Morrisons fined £3.5m after death of supermarket worker


A supermarket chain has been fined £3.5million after an epileptic worker died after falling off the stairs during a seizure.

Matthew Gunn, 27, suffered catastrophic head injuries at the WM Morrisons store in Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire in September 2014.

He had been regularly using the stairs to get to his locker on the store’s first floor when he suffered a seizure.

Mr Gunn was fatally injured and died in hospital 12 days later without regaining consciousness.

No parent should have to bury their child and his death has left a huge hole in my heart.

The Bradford resident Morrisons had denied three health and safety allegations but was convicted by a jury at Gloucester Crown Court. The company admitted a fourth charge before the trial.

The court heard Mr Gunn died three and a half months after his mother warned managers about the risk to her son due to his frequent seizures.

Richard Atkins KC, prosecutor, told the court WM Morrisons knew of Mr Gunn’s illness and should have taken his locker downstairs and prevented him from using the stairs.

“The defendant was aware of the risk posed by the stairs to Matthew Gunn,” he said.

“Many in management were aware of the frequency of the tonic-clonic seizures, and prosecutors say a high level of harm was occurring at the time of the fatal omissions on September 25, 2014.”

Mr Gunn’s father, Steve, told the court in a statement that his son’s death had a devastating impact on him personally – he had to quit his job as a nurse and saw his marriage end.

“I have been denied to see my eldest son move forward with his life. I’ve been looking forward to spending more time with Matt, especially with my retirement approaching,” he said.

“Because of the stress and trauma of this incident, my marriage failed and resulted in divorce. This journey I am on has spanned over eight years now and the loss is as bad as ever.”

Mr Gunn’s mother, Sue Goellner, said her son’s death had a “huge” impact on her physical and mental health and that she lost her job and her marriage ended as a result.

“My marriage was under a lot of stress, and while it wasn’t the only factor, it was a major factor in the failure of my marriage and divorce,” she said.

“No parent should have to bury their child and his death has left a huge hole in my heart.”

The jury condemned the supermarket giant for failing to ensure the health, safety and welfare of its employees; failure to carry out an appropriate and sufficient assessment of risks to the health and safety of workers; and failure to review employee risks and assessments.

The company acknowledged that between May 26, 2015 and February 26, 2020 it failed to respond to a request from an HSE inspector for the contact details of a person the inspector wanted to speak to.

Defense attorney Richard Matthews KC said he will address the court on sentencing guidelines, which are “cold and remote from the human tragedy besetting this case.”

“Nothing I say so coldly is meant to remove anything from this tragedy,” he said.

“The breach stems from a single incident and an isolated set of circumstances. This whole case was about whether a locker could or should have been moved from the first floor to the ground floor.”

Delivering the verdict, Judge Moira Macmillan said: “Matthew was forced to use the stairs at least eight times a day for each of his breaks because he had to keep his cigarettes in his locker.

“Morrisons have a duty as Matthew’s employers to ensure his health and safety. The jury ruled that using the stairs for the time he did contributed to his death.

“The company has not carried out a risk assessment. Morrisons fell short of the standards expected for someone suffering from epilepsy.

“That Morrisons failed to get Matthew’s locker downstairs is undisputed. The company failed to treat him as an individual and make changes accordingly. I accept that the risks were specific to Matthew.” Morrisons fined £3.5m after death of supermarket worker

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