Fareham firm’s £75,000 fine over freezer worker’s boots

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A FIRM has been fined £75,000 after an employee suffered permanent foot damage from working in a walk-in freezer without the right boots.

Eugene Evans was left with ice between his toes after spending hours working in sub-zero temperatures without proper footwear.

Nationwide wholesaler Palmer & Harvey McLane Ltd admitted flouting health and safety rules by breaching its duty of care at Portsmouth Crown Court.

Mr Evans, from Gosport, was hired to work in the company’s Fareham warehouse in Barnes Wallis Road, in June 2006.

Despite being given warm clothes – including a woolly hat – he had to bring his own boots from home.

The 61-year-old soon noticed his feet were red, swollen and painful following shifts, but thought this was an allergic reaction.

Eventually an ex-Royal Navy doctor discovered his injuries were caused by consistent exposure to extreme cold – and if untreated could become frostbite.

Prosecuting on behalf of Fareham Borough Council, Tim Moorse said before his symptoms were diagnosed, Mr Evans repeatedly asked for proper footwear.

‘Mr Evans requested better boots and was given a pair which were secondhand and in poor condition,’ he said. He then noticed his foot was getting wet and found a build-up of ice crystals between his toes.’

Mr Evans has been left with swelling and nerve damage in both his legs, has to use crutches and must take regular painkillers.

Passing sentence at Portsmouth Crown Court Judge Ian Pearson said the firm had been dismissive of employee’s concerns.

He said: ‘This was a lack of equipment and risk assessment over some years.

‘But I would describe the company as cavalier – rather than reckless – in its attitude to employee safety.’

The company was also ordered to pay £10,000 costs and has already paid Mr Evans £34,500 in damages.

Defending Palmer and Harvey – which has 3,500 employees across the UK – Iain Simkin said it had addressed the lack of equipment and training which caused the problem.

In a statement the company said: ‘Palmer & Harvey McLane Ltd has pleaded guilty to a single breach of the Health & Safety at Work Act following an incident that occurred over four years ago.

‘Palmer and Harvey takes the health and safety of its entire workforce very seriously and continually works to improve and invest in our health and safety systems to try to prevent any adverse incidents occurring within our business.’