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B&Q fined €250,000 after falling fencing kills customer

A LEADING DIY chain has been fined €250,000 after fencing weighing half a tonne fell and killed a customer.

Michael O'Rourke was seen by another customer "looking intently" at something in front of him before being hit by the fencing bundle that had fallen 4.3 metres from the top of a stack.

Mark Madigan, an inspector with the Health and Safety Authority (HSA), revealed that Mr O'Rourke died from blunt-force trauma to the chest.

At the Dublin Circuit Criminal Court yesterday, Judge Patricia Ryan said the court's role was to determine a fine, adding: "This is not to place any value on the life of Mr O'Rourke."

B&Q Ireland Ltd, with an address at Fitzwilton House, Wilton Place, Dublin, pleaded guilty to failing to ensure a safe workplace in that a bundle of lap-panel fencing was stored at an unsafe height, resulting in the personal injury and death of Mr O'Rourke. The incident occurred at B&Q garden centre on the Belgard Road, Tallaght, on March 29, 2009.

Mr O'Rourke (59), who drove for Dublin Bus, was from St Laurence's Park in Stillorgan. It is understood he had visited the store to buy some timber.

The company has no previous convictions. It must also pay €7,780.86 in Director of Public Prosecutions costs and €3,066.25 in HSA expenses within three months.

Judge Ryan said the court wanted to extend its sympathy to the deceased's family.

She said the aggravating factors were the serious nature of the charge and that the "unsteady nature of that pallet was not corrected or seen".

She said mitigating factors were the guilty plea, the fact that the company had no previous convictions and its efforts to ensure such an event would never happen again.


Mr Madigan said an engineering consultancy firm hired after the incident found that, though the maximum wind speed recorded at a nearby weather station that day had been 50kmh, this would not have been sufficient to cause top bundles of fencing to slide if they been properly stored.

DBFL Consulting Engineers concluded in their report that wind speed may have caused rotation in two loose skids found in the gap left by the fallen bundle. This could have destabilised the bundle.

Ronald Metcaffe, on behalf of B&Q Ireland Limited, took the witness stand to offer Mr O'Rourke's family his "deepest sympathy".

Mr Madigan said B&Q had changed the way its panelling packages were delivered in 2007 -- from lying flat to standing upright -- to eliminate the need for employees to physically lift them before they were brought to storage. He said the company had conducted no risk assessment on this change before it was introduced.

He said B&Q Ireland had since complied with a prohibition notice issued by the HSA and an instruction to review the system of panel storage in stores nationwide.

Irish Independent