure of employees to solvents and wood dust under The Dangerous Substances Explosive Atmosphere Regulations (DSEAR), as well as failing to carry out risk assessments and of failing to prevent exposure to substances hazardous to health under COSHH. The company was fined a total of £398,000.

The local Councillor who is the council’s cabinet member for housing and public safety said after the verdict that the uncontrolled work activities being carried at the Cheney Manor site posed a very real risk of explosion, fire and potential long-term health conditions resulting from exposure to carcinogenic MDF dust and harmful chemicals.

Two further charges were brought against the company for failing to ensure the safety of its employees, while a further charge of failing to ensure the safety of agency staff or contractors was also levied against the firm.

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The competent person role does not have to be fulfilled internally within every company. You can, therefore, outsource the appointment to a contractor or consultancy with the necessary qualifications and experience.

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