Morrisons supermarket has been fined £3.5 million following a successful prosecution by Tewkesbury Borough Council for failing to ensure the health and safety of an epileptic employee who died after falling from a shop stairway.
On 25 September 2014, Matthew Gunn, 27, was using the stairs in the supermarket’s Tewkesbury, Gloucestershire store when he is believed to have had a seizure. The resultant fall caused severe head injuries and he sadly died in hospital on 7 October 2014.
Morrisons – which was aware of Mr Gunn’s epileptic condition – was deemed to have missed opportunities to ensure his safety. It was charged with three health and safety violations which it denied:
- Failure to ensure the health and safety of an employee who had epilepsy
- Failure to carry out a suitable and sufficient assessment of the risks to the employee who had epilepsy
- Failure to review risks to which an employee with epilepsy might be exposed
Morrisons admitted a fourth charge of failing to supply the council with requested information relating to the death of the employee.
However, on 2 February 2023, following a three-week trial at Cirencester Courthouse, the jury found Morrisons guilty on all four charges.
Sentencing took place on 17 March – the judge placed the offences in the highest category of culpability and harm, and Morrisons was fined £3.5m.
Tewkesbury Borough Council’s Head of Community Services, Peter Tonge, said: “This was a long and difficult investigation, and the successful court outcome is a reflection of the dedication and professionalism of our investigation team.
“Matthew Gunn was extremely vulnerable to health and safety risks in his workplace due to his severe epilepsy.
“Despite being aware of the risks, Morrisons failed to put in place a number of simple measures which could have kept Matthew safe at work. Furthermore, Morrisons failed to co-operate with elements of our investigation, and we are satisfied that the substantial fine imposed by the court reflects the seriousness of the omissions and failures on the part of the company.
“We hope this court outcome will send a message to all employers of the importance of complying with basic health and safety duties, and properly assessing risks, especially when it comes to vulnerable employees.
“Finally, we would like to express our gratitude to Matthew’s family for their enormous patience and support throughout this investigation and we hope that the sentence imposed on Morrisons today will finally provide them with the justice they deserve after all these years.”
The prosecution was undertaken by One Legal, a legal service shared by Cheltenham Borough Council, Gloucester City Council, Stroud District Council and Tewkesbury Borough Council.